William Carey:
The Father of Modern India
Vishal Mangalwadi

“William Carey was the nastiest Englishman that ever came to India,” said Mr. R.M. Pandit, my fellow-passenger.[i] We were both on our way to England. His mission was to research Carey in connection with the 250th anniversary of his birth on August 17, 2011. Panditji’s confident mannerism encouraged me to ask: “Who was Carey? What did he do to us?”
“In England he was just a chamar—a cobbler. In 1793 he violated British Parliament’s ban on missionary activity in India and slipped in as an undercover Baptist missionary. He started the chain reaction that culminated in our day in a chamar woman becoming the ruler of Uttar Pradesh—the very heartland of Hinduism.”
“Why should that be so worrying?” I wondered out loud. “After all Ms. Mayawati is dependent on Brahmins and they can easily ditch her in the next election.”[ii]
“I’m not concerned about one Mayawati,” clarified Panditji. “My concern is that Carey brought to India cancer cells that continue to multiply. They are infecting Hindu parties such as the BJP.[iii] Why do you think the BJP routinely appoints [untouchable] Shudras[iv] as Chief Ministers in the states it rules? Why can’t it respect Hindu culture and promote professional rulers?”
“I’m sorry Panditji,” I said sheepishly, “but I’ve no idea what you are talking about. If Carey was born 250 years ago, how is he responsible for what the BJP does today? If he was really the worst Englishman, why don’t we hear more about him?”
Panditji seemed eager to educate me, “Other Europeans came to colonize and loot India militarily, politically, and economically but William Carey came to change India. He pioneered the missionary movement with a goal to colonize our minds, to harvest our souls, and destroy our culture. This is the worst kind of colonialism.”[v]
“I’m afraid you have to help me understand how one can colonize someone’s mind,” I requested the scholar.
“Whoever controls your language controls your mind. Whoever writes your history controls your future. Why do you think that a Shudra in Tamil Nadu and a Dalit in Bihar both designate themselves as ‘Dravidians’? Their forefathers saw themselves as an intrinsic part of the Aryan culture. Who changed our language of caste into that of distinct races—Aryans and Dravidians? Some European scholars had taken an interest in Indian languages and literature before Carey. But he turned that academic curiosity into missionary mischief, inspiring thousands of missionary-linguists to build on his foundations.”
“I’ve never heard this interpretation before,” I assured Panditji.
My inquisitiveness encouraged him to continue, “Hindu sages engineered a harmonious society by categorizing us into castes along the lines of a family’s expertise. Caste system allowed parents to teach their children how to excel in their family profession. How can a person who milks cows teach his son to govern a state or navigate the sea? You tell me: do all human beings appear equal to you? Did the white Christians in America treat their black slaves as equal?”
“Definitely not,” I agreed, “but Mahatma Phule[vi] was a contemporary of Abraham Lincoln and he praised devout Christians who put religious values above economic interests and fought against their fellow whites to emancipate black slaves. That is why the blacks in America love the Bible even more than the white people. Didn’t President Obama put his hand on Lincoln’s Bible to take his oath of office?”
“The myth that God made all human beings—male and female—equally in his image does come from the Bible. But educated people believe in evolution. Of course, no one has actually seen a fish evolve into a bird, but evolution confirms what our sages taught: that some people are more evolved than others. How can everyone evolve equal? Evolution presupposes the fact of inequality, but as a chamar, Carey wanted us to believe the Bible’s myth of human equality. He converted ignorant people and required them to break caste by eating together.”
“What strategy did he use to change India?”
“Since he believed the myth that men and women were created equal, Carey’s mission started educating girls as well as boys.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“You only change what you don’t like. In order to change India Carey had to misrepresent our culture.”
“Like, how?”
“He published papers against the nobility of upper-caste women. They committed sati by climbing on to the funeral pyres of their deceased husbands to join them in the after-life. But Carey used his influential paper,Friend of India (which merged into Calcutta’s Statesman), to launch a campaign that got the British to abolish the sacred tradition of sati.”
“Really? I always heard that it was Raja Rammohun Roy who stopped widow-burning.”
“Roy had become Carey’s disciple in order to learn English. A Sanskrit Scholar, Hariharananda Vidyabagish, took Rammohun Roy to William Carey. The three of them fabricated Maha Nirvana Tantra or the “Book of the Great Liberation.” It pretended to codify ancient Sanskrit law, proving that the Hindu scriptures did not require a widow to commit sati. For decades the British courts yielded to the authority of this book in interpreting the Hindu law. Using that spurious book in law courts made Roy and the Tagore clan wealthy. Roy parted company with Carey when Roy became a Unitarian. But throughout his life he advanced Carey’s agenda to change India. Along with the missionaries, he was the primary reason why Lord Macaulay ruled that the East India Company’s money should be used to teach English not Sanskrit. Carey, Roy, and Macualy wanted to enrich Indian vernaculars by injecting English rather than Sanskrit ideas into our languages. Raja Rammohun Roy followed Carey in condemning the very core of Hinduism—worship of idols and nature. He felt that economic development meant governing nature, not worshipping it. In order to smuggle his peculiar version of Christianity into Bengal, Roy disguised it as “Brahmo Samaj.” His college was a platform for missionaries such as Alexander Duff.”
Trying to make sense of what I was hearing, I asked: “What exactly did Carey do to corrupt India?”
“Why is Hindi our national language: why not Sanskrit, which was a pan-Indian language?” Panditji fired back.
“You tell me,” I said to him, “you seem to know.”
“Sanskrit united India culturally.  It preserved our harmony and genius. In order to translate the Bible into every Indian language, Carey mastered Sanskrit and prepared its dictionary. He wasn’t serving Sanskrit. He was making it easy for other Bible translators to understand the dialects inspired by Sanskrit and to turn them into literary languages via Bible translation. Do you know that the Bible is the most translated book in India? By developing Indian languages, missionaries divided us linguistically. If Scriptures are available in your own mother-tongue why would you need a priest who has spent decades mastering Sanskrit? Once priests become irrelevant, so does our culture.”
“That sounds like unnecessary fear-mongering to me,” I said.
“It is necessary to be afraid. You can see the practical consequences of missionary mischief in Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu and also Andhra.”
“What are you referring to?
“Who divided Sinhalese Aryan and Tamil Dravidians, causing a terrible civil war in Sri Lanka? Tamil Nadu is next. I don’t know Tamil. It is an ancient language; but it cannot possibly predate Sanskrit. Christian scholars are promoting the subversive idea that because Tamil predates Sanskrit, therefore ancient Tamil literature contains authentic Indian spirituality. It is true that Brahmin scholars did not develop Modern Tamil. Like all Indian vernaculars, Modern Tamil was created by missionary-linguists—specifically by Robert Caldwell and G.U. Pope. They followed Carey. But contrary to his opinion they taught that Tamil grew independently of Sanskrit. Their theory forged a non-Aryan, Dravidian identity. Consequently, Dravidians started movements to free themselves from the so-called slavery of the Brahmins.”
“Are you serious?” I asked, “Is all this really that significant?”
“It is a tectonic faultline. In normal times, faultlines have no practical significance but eventually they break apart whole continents. Bengali was the first language that Carey developed. His younger associates in Fort William College developed Urdu, Hindustani, and then Hindi. What came out of these literary labors? Carey’s Bengali is now the national language of Bangladesh and Sanskrit has disappeared from that part of India. Henry Martyn’s Urdu rules Pakistan and Sanskrit can’t be seen in North Western India. India’s national language is the Hindi of Rev. Gilchrist and Rev. Kellogg in which Carey played an important role. What is Carey’s long-term legacy? Sanskrit’s dominance that preserved our language, scriptures, and culture seems destined for the dustbin of history. Hindu ashrams in the Himalayas ought to be running Sanskrit universities, but they make money by offering English medium education.”
“So did William Carey develop Indian vernaculars in order to divide and weaken us?” I wondered.
“I will be digging into the archives in England to deconstruct his real motives. In public, of course, his followers argue that Europe was reformed when scholars like Luther and Tyndale translated the Bible into the common man’s languages such as German and English. They say that you cannot have a government of the people, for the people, and by the people, unless it runs in the language of the people. In the 16th century, the University of Paris in France, that of Oxford and that of Cambridge in England, and that of Wittenberg in Germany all taught in Latin. French, English, and German had no literature that any university could use. The Bible translators changed that. They enriched vernaculars making it possible for them to become the languages of learning, law and governance. That made it possible for anyone to go to college and develop his potential. Carey claimed that he was bringing a similar reform to India. His work as a linguist-translator would open up the Indian mind. People will read the scriptures and secular literature in their mother tongues and decide for themselves what is true. They wouldn’t need the expertise of priests. That means, cobblers and sweepers will rule over us politically as well as spiritually.”
“Are you suggesting that Carey developed Indian languages in order to democratize intellectual power? That he made religious and secular knowledge available to everyone, including Shudras and women?”
“Yes! Along with his colleagues, he started the first vernacular college in Serampore. It used Bengali as a medium of instruction and  grew into India’s first university, independent of the British Raj. Carey himself taught astronomy, botany, and forestry besides, of course, languages and the Bible. He didn’t just teach botany; he studied our plants, published books on science, established the second-best botanical garden in India, and founded the Agri-Horticultural Society to encourage agricultural innovation. The problem is that in all of this Carey’s real motive was to convert us. He didn’t respect our religion. We worshipped trees and rivers, gods and goddesses, spirits and demons because we believed that everything is divine. Carey’s faith in the Bible made him such a bigot that he could not appreciate the depth of Hindu devotion that made it possible for parents to sacrifice their children to the Mother goddess. He labeled it infanticide in order to discredit Sanatan Dharma. That is the power of language. It can describe the same action as piety or murder. At this moment, Carey’s language and Lord Macaulay’s law govern independent India. That is what I mean by colonization of our minds.”
“What else did he do to weaken Brahminism?”
“In order to publish the Bible in Indian languages and to pressurize the Government to change our religious culture, Carey brought the modern press to India—I mean both journalism as well as the printing press. Since at that time we didn’t make the kind of paper needed for the mechanical press, he began manufacturing paper. For that purpose he installed the first steam engine in India. That, in turn, started an industrial revolution which undermined our cottage industry.”
“But did his writing and publishing actually damage India?”
“You are a real simpleton! Have you never wondered why, after six decades of Independence, India is still governed by a penal code written by Lord Macaulay? Isn’t that enough to show the effectiveness of intellectual colonization? Macaulay was simply following William Carey who wrote in 1792, that is, one year before he came to India, that the spread of the Gospel would transform India. It will replace the rule of wise men with the kingdom of God, that is, theocratic laws derived from the Bible.”
“Panditji, you have said so many new things that my head is spinning. Can you summarize what you are telling me about William Carey?”
“I haven’t described a fraction of the nastiness that William Carey began in four decades that he spent here. It was not colonialism but Christianity that turned India upside down. If there was no Carey, there would be no missionaries, Raja Rammohun Roy, Tagores, Keshab Chandra Sen, Jotiba Phule, Ambedkar, Periyar, or Kanshi Ram. Sanskrit and sages would keep India united into one culture. That unity would go much deeper than the political-legal-constitutional unity that the British gave us in line with their biblical idea of a nation-state.”
“Ancient India,” I said to Mr. Pandit, “may have been better than modern India. But from all that you are telling me, it seems that for better or for worse, William Carey, not Mahatma Gandhi, is the Father of Modern India. Without him we might have a cultural India but no political nation called India.”
“Exactly! Today we think nation, rather than dharma or culture because Carey began to change our worldview. Consider this: even those who led the 1857 revolt against the British did not think of nationalism as a value. They thought of dharma and hated the bullets dipped in cow’s fat. Even the Buddha did not damage Indian culture as deeply as William Carey did. The Buddha did reject caste, but he was wise enough to accept Karma-Reincarnation as explanations of self-evident inequality. The Buddha agreed that we are born unequal because of our karma.”
“But Carey has been dead for over a century and a half!”
“Yes, but the movement that he began has become incredibly potent. Now there are at least 80,000 fulltime Indian missionaries transforming the grassroots areas where no church existed. These missionaries oppose self-evident inequality. They serve the poorest of the poor and argue that Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsees and Untouchables should have an equal place in India. They educate and uplift the downtrodden, firing their hearts with dreams and ambitions that can be exploited by all kinds of disruptive movements.”
“So, Indian Christians are our problem now?”
“Not exclusively! Carey was the longest serving member on  the board of The Asiatic Society, the first and the most influential  non-governmental organization (NGO) of his day. Thousands of secular NGOs now speak his language. They disagree with him in many things: they may say that they believe in Evolution, but they defend the myth of equality. Like Carey they weaken traditional family by championing women’s freedom, but they rob devout Hindu widows the freedom to commit Sati. They don’t allow devoted parents the freedom to sacrifice their children to their deities, because their minds are colonized by Euro-centric worldview.”
“So, has Carey won?”
“No! All is not lost. The Hindutva movement is sending out missionaries to re-conquer India. Following Carey’s strategy, we’ve captured key sectors of the media. He started one college, we have thousands. Indian Christians teach only the Bible, we control the departments of History in many universities. Carey trained civil servants, now we indoctrinate bureaucracy. We’ve at least as much political influence as he did. Even though the British evangelicals created the modern Indian army, we now have more power over the army than anyone else. In addition we’re training paramilitary forces that Carey did not even think about. Our problem is that even though we can win Delhi, we are losing Chennai, Kolkata, and Lucknow. This is mainly because William Carey’s ghost still controls our language and public discourse. We are yet to figure out an effective way to re-conquer the Indian mind. That’s why I’m researching Carey’s insidious tactics. He changed India.

[i] This article was originally written for the Forward Press, New Delhi. For permission to reprint please contact the editor, Ivan Kostka, at aspire.prakashan@gmail.com. It is reprinted here by permission.
[ii] Rajiv Malhotra and Aravindan Neelakandan describe William Carey as one of the “nastiest Evangelists” in their book Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines(Bhopal: Amaryllis, 2011), 338. R.M. Pandit mentioned in this chapter is a composite character and my conversation with him is a literary device—not an actual incident.
[iii] Mayawati (1956–) is the current Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. She is a Dalit, that is, one of the Untouchables.
[iv] The Bharatiya Janata Party, identified as a militant Hindu party is one of the two leading political parties in India.
[v] People from the servant or laborer caste.
[vi] This point is argued by Arun Shourie in his book Harvesting Our Souls: Missionaries, Their Designs, Their Claims (New Delhi: ASA Publications, 2000).
[vii] Mahatma Phule (1827–1890) was the first lower caste social reformer and author.