Banaras Hindu University (Hindi: [kaʃi hind̪u viʃvəvid̪yaləy], BHU), formerly Central Hindu College, is a public central university located in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. It was established in 1916 by Madan Mohan Malaviya and Annie Besant. With over 30,000 students residing in campus, it claims the title of largest residential university in Asia.
The university’s main campus spread over 1,300 acres (5.3 km2) was built on land donated by the Kashi Naresh, the hereditary ruler of Banaras (“Kashi” being an alternative name for Banaras or Varanasi). The south campus, spread over 2,700 acres (11 km2), hosts the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (Agriculture Science Centre) and is located in Barkachha in Mirzapur district, about 60 km (37 mi) from Banaras. The University is also planning to set up a campus in Bihar.
BHU is organised into 6 institutes and 14 faculties (streams) and about 140 departments.As of 2017, the total student enrollment at the university is 27,359 coming from 48 countries. It has over 75 hostels for resident students. Several of its faculties and institutes include arts (FA – BHU), management studies (Institute of Management Studies Banaras Hindu University|I.M.St. – BHU), science (I.Sc. – BHU), performing arts (FPA-BHU), law (FL-BHU), agricultural science (Institute of Agricultural Science, Banaras Hindu University|I.A.S. – BHU),medical science (Institute of Medical Science, Banaras Hindu University|I.M.S. – BHU) and environment and sustainable development (Institute of Environment And Sustainable Development, Banaras Hindu University|I.E.S.D. – BHU) along with departments of linguistics, journalism & mass communication, among others. The university’s engineering institute was designated as Indian Institute of Technology in June 2012.
BHU celebrated its centenary year in 2015-2016. The Centenary Year Celebration Cell organised various programs including cultural programs, feasts & competitions & Mahamana Madan Mohan Malviya Birth Anniversary on 25 December 2015.
The Banaras Hindu University was established by Madan Mohan Malviya. A prominent lawyer and an Indian independence activist, Malviya considered education as the primary means for achieving a national awakening.
At the 21st Conference of the Indian National Congress in Benares in December 1905, Malviya publicly announced his intent to establish a university in Varanasi. On the request of Malviya,Sant baba Attar Singh ji Mastuana sahib, Sangrur Punjab laid the foundation stone of Banaras Hindu University at Varanasi in 1914. Malviya continued to develop his vision for the university with inputs from other Indian nationalists and educationists. He published his plan in 1911. The focus of his arguments was the prevailing poverty in India and the decline in income of Indians compared to Europeans. The plan called for the focus on technology and science, besides the study of India’s religion and culture:
“The millions mired in poverty here can only get rid (of it) when science is used in their interest. Such maximum application of science is only possible when scientific knowledge is available to Indians in their own country.”
Malviya’s plan evaluated whether to seek government recognition for the university or operate without its control. He decided in favour of the former for various reasons. Malviya also considered the question of medium of instruction and decided to start with English given the prevalent environment, and gradually add Hindi and other Indian languages. A distinguishing characteristic of Malviya’s vision was the preference for a residential university. All other Indian universities of the period, such as the universities in Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, etc., were affiliating universities which only conducted examinations and awarded degrees to students of their affiliated colleges. Malviya had supported Annie Besant’s cause and in 1903, he had raised 250,000 Rupees in donations to finance the construction of the school’s hostel. In 1907 Besant had applied for a royal charter to establish a university. However, there was no response from the British government.
Following the publication of Malviya’s plan, Besant met Malviya and in April 1911 they agreed to unite their forces to build the university in Varanasi.
Malviya soon left his legal practice to focus exclusively on developing the university and his independence activities. On 22 November 1911, he registered the Hindu University Society to gather support and raise funds for building the university. He spent the next 4 years gathering support and raising funds for the university. Malviya sought and received early support from the Kashi Naresh Prabhu Narayan Singh and Maharaja Sir Rameshwar Singh Bahadur of Raj Darbhanga. Thakur Jadunath Singh of Arkha along with other noble houses of United Provinces contributed for the development of the University.
In October 1915, with support from Malviya’s allies in the Indian National Congress, the Banaras Hindu University Bill was passed by the Imperial Legislative Council.
BHU was finally established in 1916, the first university in India that was the result of a private individual’s efforts. The foundation for the main campus of the university was laid by Lord Hardinge, the then Viceroy of India, on Vasant Panchami 4 February 1916. To promote the university’s expansion, Malviya invited eminent guest speakers such as Mahatma Gandhi, Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose, Prof C. V. Raman, Prafulla Chandra Roy, Prof Sam Higginbottom, Sir Patrick Geddes, and Besant to deliver a series of what are now called The University Extension Lectures between 5–8 February 1916. Gandhi’s lecture on the occasion was his first public address in India.
Sir Sunder Lal was appointed the first Vice-Chancellor, and the university began its academic session the same month with classes initially held at the Central Hindu School in the Kamachha area, while the campus was being built on over 1,300 acres (5.3 km2) of land donated by the Kashi Naresh on the outskirts of the city. The Nizam of Hyderabad and Berar, Mir Osman Ali Khan, also made a donation of ₹1 lakh for the university.