Born(1922-02-19)19 February 1922
Died(2006-10-24)24 October 2006 [1][2][3]
Nationality (legal)Indian

Dharampal (Hindi: धरमपाल) (19 February 1922 – 24 October 2006) was an Indian historian, historiographer, and an Gandhian thinker.[4] Dharampal primary works are based on documentation by the colonial government on Indian education, agriculture, technology, and arts during the period of colonial rule in India.[5][6] He is most known for his works The Beautiful Tree: Indigenous Indian Education in the Eighteenth Century (1983),[7] Indian Science and Technology in the Eighteenth Century (1971) and Civil Disobedience and Indian Tradition (1971), among other seminal works, which have led to a radical reappraisal of conventional views of the cultural, scientific and technological achievements of Indian society at the eve of the establishment of Company rule in India. Dharampal was instrumental in changing the understanding of pre-colonial Indian education system.[8][9]

In 2001, he was named chairman of the National Commission on Cattle and Minister of State by the Government of India.[2][10][11]

Early life and education

Born in Kandhla, in the present Shamli district,[12] UP (then in United Provinces), his family shifted to Lahore in the late 1920s, where he studied at moved to Lahore in the late 1920s, where he went on to complete his schooling from Dayanand Anglo-Vedic School, Lahore. In 1938, he joined Government College, Lahore, to study B.Sc.in Physics, though in 1940, he transferred to Meerut College but soon left education altogether in October 1940 to join the Indian independence movement. Later he also took part in the Quit India movement. [13]


In 1944 he joined Mirabehn, Kisan Ashram near Roorkee-Haridwar, followed by Bapugram near Rishikesh. In 1950 he left the field to start research and writing. [14]

He was married to Phyllis Ellen Ford in 1949, and the couple had three children Pradeep, Gita and Anjali. Gita Dharmpal (b. 1952), retired as Professor and Head of, the Department of History, South Asia Institute, Heidelberg University, and became Council Member of Indian Council of Social Science Research and Honorary Dean of Research at the Gandhi Research Foundation (GRF), Jalgaon [15]

Post Indo-China War of 1962, wherein India suffered losses, he along with N.N. Datta and Roop Narain, signed an open letter against the response of the Jawaharlal Nehru government on November 21, 1962. This led to the arrest of all three, and subsequent imprisonment in the Tihar Jail in Delhi for 2 months, causing much public debate.[16]

Post 1981, he largely lived in Mahatma Gandhi's ashram Sevagram Ashram Pratishthan near Wardha. His wife died in 1986, later he died in 2006.[14]


Dharampal's pioneering historical research, conducted intensively over a decade, led to the publication of works that provide evidence from extensive early British administrators’ reports of the widespread prevalence of educational institutions in the Bombay, Bengal and Madras Presidencies as well as in the Punjab, teaching a sophisticated curriculum, with daily school attendance by about 30% of children aged 6–15. Dharampal highlights the indigenous education system in India during the pre-colonial and around the eve of British colonial era.[3]

In 1818, the fall of Maratha Empire led to large parts of India coming under direct British rule.[17] During the decade of 1820-30, following instructions from authorities in London, various provincial governments in India carried out detailed surveys of the indigenous education system prevalent in their provinces. The survey in Madras Presidency, which was perhaps the most detailed, was conducted by A.D Campbell, the collector of Bellary, during 1822-25. A survey in some selected districts of the Bombay Presidency was first conducted during 1824-25, followed by another similar survey in 1828-29. In 1835, on instruction from the Governor-General William Bentinck, William Adam, a missionary of the Unitary Church, conducted a survey of indigenous education in five districts of the Bengal Presidency: Birbhum, Burdwan, South Bihar, Tirhut and parts of Murshidabad. Adam also personally carried out a detailed statistical survey of the area under the Thana of Natore in the district of Rajshahi.[17]

G.L. Prendergast, a member of the Governor’s Council in Bombay Presidency, recorded the following about indigenous schools on 27 June 1821:[18]

"I need hardly mention what every member of the Board knows as well as I do, that there is hardly a village, great or small, throughout our territories, in which there is not at least one school, and in larger villages more; many in every town, and in large cities in every division; where young natives are taught reading, writing and arithmetic, upon a system so economical, from a handful or two of grain, to perhaps a rupee per month to the schoolmaster, according to the ability of the parents, and at the same time so simple and effectual, that there is hardly a cultivator or petty dealer who is not competent to keep his own accounts with a degree of accuracy, in my opinion, beyond what we meet with amongst the lower orders in our own country."

Sociological Data

These survey data also reveals the wide social strata to which both the students and the teachers in these schools belonged. Survey records teachers were represented by all caste groups, including a minority of teachers from now former untouchable castes.[19]

The more interesting and historically more relevant information provided by the caste-wise survey of this data is that of the students, the majority of whom belonged to the Shudra caste. This is true not only as regards boys but also concerning the rather small number of girls who, according to the survey, were receiving education in schools.[20]


Works in Translations


  1. ^ "Introducing Dharampal - Center for Indic Studies". Archived from the original on 7 June 2020. Retrieved 5 September 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Introducing Dharampal - Center For Indic Studies". 7 June 2020. Archived from the original on 7 June 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Kakkar, Ankur (19 February 2019). "Remembering Dharampal's Seminal Contribution".
  4. ^ "Life Sketch: Shri Dharampal". www.dharampal.net. Retrieved 10 February 2023.
  5. ^ "Dharampal's 'The Beautiful Tree: Indigenous Indian Education in the Eighteenth Century". 22 December 2019.
  6. ^ Basu, Aparna (February 1985). "Comparative Education Review Volume 29, Number 1 Feb. 1985". Comparative Education Review. 29 (1): 137–140. doi:10.1086/446501.
  7. ^ "The Beautiful Tree". www.goodreads.com.
  8. ^ Kakkar, Ankur (19 February 2019). "Remembering Dharampal's Seminal Contribution". IndiaFacts. Retrieved 27 December 2020.
  9. ^ a b c "'Gandhian thinker Dharampal has not got due credit'". Deccan Herald. 27 March 2017.
  10. ^ "National commission on Cattle to be set up - Times of India". The Times of India.
  11. ^ "CHAPTER II Exective Summery [sic] | Department of Animal Husbandry & Dairying". dahd.nic.in.
  12. ^ Shamli district was earlier part of Muzzarfnagar district
  13. ^ "Dharampal, Babri Masjid and the bitter fruit of victimhood". Indian Express. 9 October 2021.
  14. ^ a b Life and Chronology
  15. ^ Professor Dr. Gita Dharampal ICSSR Official website.
  16. ^ Dharmpal (2015). Essential Writings of Dharmpal. p. 6, 382.
  17. ^ a b The Beautiful Tree: Indigenous Indian Education in the Eighteenth Century. Keerthi Publishing House. 1995. pp. 6–26.
  18. ^ The Beautiful Tree: Indigenous Indian Education in the Eighteenth Century. Keerthi Publishing House. 1995. p. 73.
  19. ^ The Beautiful Tree: Indigenous Indian Education in the Eighteenth Century. Keerthi Publishing House. 1995. p. 54.
  20. ^ The Beautiful Tree: Indigenous Indian Education in the Eighteenth Century. Keerthi Publishing House. 1995. pp. 26–29.
  21. ^ "THE BEAUTIFUL TREE - DHARAMPAL" – via Internet Archive.
  22. ^ The British origin of cow-slaughter in India: with some British documents on the Anti-Kine-Killing Movement, 1880-1894. Society for Integrated Development of Himalayas. 6 September 2002 – via University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries Catalog.
  23. ^ Understanding Gandhi. Other India Press. 2003. ISBN 9788185569598.
  24. ^ "Understanding Gandhi". www.goodreads.com.