Bihar Vidyapeeth was set up in 1921. The institution has glorious past and immense future possibilities. The Non-co-operation movement of 1920-22 was the first extensive upsurge against British rule after 1857.
It was planned, under Mahatma Gandhi’s guidance, to set up a chain of ‘national’ educational centres in the country for primary, secondary and higher education, with truly Indian ethos, compatible with India’s rural-based economy and imbued with patriotic ideology. The National College (not to be confused with Bihar National College) in Patna was the first such institution to come up. Indeed, during the days of the Champaran satyagrah (1917) itself, the idea of starting a college in Bihar as a nationalist alternative to western-style Government institutions was being promoted by Shri Rajendra Prasad an his associated and had been discussed with Mahatma. Maulana Mazharul Haque, Shri Rajendra Prasad and other Bihar leaders thus seized the initiative early. Maulana Mazharul Haque had set up a “national school” prior to Mahatma Gandhi’s visit to Bihar in December 1920, with Shri RKL Nandkeolyar functioning as its Headmaster. After Mahatma Gandhi’s tour, a number of national school at primary, middle and secondary levels came up in Bihar. A National College got started in January 1921 in a rented house on Patna—Gaya Road (present Buddha Marg). Shri Rajendra Prasad, having given up his legal practice and given away his law books, came to live on the premises of the College and worked as its Principal Mahatma Gandhi offered for the institution “about eight thousand rupees which he had collected in early December 1920 in Bihar.
Mahatma Gandhi had decided to develop a Vidyapeeth in Bihar, that is, an institution functioning as a university, which could affiliated other institutions, conduct examinations and offer degrees. Bihar Vidyapeeth was Mahatma Gandhi’s creation for which he personally raised funds. During his visit to Bihar after Nagpur Congress, the Mahatma provided for this purpose an amount of Rs. 62,000 collected in Jharia and neighbouring areas in Bihar. He arrived in Patna on 6 February 1921, accompanied by Kasturba and Muhammad Ali, and formally inaugurated the Bihar Vidyapeeth, giving it the mandate to “co-ordinate the activities of all the national institutions that were springing up in the province and to control and guide them. Gandhi ji nominated Maulana Mazharul Haque as Chancellor and Shri Braj Kishore Prasad as Vice chancellor of Bihar Vidyapeeth. A number of eminent professors from different colleges left their institutions to join the National College; these included Shri Badri Nath Verma (from B.N. College), Shri Jagannath Prasad Pandey (from Patna College), Shri Prem Sunder Bose (from TNJ College, Bhagalpur), Shri NR Malkani (from GBB College, Muzaffarpur) and Shri Phuldeo Sahai Verma (from Banaras Hindu University).
By this time, Maulana Mazharul Haque had decided to give up his high-style life as a practising Barrister and dedicate himself whole-time to the national movement. He left the magnificent “Sikandar Manzil” Where he lived, in the heart of Patna, took up residence in an isolated mango-grove close to the river Ganges, and created an establishment which he started developing as a kind of an “ashram”. He named it “Sadaquat Ashram”. He got additional accommodation built up on this land and the Bihar Vidyapeeth then shifted to Sadaquat Ashram.
Bihar Vidyapeeth emerged as the apex body for a network of primary, middle, secondary and college level institutions coming up in Bihar as a result of the Non-co-operation movement. Schools in Danapur and Patna City (now Patna Saheb) were inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi himself and in Bakarganj (Patna) by Acharya J. B. Kripalani. The programme developed fast; in March 1921 about 500 “non-co-operating stuents” had registered themselves for examinations under Bihar Vidyapeeth and 20-25,000 students were receiving education at the institutions affiliated to the Vidyapeeth. Sir Jagdish Chandra Bose addressed the students of Bihar Vidyapeeth in 1924. The convocations in 1926 and 1927 were addressed by Shri C Rajagopalachari and Mahatma Gandhi respectively.
Bihar stood in the forefront of the freedom struggle. In 1922 it was reported that 41 secondary and 600 primary and middle schools with a total number of 21,500 pupils were functioning, 48 depots had been se up in 11 districts of Bihar to distribute cotton and charkha, and 3 lakh charkhas were at work with a production of 95,000 yards of Khadi per month. Mahatma Gandhi accorded the foremost position in the Non-co-operation movement to the province of Bihar. Writing in Young India (2 March, 1921), he observed, “Bihar is a province in which the most solid work is being done in connection with Non-co-operation. Its leaders understand the true spirit of non-violence. The educational movement is making great progress. There are signs on every side of a national awakening.”
Mahatma Gandhi’s tours used to be very frequent in Bihar during the freedom movement; he loved to stay at Bihar Vidyapeeth and Sadaquat Ashram. He was in Patna in September 1925 as President of the Congress, when a meeting of the AICC was held here; he stayed in Sadaquat Ashram. During his visit in 1934 for relief work after the great earthquake, again, he was put up in Sadaquat Ashram. On the eve of the Ramgarh Congress in 1940, Mahatmaji.
Bihar Vidyapeeth got registered in 1928 as a voluntary organisation under the Societies Registration Act and has functined as such. Until 1942, Dr. Rajendra Prasad was its Chairman and Acharya Badri Nath Verma its Secretary. The programme of national education did not progress much after the Non-co-operation movement, as the complexion of the national struggle started changing. The Vidyapeeth then concentrated on Charkha and rural industries. During the Quit India Movement in 1942, this institution was seized by Government, and was not released until 1946. In the fifties, the Vidyapeeth carried forward vocational and rural industrial activities under the aegis of the Khadi and Gramodyog Commission; these included spinning, had-made paper, tel-ghani (edible oil), soap-making and carpentry.
Bihar Vidyapeeth was the karmabhoomi of Dr. Rajendra Prasad as long as he remained in Patna to lead the freedom movement. He lived and worked here since 1921. He resided in a small thatch-roofed house before he shifted to Delhi in 1946 and took office as Minister, Food and Agriculture, later as President of the Constituent Assembly (1946-49) and, still later, as the first President of the Republic of India (1952-62). After relinquishing the office of the President of India in May 1962, he returned to Patna on 13 May, and preferred to stay in the campus of Bihar Vidyapeeth rather than anywhere else. He lived for some months in the old house with thatched roof, which he had occupied earlier. 1946. This house was not suitable for his age and the state of his health. Shri Jaya Prakash Narayan collected some funds to get a small house constructed in corner of the Vidyapeeth’s mango-grove. Deshratna Dr. Rajendra Prasad lived in this new house until his passing away on 28 February 1963. This place is now organised as as a museum – Rajendra Smriti Sangrahalaya – Where memorabilia related to Deshratna are on display for general public.
The Bihar Vidyapeeth has a network of institutions functioning in and around it and attached to it in various ways. The Vidyapeeth, in collaboration with Mahila Charkha Samiti, of which Loknayak Jaya prakash Narayan was the Chairman, set up a residential school, Kamala Nehru Shishu Vihar on Children’s Day, 14 November 1963 with vocational arts and crafts orientation.
The Braj Kishore Smarak Sansthan was set up in memory of Shri Braj Kishore Prasad, one of the eminent leaders of the freedom movement and a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi. Braj Kishore Momorial Hall was built with money given out of Bihar Nirmata Memorial Fund raised by Shri Jaya Prakash Narayan and his associates. The foundation stone of the Braj Kishore Memorial Hall was laid by Dr. Rajendra Prasad on 6 May 1955; it was inaugurated by Acharya Kripalani on 14 January 1974.
With the books of Bihar Vidyapeeth and the personal collection of books of Dr. Rajendra Prasad, a library was set up in these premises, named as Mazharul Haque Pustakalaya.
During the unprecedented drought in Bihar in 1967, the Bihar Relief Committee was set up with Shri Jaya Prakash Narayan at its head. The BRC engaged itself in large-scale relief activities in the rural areas of Bihar, which attracted world-wide attention. The office of the BRC was located in the premises of Bihar Vidyapeeth, where it still continues.
In 1975, Bihar Vidyapeeth organised and set up, at the initiative of Shri Jaya Prakash Narayan, a higher secondary school, named Swabalamban Vidyalaya, with curriculum designed to foster self-reliance amongst the pupils. The institution was running well, until in 1982, the Government of Bihar unilaterally took it over under official control and shifted it elsewhere.
Renowned Gandhian (later Education Minister in Bihar), Acharya Badri Nath Verma was Chairman of the Vidyapeeth until his death in 1972.
Thereafter, eminent socialist, well-respected thinker and elder statesman, Shri Ganga Sharan Singh headed the Vidyapeeth until 1988 when he passed away. A senior civilian, Shri Ranchor Prasad, who devote nearly 20 years of his retired life to active social work and had worked as Vice-chairman with Shri Ganga Sharan Singh took over as Chairman in 1988. Shri Ranchor Prasad passed away in February 1996. Presently the management of Bihar Vidyapeeth in the hands of Prabandh Samiti headed by Sri Vijoy Prakash (retd. IAS).