Hara Prasad Shastri

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Hara Prasad Shastri
Haraprasad Shastri (1853-1931).jpg
Born6 December 1853
Died17 November 1931
OccupationAcademic, orientalist

Hara Prasad Shastri (Bengali : হরপ্রসাদ শাস্ত্রী) (6 December 1853 – 17 November 1931), also known as Hara Prasad Bhattacharya, was an Indian academic, Sanskrit scholar, archivist and historian of Bengali literature. He is most known for discovering the Charyapada, the earliest known examples of Bengali literature. [1]

Bengali language Indo-Aryan language spoken by the Bengali people of South Asia

Bengali, also known by its endonym Bangla, is an Indo-Aryan language primarily spoken by the Bengalis in South Asia. It is the official and most widely spoken language of Bangladesh and second most widely spoken of the 22 scheduled languages of India, behind Hindi.

India Country in South Asia

India, also known as the Republic of India, is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh largest country by area and with more than 1.3 billion people, it is the second most populous country and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the southwest, and the Bay of Bengal on the southeast, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the northeast; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives, while its Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.

Sanskrit ancient Indian language

Sanskrit is a language of ancient India with a history going back about 3,500 years. It is the primary liturgical language of Hinduism and the predominant language of most works of Hindu philosophy as well as some of the principal texts of Buddhism and Jainism. Sanskrit, in its variants and numerous dialects, was the lingua franca of ancient and medieval India. In the early 1st millennium CE, along with Buddhism and Hinduism, Sanskrit migrated to Southeast Asia, parts of East Asia and Central Asia, emerging as a language of high culture and of local ruling elites in these regions.


Early life

Hara Prasad Shastri was born in Kumira village in Khulna, Bengal (now in Bangladesh) [1] to a family that hailed from Naihati in North 24 Parganas of the present day West Bengal. The family name was Bhattacharya, a common Bengali surname.

Khulna Metropolis in Khulna Division, Bangladesh

Khulna is the third-largest city of Bangladesh. It is the administrative seat of Khulna District and Khulna Division. As of the 2011 census, the city has a population of 663,342. The encompassing Khulna metro area had an estimated population of 1.022 million as of 2014.

Bengal Presidency administrative unit in British India

The Bengal Presidency (1757–1912), later reorganized as the Bengal Province (1912–1947), was once the largest subdivision (presidency) of British India, with its seat in Calcutta. It was primarily centred in the Bengal region. At its territorial peak in the 19th century, the presidency extended from the present-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan in the west to Burma, Singapore and Penang in the east. The Governor of Bengal was concurrently the Viceroy of India for many years. Most of the presidency's territories were eventually incorporated into other British Indian provinces and crown colonies. In 1905, Bengal proper was partitioned, with Eastern Bengal and Assam headquartered in Dacca and Shillong. British India was reorganised in 1912 and the presidency was reunited into a single Bengali-speaking province.

Bangladesh Country in South Asia

Bangladesh, officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh, is a country in South Asia. It shares land borders with India and Myanmar (Burma). The country's maritime territory in the Bay of Bengal is roughly equal to the size of its land area. Bangladesh is the world's eighth most populous country as well as its most densely-populated, to the exclusion of small island nations and city-states. Dhaka is its capital and largest city, followed by Chittagong, which has the country's largest port. Bangladesh forms the largest and easternmost part of the Bengal region. Bangladeshis include people from a range of ethnic groups and religions. Bengalis, who speak the official Bengali language, make up 98% of the population. The politically dominant Bengali Muslims make the nation the world's third largest Muslim-majority country. Islam is the official religion of Bangladesh.

Shastri studied at the village school initially and then at Sanskrit College and Presidency College in Calcutta (now Kolkata). While in Calcutta, he stayed with the noted Bengali scholar and social reformer, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, who was a friend of Shastri's older brother Nandakumar Nyayachunchu. [1] [2]

Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar Philosopher, academic, writer, translator, entrepreneur, social reformer and philanthropist

Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar CIE, born Ishwar Chandra Bandyopadhyay, was a Bengali polymath from the Indian subcontinent, and a key figure of the Bengal Renaissance.

Shastri passed entrance (school-leaving) examination in 1871, First Arts, the undergraduate degree, in 1873, received a BA in 1876 and Honours in Sanskrit in 1877. Later, he was conferred the title of Shastri when he received a MA degree. The Shastri title was conferred on those who secured a first class (highest grade) and he was the only student in his batch (class) to do so. He then joined Hare School as a teacher in 1878. [1] [2]

Shastri may refer to:

A Master of Arts is a person who was admitted to a type of master's degree awarded by universities in many countries, and the degree is also named Master of Arts in colloquial speech. The degree is usually contrasted with the Master of Science. Those admitted to the degree typically study linguistics, history, communication studies, diplomacy, public administration, political science, or other subjects within the scope of the humanities and social sciences; however, different universities have different conventions and may also offer the degree for fields typically considered within the natural sciences and mathematics. The degree can be conferred in respect of completing courses and passing examinations, research, or a combination of the two.

Hare School school in Kolkata, India

Hare School is one of the oldest schools in Kolkata, India, teaching grades one to twelve under the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education and the West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education. The boys school was established by the Scottish watch-maker, David Hare. The establishment date is not agreed upon, but the official year of establishment is 1818. Thus the school is declared as the oldest western type school in Asia. The school is situated opposite the Presidency University, and is also adjacent to the University of Calcutta and Hindu School. The combined campus of the Hare School and Presidency College is one of the largest in Kolkata.

Professional career

Hara Prasad Shastri held numerous positions. He became a professor at the Sanskrit College in 1883. At the same time, he worked as an Assistant Translator with the Bengal government. Between 1886 and 1894, besides teaching at the Sanskrit College, he was the Librarian of the Bengal Library. In 1895 he headed the Sanskrit department at Presidency College. [1] [2]

During the winter 1898-99 he assisted Dr. Cecil Bendall during research in Nepal, collecting informations from the private Durbar Library of the Rana Prime Minister Bir Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana, and the total registration of manuscripts was later published as A Catalogue of Palm-Leaf and selected Paper Manuscripts belonging to the Durbar Library, Nepal (Calcutta 1905) with historical introduction by Cecil Bendall (including description of Gopal Raj Vamshavali ).

Cecil Bendall was an English scholar, a professor of Sanskrit at University College London and later at the University of Cambridge.

The Gopal Raj Vamshavali is a 14th-century hand-written manuscript of Nepal.

He became Principal of Sanskrit College in 1900, leaving in 1908 [3] to join the government's Bureau of Information. Also, from 1921–1924, he was Professor and Head of the Department of Bengali and Sanskrit at Dhaka University. [1] [2]

Shastri held different positions within the Asiatic Society, and was its President for two years. He was also President of Vangiya Sahitya Parishad for twelve years and was an honorary member of the Royal Asiatic Society in London. [1] [2]


Shastri's first research article was "Bharat mahila", published in the periodical Bangadarshan when he was a student. Later, Shastri became a regular contributor to the periodical, which was then edited by the noted Bengali author Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay, authoring around thirty articles on different topics, as well as novel reviews. He was first introduced to research by Rajendralal Mitra, a noted Indologist, and translated the Buddhist Puranas which Mitra included in the book The Sanskrit Buddhist Literature of Nepal. Shastri was also Mitra's assistant at the Asiatic Society, and became Director of Operations in Search of Sanskrit Manuscripts after Mitra's death. [1] [4]

Shastri was instrumental in preparing the Catalogue of the Asiatic Society's approximately ten thousand manuscripts with the assistance of a few others. [1] The long introduction to the Catalogue contains invaluable information on the history of Sanskrit literature.

Shastri gradually became interested in collecting old Bengali manuscripts and ended up visiting Nepal several times, where, in 1907, he discovered the Charyageeti or Charyapada manuscripts. [1] His painstaking research on the manuscript led to the establishment of Charyapada as the earliest known evidence of Bengali language. [1] Shastri wrote about this finding in a 1916 paper titled "হাজার বছরের পুরোনো বাংলা ভাষায় রচিত বৌদ্ধ গান ও দোঁহা” (Hajar bochhorer purono Bangla bhasay rochito Bouddho gan o doha) meaning "Buddhist songs and verses written in Bengali a thousand years ago". [2] [5]

Shastri was the collector and publisher of many other old works, author of many research articles, a noted historiographer, and recipient of a number of awards and titles. [1]

Some of his notable works were: Balmikir jai, Meghdoot byakshya, Beneyer Meye (The Merchant's Daughter, a novel), Kancanmala (novel), Sachitra Ramayan, Prachin Banglar Gourab, and Bouddha dharma. [2]

His English works include: Magadhan Literature, Sanskrit Culture in Modern India, and Discovery of Living Buddhism in Bengal. [2]

Critical assessment

"Shastri's Beneyer Meye (The Merchant’s Daughter, 1920) is written in a style that is very close to the colloquial. It reconstructs with plausibility and brilliance the domestic and social atmosphere in West Bengal in the eleventh century. His other work of fiction (Kancanmala, a story tale) also is well-written. It was first published in Bangadarshan (1883). Shastri wrote better Bengali than many of his contemporaries, old and young, and although a Sankritist of the first grade he did not care to load his literary style with learned words and Sanskritism." [6]

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Chowdhury, Satyajit (2012). "Shastri, Haraprasad". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 edited by Subodhchandra Sengupta. (1998). Subodh Chandra Sengupta and Anjali Bose (eds.), ed. Sansad Bangali Charitabhidhan. Vol. I (4th ed.). Sahitya Samsad. pp. 612–613. ISBN   81-85626-65-0.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)(in Bengali)
  3. Official website of Sanskrit College Archived 27 August 2013 at the Wayback Machine , Principals of Sanskrit College
  4. Bhatacharyya, Ritwik. "Time-citations: Haraprasad Shastri and the 'Glorious Times'". Cerebration. Retrieved 12 April 2008.
  5. S. D. (1987). "Charyapada (Bengali)". Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature. Vol. 1. Sahitya Akademi. pp. 646–. ISBN   81-260-1803-8.
  6. Sen, Sukumar (1992). History of Bengali Literature. Sahitya Akademi. pp. 311–. ISBN   81-7201-107-5.