Heritage haveli, historic school

Special Institution
Last Updated 26 February 2013, 16:30 IST

My visit to the Indraprastha Hindu Girls’ School has inspired in me a deep sense
of admiration not only for the method and manner of teaching followed in this institution but also for the spirit of devotion and noble self-sacrifice working at the centre of it.” These are words spoken by none other than Rabindranath Tagore during his visit to the historic school on 24 October 1914.

The school which celebrated its centenary in 2004 was begun on 21 May 1904 after Dr Annie Besant talked about the importance of women’s education. Her efforts gave
a new lease of life to girls and a few men of vision and goodwill formed an educational
society, locating it in the heart of Old Delhi. Thus, began a new chapter in woman empowerment.

It was named Indraprastha Kanya Shikshalaya after Delhi’s ancient city of Indraprastha.
Lala Jugal Kishore, the school’s founding father also became the treasurer of its Society and it was opened in a building which had already been in existence since early 1860s. It was a time when both – getting girls to study and, money to run a school, were equally difficult. Lala Jugal Kishore went from house to house to convince parents to send their daughters to school and also to collect funds. He managed to get only seven odd girls.

Today, it is managed and run by Narayan Prasad, Lalaji’s grandson. “This school was started in a three-storeyed haveli behind Jama Masjid. The construction is a fusion
of Hindu and Islamic styles of architecture and that is why it has got the tag of a heritage haveli.”

The 90-year old adds, “The school was started at a time when Sati and purdah were the norm. It was difficult to get girls to come and study as they were not allowed to move out of homes. At the time, Annie Besant had said, a household can only be run with the help of both the man and the woman, so why should women be left behind? That is how it all started. Hamare dada ka to hookah paani bandh ho gaya tha iss wajah se. And all
because he was teaching girls!”

Today, the government-aided institution holds classes from Std VI to XII, employs 36 teachers and has 610 students. Savita Aggarwal, its principal, also shares her insight. “At that time, girls were brought to the school in buggies (horse-driven carriages) and escorted safely back as they weren’t allowed to go out at all.”

The school believed that education would empower girls to effectively combat social evils and practices. It taught students all the subjects which would make them efficient homemakers and confident, cultured citizens. The subjects included Hindi, Sanskrit, Arithmetic, Geography, creative arts and crafts like drawing, painting, music, cookery and so on.

The school also has the distinction of being the first girls school in Delhi to start Science classes with qualified teachers and modern laboratory as early as 1923. The luminaries who have visited the school in its early years included Gurudev, Pt Motilal Nehru, Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Sarojini Naidu, I K Gujral and so on.

(Published 26 February 2013, 16:28 IST)

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