M3 Features

Calcutta University honours legendary Sanskrit scholar

May 15, 2015

Right from fighting Lord Macaulay's decision to abolish Sanskrit education and close down Sanskrit College to mentoring Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, he was one of the leading luminaries of the Bengal Renaissance. And even after all these years, Premchandra Tarkabagish is still going strong in promoting the language.

To celebrate his 210th birth anniversary, Calcutta University (CU) has decided to take a few steps to turn his dream into reality. With help from the Premchandra Tarkabagish Foundation, which has been silently working towards the proliferation of Sanskrit research, CU released a book on the life and works of the great scholar on April 12.

This is actually a new edition of the book – Life and Slokas of Premchandra Tarkabagish – that was first compiled and edited by Rai Ramakhoy Chatterji and published in 1892 but went out of print many years ago. The foundation, under the guidance of its mentor Anantanath Chattopadhyay, has published the latest version of the book. He died recently and the work has now been taken up by his son, B Chattopadhyay. "It is a proud legacy that I have inherited, being a direct descendant of Premchandra. I am happy that CU has agreed to partner this initiative," Chattopadhyay said.

This is not all. The foundation is collaborating with the Sanskrit department of CU to institute an annual memorial lecture in the name of the scholar. From now, the best student of the department will be awarded at the convocation.

Premchandra was a professor of rhetoric in Sanskrit College for 32 years – from 1832 to 1864 – and apart from Vidyasagar, he tutored famous oriental scholars like Horace Hayman Wilson and EB Cowel. His successful contribution in deciphering ancient inscriptions written in Pali and Sanskrit helped James Prinsep of the Asiatic Society to translate them into English. His prowess in Bengali made him team up with satirist Iswar Chandra Gupta to together edit the first recorded Bengali weekly, Sambad Prabhakar, apart from writing editorials in almost all 19th-century newspapers.

Senior Sanskrit scholars like Sitanath Acharya and Tanmay Bhattacharya were happy with CU's move. "Sanskrit, unfortunately, is not getting the kind of attention that it should. Hence, despite good results, many of our students are not being able to pursue a career based on Sanskrit. Such patronage will definitely be a shot in the arm for Sanskrit," said Acharya, who has just retired from CU as its Gopinath Kaviraj chair professor.

As published in The Times of India, Kolkata, April 11, 2015

Feature image: Wikipedia

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