Now you can view this blog on your mobile phones! Give a try.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

The History of Psychology in Higher Education In India

By Dolly Jose
 1.0  Introduction
Indian psychology and educational psychology have roots in history of India. As India has historical roots which is grounded in socio-cultural-economic situations, so the Indian psychology too. In India, the psychology has been dominated by the Euro-American and British tradition until the last decade. The recent researches and findings in psychology call for integration of modern psychology with Indian thought. The realization that of Western psychology has failed in dealing with Indian social issues brought out a shift in the history of Indian psychology. The aim of this paper is to present the historical root Indian Educational Psychology.
1.1. The Term Indian Psychology in Education
Sinha (1990) describes Indian psychology as a distinct psychological tradition that is rooted in Indian ethos and thought, including the variety of psychological practices that exist in the country. He adds that Indian models of psychology would have enormous implications for health psychology, education, organizational management and human and social development. Educational psychology is the branch of psychology that uses psychological theories and teachings to understand teaching and learning in educational settings (santrock_edpsych_ch01.pdf, 2014) . Educational psychology is a best tool for effective teaching and learning. The field of education psychology was introduced by several pioneers in Western psychology theories.
1.2 Dawn of Psychology in India
The emergence of an Indian psychology is the result of British intervention and western domination in Indian education. In 1850s the British East India Company adopted a policy of finding only European style education within its territories in India. The aim of this policy was to produce a class of Indians with English thinking. To attain this goal, the college and university education was modelled after Cambridge and Oxford ( (Misra G. &., 2012). The applied education system has psychological influence and Indian intellectuals exposed to European thought and modern science. However, Indian psychology has its roots in the diverse traditions of knowledge deliberated upon in various texts (Shastra, Upanishad), as well as practices, shared by the people in the zone of Indian civilization. From this well-known spiritual tradition, Indian psychology emphasizes a holistic-organic world view, coherence and order across all forms of life, nonlinear growth and continuity in life, the socially constituted nature of person, behaviour as transaction, the temporal and eternal existence of human beings, the search for eternity in life, the desirability of self-discipline, the transitory nature of human experience, control that is distributed rather than personalized, and a belief in multiple words including both material and spiritual realities (Sinha 1994b). This spiritual tradition has distinct ‘sects’ (teacher-disciple relation) which followed their own theory and practice. Here the psychology has evolved through rigorous observation, experimentation and reflection, through training under gurus, continuous contemplation and sharing of personal accounts of inner experiences. The fruition of Indian psychology would differ greatly from the western emphasis on individualism, mechanism, and objectivity. (21) The culturally appropriate application of psychology in India is leading to the formulation of a truly Indian Psychology that integrates Hindu constructions of psychological functioning and personhood.
1.3 Pioneers in Indian Psychology
In 1883, one of the well-known teachers of Guru-disciple sect, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa gave a lecture at the world conference on religious in Chicago. The lecture made a deep impact on William James, who is the founder of educational psychology and his ideas about the higher states of consciousness. Sri. Aurobindo, who wrote on psychological topics on the basis of his profound experience as yoga, has contributed significantly to Indian psychology; his contribution to psychology is his work called The Synthesis of Yoga.  Narendra Nath Sengupta of Calcutta University, a former student of Wundt  and Girindra Shekhar Bose are the pioneers of Indian academic psychology, who trained in abroad and have continued to bring Western trends into psychology in India. Most psychologists working in other centres had graduated or received short-term orientation in Calcutta University and there occurred a diffusion of Wundtian influence to other centres (Sinha, 1990). India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was an ardent promoter of psychology, encouraging students to go abroad to obtain their degrees under eminent psychology professors (Jain, 2005). Mahatma Gandhi, though he was not an academic psychologist, his style of leadership demonstrates his deep understanding of what modern psychologists have called “group dynamics”. Gandhi’s work reflects the practical orientation of psychology in India and he may be considered as applied social psychologists par excellence (Misra G. &., 2012). M.V.Gopalswami who headed the Department at Mysore was trained at London university with spearman in the mental testing tradition and he developed Indian adaptations of Western intelligence tests and applied psychological principles in the field of education. 
1.4 Psychology in Universities
The first Indian university psychology department was established in 1916 under the leadership of Dr. N.N Sengupta, along with multiple psychological departments, associations, and journals (Paranjpe, 1981). In 1922 Dr. Girindra Shekar Bose, who succeeded Dr. N.N Sengupta established the Indian Psychoanalytical Society, affiliated to the international psychoanalytic Association. In 1925 the Indian psychological Association is established. At the beginning, psychology was part of philosophy departments. Separate psychology departments were started largely between 1940 and 1960. In 1946 the Institute of psychological research began at Patna and services headed by H.P. Maiti (Dalal, 2002). Some of the foremost universities are the Calcutta University, the University of Madras and the University of Delhi. The University of Allahabad has been recognised as the prime department of psychology in the subcontinent and has the large history of research and publications. The University of Mumbai instituted a department of applied psychology to train clinical and social psychologists and undertake research. The national institute of Mental health and Neurosciences is an institution of international repute for research in clinical psychology and training clinical psychologists (Jain, 2005).
The first generation of academic leaders in most of the Indian universities were products of Western training and psychology modelled after natural science remained the dominant voice. In the establishment of the section of Applied Psychology at Calcutta University in 1938, Indian psychology assumed an applied stance from the outset. Today, seventy universities in India have well-established psychology departments and institutes for both applied research and the provision of psychological services to the public (Robert B Lawson, Jean E. Graham, Kristin M. Baker, 2008). The Indian association of clinical psychologists was started in 1968 (Jain, 2005).
1.5 Academic Psychology
To engage with rapid growth of higher education and rapid expansion of professional institutions, Indian psychology departments began to do wide range of studies related to Indian traditional theories and it contributes to understand specific psychological issues. Using the western-style tests and measurements, there were efforts to build theories based on traditional foundations (Misra G. &., 2012). The insights contributed to publish numerous publications in the field of consciousness, self, emotion, cognition and perception. However, there raised the strong need to make methodology relevant for understanding of its social problems. The indigenisation of psychology became a necessity.  Sinha continuously endeavoured that psychology has to be culturally relevant and called for indigenisation of the discipline (Misra A. K., 2010).  It was the need of the nation to have psychological understanding of the problems arising from social changes and developments. On 12 December 1968 an autonomous organisation (Indian Council of Social Science) was established to provide valuable help to scholars from all over country through fellowships and project grants. Today, higher education includes a paper on Indian psychology (Jain, 2005).
In India, psychology has European roots. However, in the 21st century, Indian psychology is capable to stand in its own foot with several universities, significant psychologists and outstanding organizations rooted in psychological interventions. There is a remarkable shift from experimental work to the understanding of the psycho-cultural context using Indian traditional ideas in research, in building psychological theories, in developing psychological tests and in the application of psychology to all the disciplines of university studies and to the needs of nation.


Dalal, A. K. (2002). A journey back to the roots: Psychology in India. Foundations of Indian Psychology.
Jain, A. K. (2005, April). Psychology Toady. The Psychologist, 18(4), 206-208.
Misra, A. K. (2010). The Core and Context of Indian PSychology. psychology and Developing Societies, 22(1), 121-155. doi:10.1177/097133360902200105
Misra, G. &. (2012). Psychology in Modern India. Retrieved February 24, 2012, from
Robert B Lawson, Jean E. Graham, Kristin M. Baker. (2008). A History of Psychology. New Delhi.
santrock_edpsych_ch01.pdf. (2014, March 27). Retrieved from
Sinha. (1990). Wundtian tradition and the development of scientific Psychology in India. The Creative Psychology, 1-6.


GC Marak said...

Comments based on the criteria:

a) Coverage of the history was in chronological order, but cannot comment on its comprehensiveness.
b) Conclusion was based on the history collected.
c) Are these books? If it is, then the publication house was not mentioned (Dalal, A. K. (2002). A journey back to the roots: Psychology in India. Foundations of Indian Psychology.), (Robert B Lawson, Jean E. Graham, Kristin M. Baker. (2008). A History of Psychology. New Delhi).
d) Not sure about this citation in the 2nd paragraph. (santrock_edpsych_ch01.pdf, 2014)

Sai Kirthi said...

well organized,may be you could highlight the history of any department of Psychology in India with which you have been attached to in any manner either student or staff.

Anjana said...

Very nice article. Since, I like psychology i liked reading about it's history. I would like to read those books you have mentioned.