EARLY HISTORY OF THE SABHA

Broadly speaking ‘Hindi Prachar’ movement was started long before the Indian independence in the South of Vindhyas due to religious, political, administrative, military, trading and literary activities. National Tamil poet, Subramania Bharathi had emphatically written an article as early as in 1905 about the importance of learning Hindi in his Tamil daily, “India”.
In the year grace 1910 at the meeting of Kashi Nagari Pracharini Sabha, a famous leader of Tamil Nadu, a Tamil scholar and a former Judge of the Madras High Court V. Krishnaswamy Iyer declared that indi alone is suitable to be the national language. Incidentally, the arch supporters of Hindi like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Dayanand Saraswathi, Kesavchandra Sen, Prabhudev Mukerji, Mahatma Gandhi and Krishnaswamy Iyer whose mother tongue is not Hindi, yet they have declared that the national language shall be Hindi.
Under the aegis of the ‘Nagari Pracharini Sabha’, ‘Hindi Sahithya Sammelan’ was established in 1910 and due to the efforts of these two organizations study of Hindi was popularized and spread out far and near. Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviyaji, whose name will be cherished forever, made great efforts in the establishment and strengthening of the Kashi Hindu Vishwavidyalaya, Nagari Pracharini Sabha and Hindi Sahithya Sammelan.
It is, however, the emergence of Mahatma Gandhi in the political scene of India’s freedom struggle saw the importance to develop ‘Hindi Prachar’ as the need of the hour. At the Lucknow session in 1916 and the Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress in 1917, Gandhi drew the immediate and special attention to ‘Hindi Prachar’ in the South. Taking the cue into the strides, the entire nation put the ‘Hindi Prachar’ as an important item in the agenda for freedom struggle. Gandhiji believed that unless and until the Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam speaking people attain a working knowledge of Hindi, national integration and cultural unity cannot be achieved. Keeping this in mind, Mahatmaji took the reins of Hindi Sahithya Sammelan to develop ‘Hindi Prachar’ in the south. Thus, Gandhiji directed Hindi Sahithya Sammelan to chart out the programmes and arranged to collect funds for its implementation.
After the annual convention of Hindi Sahithya Sammelan in 1918, Gandhiji sent his younger son Devdas Gandhi in 1918 to Madras in the south as the first Hindi Pracharak. He sowed the seeds for Hindi Prachar movement in Madras with the help of leaders such as Dr. Annie Besant, Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer, Srinivasa Sastry, etc. Due to his hard and devoted work, gradually ‘Hindi Prachar’ gained momentum and people evinced more interest to learn Hindi. Swami Sathyadev Pa rivraja k was the second Pracharak sent by Gandhiji to assist Devdas and under instructions from Mahatmaji, Pandit Harihara Sarma, K.M. Sivarama Sarma, Malladi Venkataseetharamanjaneyulu and other young patriots were sent to north to take to Hindi learning. They returned after a year in 1919 after attaining proficiency in the language. Since then both Pandit Harihara Sarma and Devdas Gandhi put their best efforts to propagate Hindi in the south. K. Bashyam Iyengar, T.R. Venkiatarama Sastry, Sundaram Iyer, Smt. S.Ambujammal and other national leaders belonging to Madras city were the students of these Pracharaks. To help these two Pracharaks Prathap Narayan Vajpeyee, K.Kshemannand Rahat and Hrishikesh Sharma from the north came to Madras, in 1919, as Pracharaks. The selfless and dedicated service of these pioneering Pracharaks, paved the way for the establishment of Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha, Madras.
It is interesting to note that the great national poet of Tamil Nadu Subramania Bharathi attempted to start Hindi class as early as in 1908.
In the first week of May 1918, the first Hindi class was started by Devdas Gandhi in the Gokale Hall in George Town, Madras City under the Presidentship of Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer. Dr. Annie Besant inaugurated the class. During 1918 to 1927 ‘Hindi Prachar’ was carried on under the banner of Hindi Sahithya Sammelan as its branch office. Pandit Harihara Sharma was the Secretary. Though for administrative convenience it was regarded as a branch of Hindi Sahithya Sammelan, right from the beginning it came to be recognized as Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha and later on it was also registered as such. 1927 saw the emergence of Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha as an independent organization and Mahatma Gandhi was its President till be breathed his last. Gandhiji wished that the ‘Hindi Prachar’ in the south should be carried on by involving the local people of the respective area. Till 1920, Sabha was having its office at George Town in Madras and after some years shifted to Mylapore and from thereon to Triplicane where it functioned till 1936. During these years Sabha published books such as Hindi readers, self-instructors, Hindi grammer, etc. for the use of Hindi learners. Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam editions were also brought out simultaneously. To produce these books, it was felt necessary to have a printing press of its own. The Sabha used the donation made by Suvratha Bai Ramnarayan Lal Rula in 1922 for this purpose and the Press started functioning in a rented premise in Triplicane, Madras. In course of time when the ‘Hindi Prachar’ picked up momentum, there was a great demand for ‘Pracharaks’. A Hindi Pracharak Vidyalaya was started in Erode in 1922 by the Sabha and Avadanandanji and Devadootji were the first teachers. The speciality of the Erode Vidyalaya was that not only it was declared open by Pandit Motilal Nehruji but also it started functioning from the house of E.V.Ramaswami Naicker (known as Periyar), who later became a staunch opponent of Hindi. In 1925, Babu Purushothamdas Tandonji toured and inspected southern Hindi centers and he met his Holiness Kanchi Kamakoti Peetathipati and the Swamiji donated Rs.100/- for ‘Hindi Prachar’ which gave further fillip to the movement. Incidentally, that was the first ever public donation received in the South.
On or about this time, Kaka Kalelkar suggested the establishment of Vyavasthapak Samithi (Governing Council), Karyakarini Samithi (Executive Council) under the new Constitution of the Sabha, Examinations, Publications and Education were made the responsibility of Siksha Parishad (Academic Council). Provincial Branches came into being with a Constitution of their own. Provincial Branches were established in 1936 to intensity the movement and the same year saw the Sabha moving into the then new town, Thyagaraya Nagar in Madras on a sprawling 5 acre land. The foundation for the building was laid byJanab Abdul Hameed Khan and the building was declared open on 7′ October 1936 by Pandit Jawaharlalji who was then the President of the Indian National Congress. Preliminary Examinations were being held regularly from 1922. The first degree level examination ‘Rashtrabasha Visharad’ was conducted and Convocation was held that was addressed by Kaka Kalelkar in 1931. ‘Praveshika’ was introduced in 1948 on the advice of Siksha Parishad the Academic Council of the Sabha.
‘Hindi Pracharaks’ came into existence when the Sabha through its Vidyalayas gave a special training to those who have passed ‘Rastrabasha’ and awarded Hindi Pracharak Sanad to those qualified in the examination at the end of theirtraining.
To exchange views and ideas and to have personal contact amongst them, Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sammelan was held from time to time in Madras. The first of its kind was held in 1923 in Soundarya Mahal and about 25 Pracharaks took part and passed important resolutions. The second Sammelan was held in December 1931 and about 40 Pracharaks participated in it and brought forth many resolutions.
Devdas Gandhi presided over the third Sammelan which was celebrated with great pomp and gaiety on 31′ December 1932 and Devdasji reminisced the fourteen years of existence of Hindi Prachar movement and expressed his greatest satisfaction. Afterwards Sammelan was held very year with regularity which were presided over by several national leaders. During these Sammelan Hindi drama, exhibition, propagandas materials, book exhibition and kavi Sammelan were the regularfeatures.
The Indian National Congress formed its first ministry in 1937 in the then Madras Presidency which was extended up to Orissa, with C. Rajagopalachariji (Rajaji) as the Chief Minister of Madras. Rajaji who was the Vice-President of the Sabha, introduced teaching of Hindi in all the schools in the Presidency. Sabha was directed to publish Hindi books for use in the schools. This gave a greater fillip to the Sabha’s activities and the Sabha ventured to produce more and more Hindi teachers.
“Pramanith Pracharak Plan” was introduced in 1940 to bring forth all the pracharaks under one roof and to enable them to get special privileges from the Sabha keeping in view their involvement in the Prachar movement. Pracharaks with certain proficiency in Hindi were designated as ‘Pramanith Pracharaks’. Those who have qualified in Visharad were recognized as second class Pracharaks and those who have qualified in Praveen and have been propagating as a second class Pracharak for a minimum of one year were designated as ‘Pramanith Pracharaks’. The number of Pracharaks is increasing every year and today there are more than 20,000 Pracharaks live in our registers.
Then came World War II and Gandhiji started his individual Satyagraha in 1940 followed by the Quit India movement in 1942. National leaders were imprisoned. Sabha employees like Moturi Satyanarayana, Balachandra Apte, etc. were also jailed. Even while in jail, they did yeoman service for the spread of Hindi. In 1920-21 Non-co-operation movement and 1929-30 Salt Sathyagraha also, many Hindi workers belonging to the Sabha were put into prison and they conducted Hindi classes inside the jail also and taught Hindi to many political luminaries in jail.
The Sabha celebrated its SilverJubilee in the year 1946 after the Second World War and Gandhiji presided over the celebrations. Nearly 10,000 Hindi Pracharaks and Hindi lovers from all over south took part in the functions which was celebrated in a grand manner. ‘Hindustani Nagar’ in the sprawing campus of the Sabha was established to provide for Gandhiji’s stay, food, etc. National leaders and authors of Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada languages also took part in the functions. In addition to the Hindi Pracharak Sammelan, Convocation and Hindi Programmes.
Gandhiji organized Conferences on women, constructive workers programme, authors of Southern languages, students, workers, artists, Harijan and on subjects like charka, congress workers, etc. Sevagram put up an impressive exhibition on Khadi and Village Industry.
More than 1000 students from various schools and colleges organized service force (Seva dal) to help in the proper conduct of the functions without involving any of the police force. In the evenings, large gatherings of men and women, old and young a like, had joined Gandhiji in his prayers and Ramdun was sung with a single voice. Sir Pethick Lawrence who was leading a Parliamentary delegation from Britain met Gandhiji in the Sabha premises to discuss India’s independence. After the celebrations Gandhiji made a whirl wind tour of the south in a special train and his message of ‘Hindi’ reached millions of our country men. Wherever he went he addressed in Hindi and it was translated in Tamil or local language. Perhaps that was the last trip Mahatmaji made to the South..
To commemorate his presence during the SilverJubilee celebrations in the Sabha and mark that historic occasion it was decided to build a Gandhi Mantap at the spot where Mahatmaji made his presence felt. Accordingly, a Mantap was built and it was inaugurated on 9th June 1963 by Morarji Desaiji. With the donations collected during the Silver Jubilee celebrations several constructive library Programmes were undertaken.
This period was considered as very important in the Sabha’s history. On seeing its meritorious services demand came from other non-Hindi areas for Sabha’s assistance in propagating Hindi in their areas. Senior workers like Devadoot Vidyarthi, Balachandra Apte, P. Narayan, Ramakrishna Navda, M. Subramanyam, etc. were sent to Agra, Assam, Manipur, Orissa and other places to run training colleges and they contributed very much to produce qualified Hindi workers. Thanks to their efforts the Sabha attained all India fame and recognition.
It was in 1951 that Hindi was made the official language in the Indian Constitution and people evinced more interest to learn Hindi. With the result the Sabha has to meet the challenges of the time. For this purpose, in 1953, the entire area of operation of the Sabha was divided into fifteen divisions and each division consisted of three or four districts to cover between 5 and 7 million people. Organisers were appointed for each division from amongst the experienced employees of the Sabha. These organizers toured their respective areas of operation to meet Hindi Pracharaks and teachers, to contact the public and appraised the Sabha’s activities, to enroll members to the Sabha, to enable Pracharaks to get in touch with each other, to conduct seminars, conferences and Sammelan, to introduces linguistic scholars in the seminar and conferences and to establish and organize Visharad and Praveen Vidyalayas in important encetres. Pracharaks seminars were held in each district.
In the meantime, the Government of India, under its five-year plans, sanctioned financial assistance to the Sabha for certain Hindi propaganda schemes. The Sabha also charted out several schemes to make use of this trend. Appointments of Pracharaks in smaller centers, organizing Visharad and Praveen Vidyalayas in district head-quarters, distribution of prizes to those who study Hindi in schools, sanction for the purchase of books to Hindi libraries, etc. are some of the activities covered under this scheme. 75% of the expenses of these schemes were reimbursed by the Government of India.
In appreciation of the Sabha’s activities for more than 45 years, the Government of India has accorded the status of National Importance under an Act of Parliament in 1964 (Act 14 of 1964). The act declared the Sabha an Institution of National Importance which came into force from 15t day ofJu ne 1964.
Section 4 of the Central Act 14 of 1964 has conferred on the Sabha certain power which is reproduced hereunder.
“Notwithstanding anything contained in the University Grants Commission Act, 1956, or in any other law for the time being in force, the Sabha may hold such examinations and grant such degrees, diplomas and certificates for proficiency in Hindi or in the teaching of Hindi as may be determined by the Sabha from time to time”.
“…With the declaration of this institution as an Institution of National Importance those Degrees and Diplomas will get the same status as those of any other University …. And they get recognition all over India…”
(Dr. K.L. Shrimali, Education Minister in Rajya Sabha, on 29.8.1963)
“It is like other Universities and those institutions which are declared to be Institutions of National Importance. Under Sec. 3 the money to the extent that is necessary will be advanced by the Education Ministry.
…To the extent that it needs assista nce from the Centre, it will receive it.”
(Sri M.C. Chagla, Education Minister in Lok Sabha, on 29.4.21964)
Today the Sabha is running various courses of study from M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D. to D.Litt. B.Ed., M.Ed., Journalism, D.C.A., M.C.A. and certificate courses in Computer Education, P.G. Diploma in Translation, etc. In 1979 a branch of the P.G.Department was established in Hyderabad with the assistance of Andhra Pradesh Government.
The Sabha celebrated its Golden Jubilee in April 1971 under the President-ship of the then President of India. Sri. V.V.Giri and several schemes were implemented to mark the occasion.
The Diamond Jubilee of the Sabha was celebrated on a large scale during September 1079. The celebrations were inaugurated by the former Prime Minister Morarji Desaiji. A unique Sammelan of the Hindi Pracharaks was also held on the occasion. About 2000 representatives from all over the south and several thousands of invitees participated in the function. Official language symposia, southern language scholars meet, all-India Kavi Sammelan, Bharatanatyam, Kuchupudi dances, awards to retired employees of the Sabha were some of the salient features of the celebrations. In fact, the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of the Sabha gave a fillip to turn a fresh chapter in the history of the Sabha on its onward march towards reaching out the neo-literates of this part of the country.
Madras city is treated as a separate unit for the purpose of ‘Hindi Prachar’ under the rules of the Sabha. The activities of the Madras city is directly under the control of the Central Sabha and a city organizer is put in charge of this is who looks after the interest of the Pracharaks and the Sabha as well. Formerly, the city was divided into six firkas and each firka was placed under an experienced Pracharak and he was called the Firka Organiser. These firkas were conducting classes from Prathamic to Praveen from time to time. According to the needs of the hour, full time Visharad Vidyalayas were also run. Hindi week, Hindi exhibition, distribution of awards, cultural Programmes and two-day Seminar for the city Pracharaks were the other highlights of the erstwhile firkas. Nowadays that system is not in vogue but several Pracharaks, both men and women, are independently running Hindi Vidyalayas. Sabha is providing those grants and also financial assistance wherever feasible. Due to untiring and unflinching efforts of the Pracharaks at the grass-root level, the Sabha is taking pride to claim that a vast majority of the population of the southern part of the country have attained certain proficiency in Hindi language and Hindi teaching. In the years to come it is sincerely hoped that Pracharaks will extend their selfless support in making Hindi Prachar a mass movement which is second to none.
The Publications Department of the Sabha has been publishing ‘Dakshina Bharat’ and ‘Hindi Prachar Samachar’, the quarterly and the monthly magazines respectively through which articles on comparative study of north, south literary works; social and cultural aspects and encouraging the neo-writers and authors of this part of the country are published.
The Department of Post-Graduate Education & Research of the Sabha has received recognition for its courses of study from most of the Indian Universities. To meet the ever increasing demand, a branch of this wing was started at Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh in 1979 with the assistance of the Government of Andhra Pradesh. Courses of study and imparted in this Department are M.A., M.Litt., Ph.D., D.Litt. B.Ed., M.Ed., P.G.Diploma in Translation and Journalism, etc. This department functions under the direct control of a Syndicate, Senate, Board of Studies and Academic Council and senior faculties and scholar’s from all over the country are members of these bodies.
A landmark in the recent history of the Sabha is the proposal and establishment of a National Hindi Research Library being built at a cost of Rupees eighty-five lakhs with financial assistance from the Government of India.
Another important landmark is the building of ‘Mahatma Gandhi Convocation hall’ (Mahatma Gandhi Padhavidhan Mandap) exclusively for the use of holding the annual convocation of the Sabha. This was built at a cost of Rupees twenty lakhs approximately with the major part of the funds being raised through donations. To commemorate the Nehru Centenary Celebrations Sabha put up a big hall in memory of the Panditji, named ‘Nehru Centenary Memorial Hall’. The hall is being put to the use of Hindi lovers. Pracharaks and e employees of the Sabha whenever it is not engaged by the Sabha.
The Sabha will be failing in its duty if it does not mention the following leaders. Industrialists, social reformers and the like who have been associated with the Sabha and have helped in its development in their respective states.
Andhra Pradesh:
Sarvasri : T. Prakasam, K. Nageswara Rao Pantulu, B. Gopal Reddy, Pattabi Seetharamaiah, Bulusu Samba Murthy, Acharya Ranga, B. Ramakrishna Rao, Swami Ramanandh Theerth, Durga Bai Deshmukh, N. Sanjeevi Reddy, Dr. M. Chenna Reddy.
Karnataka :
Sarvasri : K. Hanumanthaiah, S. Nijalingappa, Maharaja of Mysore, Pandit Siddanatha Panth, B.D.Jatti, C. Hanumanthappa, Veerendra Patil, R.R. Diwakar, Dr. C.V.Rama Rao.
Kerala :
Sarvasri : Kelappan, K.P.Madhavan Nair, E.M.S. Namboodripad, N. Sundaram Iyer, V.R. Krishna Iyer, Madhava Menon, P.K. Kesavan Nair, Ramunni Menon, Mahakavi Shankara Kurup and maharaja of Cochin.
Tamil Nadu :
Sarvasri : Muthuranga Mudaliar, K. Venkataswami Naidu, Rajaji, Kamaraj, M. Bhakthavatsalam, P.S. Ganga Naidu, Sardar Vedarathnam Pillai, Dr. R.Mahalingam, A.P.C.Veerabaghu, Dr. E.P. Madhuram, Sa Ganesan, S.N.N.Shankaralinga Iyer, Prof. Rama Iyer, S. Sathyamurthy, A. Rangaswamy lyengar, Sarojini Varadappan, Jayakanthan and Avinashilingam Chettiar.(Endnotes)