After returning from South Africa, Gandhiji travelled all over India. He experienced the political, social, educational, and economic deterioration of the country and its population. He spent the rest of his life finding solutions to these problems. He made some initial experiments in education in Kochrab and Sabarmati Ashram during 1915-1920.
In August 1920, Gandhiji started non non-cooperation movement. Gandhiji asked everybody to boycott the Honours and Awards of the British empire; schools and colleges imparting English education; and Courts and Legislative Assemblies. One of the most important issues of this non-co-operation movement was to boycott all schools and colleges under the British Government’s control and to liberate the Indian youths from the shackles of British colonial rule. Gandhiji understood clearly that the British education system, as propounded by Lord Macaulay, had been designed to produce human resources for the oppressive British Empire. That’s why he gave the call to Indian youth to boycott this education system. Following Gandhiji’s advice, thousands of youths across the country left the schools and colleges of the British government. To ensure that these youngsters can complete their education, the Indian National Congress decided to establish national institutions of higher education. Five such institutions were established in 1920 and one of those was Gujarat Vidyapith, established by Gandhiji himself on October 18, 1920. Gandhiji wanted his Vidyapith to prepare the youths for the task of national reconstruction and usher in ‘Hind Swaraj’, the India of his dreams.
Gujarat Vidyapith was established as a national university without a government charter. Gandhiji was its lifelong chancellor. Professor A T Gidwani was its first vice-chancellor. After Gandhiji, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, and Morarji Desai adorned the post of chancellor of the Vidyapith. Later, many more institutions, colleges, and schools were affiliated to the Vidyapith.
Till the year 1930, languages such as Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali, Sanskrit, Persian, and English were taught in Gujarat Vidyapith. Other disciplines included History, Arithmetic, Philosophy, and Economics. Accountancy, Music, Political Science, Pharmacy, Archeology, and Indian studies. The Vidyapith stopped functioning temporarily during the civil disobedience movements from 1930 to 1935 as both the students and faculty members participated actively in the freedom struggle and went to jail. The other time when Vidyapith ceased its functioning was during Quit India Movement from 1942 to 1945 when both students and teachers went to jail for participation in the freedom movement.
In June 1947, Mahadev Desai Samaj Seva Mahavidyalaya was established. Initially, only degree-level courses were conducted in this college. Considering the historical and national significance of Gujarat Vidyapith, the Government of India recognized Gujarat Vidyapith as a ‘deemed to be university’ in July 1963 under Section 3 of the University Grants Commission (UGC) Act, 1956. After this, other programs at the level of postgraduation and doctoral research were introduced. Besides, Gujarat Vidyapith also ran many independent centres such as Rashtrabhasha Hindi Prachar Samiti, Adult Education, Tribal Research and Training Institute, and Krushi Vigyan Kendras to fulfill its commitment to the welfare of the common masses.
I have only given a Hymn. If a son of Baniya caste can do it,
I have done the work of a Rishi, by establishing Vidyapith. – M K Gandhi