Situated in the heart of the city of Kolkata (Calcutta) – the cultural capital of India – opposite Presidency College, amidst College Square, Sanskrit College, Coffee House and Calcutta University, Hindu School is reputed to be one of the oldest and leading institutions for education in India. It was established in 1817 by stalwart educationalists like Maharaja Radhakanta Deb, David Hare, Diwan Baidya Nath Mukherjee and others in a visionary and ahead-of-era intention to impart modern education to the young students in European and Oriental subjects.
Prior to the advent of the British in India, the indigenous primary schools of Bengal taught very little beyond Bangla, simple Arithmetic and Sanskrit .The tols (local small schools run by individuals) imparted lessons in advanced Sanskrit, grammar and literature, theology, logic and metaphysics. This was not enough to satisfy the aspiration of the enlightened Indians like Raja Rammohun Roy, who felt that the process would only “load the minds of youths with grammatical niceties and metaphysical distinctions” without having any practical use. The necessity of learning English was also keenly felt by people who had to carry on a constant interaction with the British businessmen.
At the same time, during the early nineteenth century there was a distinct intellectual awakening in Bengal Society. The luminous rays of modern knowledge, education and thought process, influenced by European culture and impacted by British rule, had affected the contemporary life very materially. Various protest movements, formation of societies and associations, religious reform movements, emergence of new styles in Bengali literature, political consciousness, and other socio-political phenomena were a few corroborative evidences of this changing mind-set. One of the most prominent outcomes of this renaissance was the change in the curriculum taught in the schools and establishment of new schools imparting modern and practical education. The idea of establishing an English school was already prevalent. The plan of imparting English education by David Hare – one of the most prominent educationalists in the then Bengal – received general approbation and Diwan Baidya Nath Mukherjee was deputed to collect the subscriptions. Sir Edward Hyde East, Chief Justice of the Calcutta Supreme Court was invited to chair the committee and Joseph Baretto became the Treasurer. The committee succeeded in raising Rupees 1,13,179.00, the principal donors being the Maharajah of Burdwan (Tejchand Bahadur) and Gopee Mohun Thakur, each contributing Rupees 10,000.
On a wintry morning of January 20th , 1817 , a batch of 20 male students hailing from affluent Bengali Hindu families of Kolkata, met at the rented house of Gorachand Basak at Garanhata ( 304 Chitpur Road ) marking the first meeting day of Hindu School. In 1825, with the help of the British Government, a school building was built for 1 lakh 24 thousand rupees, towards the north of Goldighi (now known as College Square) on a land donated by David Hare. The Hindu College was originally divided into two sections – a school (pathshala) which imparted instruction in English, Bangla, Grammar and Arithmetic and a college (mahapathshala) teaching Languages, History, Geography, Chronology, Astronomy, Mathematics, Chemistry and other sciences. On 15th June 1854, the upper section of the school ( the Hindu mahapathshala or the Hindu College ) was made an open center for modern education including eastern and western philosophy and science and was separated as Presidency College and the junior section remained as Hindu School – a national heritage of institutional education, history and reform.