Zakir Husain Delhi College, formerly Zakir Husain College and Delhi College, founded in 1792, is the oldest existing educational institution in Delhi, and is a constituent college of the University of Delhi, offering undergraduate and post graduate courses in Arts, Commerce and Sciences. It has had a considerable influence on modern education as well as Urdu and Islamic learning in India, and today remains the only Delhi University college offering BA (Hons) courses in Arabic and Persian.
Historic map of Delhi (Shahjahanabad), in 1863, showing it as Oriental College It was initially founded by Ghaziuddin Khan, a general of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, a leading Deccan commander and the father of Qamar-ud-din Khan, Asaf Jah I, the founder of the Asaf Jahi dynasty of Hyderabad, also known as the first Nizam of Hyderabad, in 1690s, and was originally termed Madrasa Ghaziuddin Khan after him. However with a weakening Mughal Empire, the Madrasa closed in the early 1790s, but with the support of local nobility, an oriental college for literature, science and art, was established at the site in 1792.
It stood just outside the walled city of Delhi outside the Ajmeri Gate, near Paharganj close to the New Delhi railway station. It was originally surrounded by a wall and connected to the walled city fortifications and was referred to as the College Bastion.
It was reorganized as the 'Anglo Arabic College' by the British East India Company in 1828 to provide, in addition to its original objectives, an education in English language and literature. The object was to uplift what the Company saw as the uneducated and half-barbarous people of India. Behind the move was Charles Trevelyan, the brother-in-law of Thomas Babingdon Macaulay, the same Macaulay whose famously declared that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia .
Rev. Jennings started secret Bible classes in the officially secular Delhi College. In July 1852, two prominent Delhi Hindus, Dr. Chaman Lal, one of Zafar s personal physicians, and his friend Master Ramchandra, a mathematics lecturer at the Delhi College, baptised a public ceremony at St. James' Church, Delhi.
Dr. Sprenger, then principal, presided over the founding of the college press, the Matba u l- Ulum and founded the first college periodical, the weekly Qiranu s-Sa dain, in 1845.
Another cultural intermediatory was Mohan Lal Kashmiri, diplomat, and author, who worked for the East India Company and was educated at the college.
It was renamed Zakir Husain College in 1975 after Dr. Zakir Husain, a distinguished educator and a President of India. The college was later shifted to its present building outside Turkman Gate in 1986, the old structure in the Madrasa Ghaziuddin complex, still houses a hostel for the college. It was declared a heritage monument by the ASI in 2002. Then in 2008, a separate archive on its history was set up within the college library, with centuries-old books and documents on display, chronicling its 300-year-old history.
Alumni and impact
It has had a number of distinguished alumni. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, the founder of Aligarh Muslim University, Liaqat Ali Khan, Pakistan s first Prime Minister, Maulana Mohammed Hussain Azad, the father of Urdu prose, Deputy Nazir Ahmed, the Urdu essayist and ICS, poets, Ali Sardar Jafri and Akhtar ul-Iman, Mirza M N Masood, an Indian hockey olympian, Khwaja Ahmed Farooqui (literatteur), Prof A N Kaul (pro-vice chancellor, Delhi University), J N Dixit (Defence Analyst), Prof Gopi Chand Narang (world renowned Urdu/Persian critic), Pankaj Vohra (Associate Editor, Hindustan Times), B N Uniyal, Shahid Siddiqui, Manmohan, Mukul Vyas, Chandra Prabha, Habib Akhtar, M Afzal (journalists) and politicians like Jagdish Tytler and Sikandar Bakht.
Among the greats of Delhi College was Prof. Bhishma Sahni of the English department who was a noted writer and dramatist. Prof. Sahni was the brother of Actor Balraj Sahni.
It's said that Ghalib was once a candidate for the Persian post for Delhi College. However, the administrator conducting the interview failed to come out to greet him, and an offended Ghalib left.
Mamluk Ali Nanutavi, the distinguished scholar, who descendants founded Darul Uloom Deoband, taught Arabic here in 1830s.
Zakir Hussain College has been offering an extremely wide range of courses for students. It offers science, humanities and commerce as well as language courses. One important feature of the college is that it is (at least used to be) the only college in Delhi which offers Graduation courses to male students in Psychology. All other colleges which offer this course are exclusively for female students.
The college enjoyed a sterling reputation during 1940s till 1970s which unfortunately was diluted in the later years.