Government Sanskrit College, Varanasi
Government Sanskrit College was the first college in Benares. Established in 1791, it was a landmark college in India from where several notable teachers emerged. In 1958 it merged with Sampurnanand Sanskrit University.
For establishing their rule in India, the officers of the East India Company thought it necessary to preserve the knowledge of Hindus and Muslims. In the year 1750 they passed a resolution for that purpose. To preserve Urdu, they established a madrasa at Calcutta, whereas for protection and development of Sanskrit, they chose Benares. In 1791, during the period of British rule in India, Jonathan Duncan, the representative of the East India Company proposed the establishment of a Sanskrit college for development and preservation of the Sanskrit Vangmaya and to show that the English people were in favour of the development of the Indian culture. This was sanctioned by Governor General Lord Cornwallis. Kashi Naresh Mahip Narayan Singh donated a huge tract of land in the southern part of Benares for construction of the college. The first teacher of this Institution was Pandit Kashinath. The Governor General initially sanctioned a budget of Rs. 20,000 per annum.
Initially the college offered courses up to graduation. From 1857, the college started postgraduate teaching. The examination system was adopted in 1880. In 1894 the famous building of Saraswati Bhavan Granthalaya, where thousands of manuscripts are preserved, was constructed. These manuscripts are edited by the Principal of the College and published in book form. The series of books are known as Sarasvati Bhavana Granthamala. More than 400 books have been published in the series.
From 1791 to 1844 the college was governed by the Administrative officers of the city. Later British officers decided that Indians should also obtain knowledge of European literature and Philosophy. Therefore they ordered the appointment of a Principal for the college. The qualification laid down was the Principal must be a scholar of Sanskrit with knowledge of European literature and Philosophy. The Principals from 1844 were:
- John Muir (indologist)(1844–1846)
- James R. Ballantyne (1846–1861)
- Ralph T. H. Griffith (1861–1876)
- George Thibaut (1876–1888)
- Arthur Venis (1888–1918)
- Sir Ganganath Jha (1918–1923)
- Gopinath Kaviraj (1923–1937)
- Mangal Dev Shastri (1937–1958)