Sanskrit is the oldest and richest language in the world, and recorded history shows the study of Sanskrit has continued for over five thousand years. The oldest known form of this language is found in the Rgveda. In Vedic culture, the language was used in the public domain and was called bhasa. It later passed through a process of reform or purification, it became known as Sangskrta (Sam -kr + ta).
There are two stages of Sanskrit from the chronological point of view — Vedic and later Vedic (or Laukika). The later Vedic language is also called Classical Sanskrit. The main difference between these two languages is in their instinctive accents. In Vedic vowel sound there are three kinds of pronunciation — udatta (high), anudatta (low) and svarita (mixed) — but in Sanskrit this distinction is not maintained.
Panini’s Astadhyayi is the main Sanskrit grammar book. In a later period, Astadhyayi became even more authoritative through the contributions of Vartikakara Vararuchi (or Katyayana) and Bhasyakara (the commentator) Patanjali. So the complete Astadhyayi is called Trimunivyakarana (contribution of three grammarians). The rules, which have been compiled in Astadhyai, are considered to be essential for Sanskrit language and literature. Besides Astadhyai there are many other famous grammars in Sanskrit. Among them Katantravyakarana by Sharvavarman (100 AD), Chandravyakarana by Chandragomin (c 700 AD), Vakyapadiya by Bhartrhari (700 AD), Katantrasutravrtti by Durgasingha (900 AD), Siddhahemachandranushasana by Hemachandra (1050-1100 AD), Mugdhavodhavyakarana by Vopadeva (1200-1250 AD), Jaumaravyakarana by Kramadishvara (1200-1250), Saupadmavyakarana by Padmanabha Datta (1300-1350), Harinamamrta by Rupagosvami, (c 1470-1559), and Siddhantakaumudi by Bhattojidiksita (1700 AD) are worth mentioning.
According to academics, Sanskrit is a language in the Indo-European family of languages. It belongs to a sub-branch of Indo-Iranian. From the philological and geographical point of view, Indo-European languages are divided into two groups Satam and Kentum. Sanskrit falls under the Satam group. It has some startling similarities with Greek and Latin. For this reason, academics believe that these languages originated in the same place and they are thus known as basic Aryan or basic Indo-European languages.
Sanskrit is also known as an Old Indo-Aryan language. The Aryan language is divided into three stages: Old Indo-Aryan Vedic and Sanskrit; Middle Indo-Aryan Pali, Prakrta and Apabhrangsha, and New Indo-Aryan languages like Bangla, Odia, Hindi, Marathi, etc.
The Sanskrit language has no particular alphabet. Wherever the language studied, the alphabet of that area is adopted for it. But the Nagari or Devanagari alphabet is widely used and internationally accepted for Sanskrit.
Sanskrit is an inflectional language. In this language the role of case-ending, and of suffix and prefix is very significant. A word used in a sentence with an inflection is called pada. A word without inflection cannot be used in a sentence. For this reason, the change of the position of a pada in a sentence does not alter the meaning, and for this reason there is no rigid rule for the positioning of a word in sentence constructions.
There are three genders in Sanskrit (masculine, feminine and neuter) and are three numbers (singular, dual and plural). In the verb form there is no change of gender but it has three numbers and three persons (third, second and first). To indicate the tense and mood (including past, present and future tense), there are ten classes of verbal forms. In brief these are known as ten la-karas. The roots are divided into three groups: parasmaipada, atmanepada and ubhayapada. Sanskrit is an ornate language and numerous metres are seen in Sanskrit verse.
Initially, the geographical area of Sanskritic studies was confined to the northern part of India and then it extended to western and eastern India. Gradually its use spread among the neighbouring Dravid, Austric and Sino-Tibetan peoples. Its influence also spread to the neighbouring countries, e.g., China and Tibet. Sumatra, Borneo, and even to neighbouring Western countries. Sanskrit is related inseparably to ancient Indian religion, philosophy, literature and culture. A knowledge of Sanskrit is very essential for analysing the structural nature of the language of the region and for searching the origins of new Indo-Aryan languages.
At present the study of Sanskrit is mostly confined to India. In Bangladesh, Sanskrit has been studied from the ancient period, though at present its study is limited to a few areas. In many schools and colleges under the Board of Dhaka, Chittagong, Barisal, Jessore Sanskrit language and literature are studied. In the University of Dhaka, Chittagong and Rajshahi, Sanskrit is studied in BA (Hons), MA, MPhil and PhD courses. In the National University too there is provision for study of Sanskrit in BA and MA classes. Moreover, in various tols and chatuspathis under the Sanskrit and Pali education board, Sanskrit is studied according to the traditional system. In this Board there is provision of examination in Adya, Madhya and Upadhi in different branches of Sanskrit.
All branches of literature including poetry, prose and drama are to be found in Sanskrit. Innumerable books have been written in Sanskrit on different subjects, including philology, comparative grammar, philosophy, rhetoric, logic, physiology, astronomy, astrology, chemistry, algebra, geometry, medical science, zoology, social welfare, sexology, etc.
Sanskrit texts can be divided into literature, philosophy, tantra, scriptures, science, etc. The ancient books of the Hindu religion were written in Sanskrit. Sanskrit literature can be divided into four stages: Vedic, epic, puranic and classical. Vedic literature is divided into Sanghita (rk, saman, yajus and atharvan), Brahmana, Aranyaka and Upanisad. The Brahmana, relating to sacrifices or rituals, is called karmakanda, and the Upanisad is called the jnanakanda (philosophical part) of the Vedas. vIn the Vedic period a kind of literature was written in the form of aphorism (sutra) and was known as sutra-literature. It is divided into four parts: Shrauta, Grhya, Dharma and Shulvasutra. The rules of Shrauta sacrifice were written in Shrautasutra. The subject matter of Grhyasutra is the sacrificial rites to be followed by householders. The commandments and prohibitions relating to religion and secular affairs, the rules about the four castes (chaturvarna) and four stages of life (chaturashrama) were written in Dharmasutra. The rules regarding the measurement of land at the time of making sacrifices in altars are to be found in Shulvasutra. Sutra-literature is considered as a source book for acquiring knowledge about ancient Indian civilization and social life.
There are six Vedangas that have been written for the convenience of the study of the Vedas; these are Shiksa, Kalpa, Nirukta, Vyakarana, Chhandas and Jyotisa. Shiksa is actually on phonetics. The subject matter of Shiksa is varna, svara, matra, vala, sama, Santana, etc. Every Veda has its unique Shiksa. Kalpa is sutra literature; because sacrificial rites are confirmed through it, its name is kalpa. Nirukta was composed by Yaska (c. 600 BC). T
The words of the Vedas are collected and explained in Nirukta. Vyakarana is a very essential Vedanga. The Vyakaranarnava of Vyasadeva and the Maheshavyakarana of Maheshvara are known to be very ancient grammar texts, but none of them have been found. For the reading of metrical Vedic hymns, Chhanda is essential. Vedic hymns are composed in syllabic meters; they are not like the gana-chhandas of Sanskrit. There are seven metres in the Veda Gayatri, usnik, anustup, vrhati, pankti, jagati and tristubh. The jyotisa was created for learning about the planets and stars, etc., to determine the time of sacrifice. Vrhaddevata and Anukramani are also worth knowing. The gods and goddesses of the Rgveda are discussed in the Vrhaddevata of Shaunaka and the rsi, chandas, devata and viniyoga related to Vedic hymns are discussed in Anukramani.
The Ramayana and the Mahabharata were composed in the epic period. In these two vast epics, the essence of India is reflected. Valmiki is the writer of the Ramayana, and he was believed to be the first creator of worldly metre, and the first poet. In his Ramayana, written in anustup metre, Valmiki wanted to celebrate the glorious deeds of the ideal man, who is Lord Ramachandra. There are seven kandas in the Ramayana glorifying Lord Rama’s pastimes.
The Mahabharata is massive in its size and scope. Krsna-dvaipayana Vedavyasa composed the Mahabharata in eighteen parvas (chapter) about the war between the Kauravas and Pandavas. In course of time, compositions of many unknown poets were added to it. More than one lakh verses can be found in the present Mahabharata. The Bhagavad-gita falls under the Bhismaparva of Mahabharata. The Gita, composed in eighteen chapters, is recognized as an independent and excellent book, where Lord Krsna instructs Arjuan in gaining perfection in life through Bhakti yoga.
Puranic literature is very vast. Eighteen mahapuranas and eighteen upa-puranas are considered as the main puranas. The Puranas were composed in different times, but Vyasa is known as the only composer of the Puranas, regardless. Mahapuranas have been classified according to the supremacy of three gods: Lord Brahma, Visnu and Shiva. The subject matter of the Puranas includes the creation, existence, destruction, and regeneration of the universe; the stories of the Manus, gods, kings and dynasties, etc. are also discussed. In addition, philosophy, scriptures, rhetorics, etc. are also included in the Puranas as subjects. To know the political and social history of ancient India, the Puranas are indispensable.
Classical Sanskrit is mainly divided into two parts: drshyakavya and shravyakavya. Dramatic literature is under drshyakavya and prose-poetry is under shravyakavya. The greatest poet of this period is Kalidasa (100 BC). His predecessor was the famous dramatist Bhasa (500-400 BC) and Shudraka (300 BC) and a successor poet was Ashvaghosa (100 AD). Bhasa wrote thirteen plays including Svapnavasavadatta, Charudatta, Urubhanga. The plays of Bhasa are celebrated for the diversity of their themes and techniques, and are written based on the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and folktales. Shudraka’s Mrchchhakatika is very remarkable in Sanskrit dramatic literature.
The main works of Kalidasa are two mahakavyas, Raghuvangsha and Kumarasambhava; two khandakavyas – Rtusanghara and Meghaduta; three plays – Malavikagnimitra, Vikramorvashiya and Abhijnanashakuntala.
The important works of Ashvaghosa are Buddhacharita and Saundarananda, the two mahakavyas and the play Shariputraprakarana.
Among subsequent works, mention may be made of the Kundamala of Dinnaga (500 AD), Kiratarjuniya of Bharavi (600 AD), Bhattikavya or Ravanavadha of Bhatti (600 AD), Shishupalavadha of Magha (700 AD); Ratnavali of Shriharsa (700 AD); Uttararamacharita of Bhavabhuti (700/800 AD); Venisanghara of Bhattanarayana (800 AD), Mudraraksasa of Vishakhadatta (800/900 AD), Balaramayana of Rajashekhara (1000 AD); Gita-govinda of Jayadeva (1200 AD), Naisadhacharita of Shriharsa (1200 AD), Pravodhachandrodaya of Krsnamishra (1100 AD), Chaitanyachandrodaya and Chaitanya-caritamrta of Kavi-karnapura (1600 AD)
Some noteworthy mahakavyas based on history are the Navasahasankacharita of Padmagupta (1100 AD), Vikramankadevacarita of Vihlana (1100-1200 AD), Kumarapalacarita of Hemachandra (1080-1173 AD), Rajatarangini of Kahlana (1200 AD), and ramacharitam of Sandhyakar Nandi (1200-1300 AD). Following the instructions of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Srila Rupa Goswami and Srila Jiva Goswami have also contributed a great many nectarian texts to Sanskrit literature.
A great many of the fundamental books of Indian philosophy were written in Sanskrit. Indian philosophy is generally divided into two groups: theism and atheism. These divisions are based on the acceptance or denial of the Veda. The six systems of astika philosophy are the Nyaya of Gautama, Vaishesika of Kanada, Sankhya of Kapila, Yoga of Patanjali, Mimamsa of Jaimini and the Vedanta of Vadarayana. The nastika systems are Buddha, Jain and Charvaka. In Bengal the Navyanyaya and the Vaisnava philosophy (based on Radha-Krsna) were widely studied. Tantra is a different stream of literature. Its various divisions are mantra, jnana, yoga, kriya, charya etc.
Dharmashastra and Smrtishastra were written based on religious and social rituals, and dealt with atonement, caste-system, king’s duties, and different laws. It is also known as smrti. Dharmashastras composed under the name of Gautama, Vaudhayana and Vashistha merit mention. These books were composed in approximately 600 BC-300 AD. Among the smrti books, Manusanghita and Yajnavalkyasmrti are worth mentioning. Among smrti-writers of Bengal, Raghunandana’s name stands out.
In science and other subjects some remarkable books are Vatsyayana’s (c. 300-400 AD), Charaka and Sushrutasanghita on medical science (called as Ayurveda), and Arthashastra on political science by Kautilya or Chanakya. In addition, many books were written on chemistry, botany, astronomy, mathematics, music, learning of theft, cooking, agriculture, elephant breeding, animal breeding, human breeding, etc.
Sanskrit Study in Bengal
It is difficult to ascertain when the study of Sanskrit began in Bengal, but it is certain that its history is very old, as is proved by an inscription found around 350 AD in the Gupta period. A clear picture of the study of Sanskrit in the region can be traced from 700 AD. The writing style of Bengal scholars was known as Gaudi to rhetoricians.
Sanskritic studies developed considerably in the Pala and Sena periods. At the beginning of Muslim rule, Sanskrit study faced some checks, but in later periods its development was once more worth mentioning. In particular, the practice of Nyaya that centered around Navadvipa is noteworthy. Bengal was very famous for navyanyaya from 1500-1700 AD. At the time of British rule in 1800-1900 AD Sanskrit study revived again. However, in the last part of the twentieth century, the study of Sanskrit declined in popularity although it is still studied seriously.
The Pala Period (750-1161 AD)
Though the Pala kings were Buddhist, during their reign the practice of Sanskrit language and literature is noteworthy. Notable works of the period include the Venisanghara of Bhattanarayana (800 AD), Mudraraksasa of Vishakhadatta (800/900 AD), Ramacharita of Abhinanda (900 AD), Anargharaghava of Murari (900-1000 AD), Kaulajnananirnaya of Matsyendranatha (first part of 1000 AD), of Noakhali, Chandakaushika of Ksemishvara (c 1000 AD), Bodhimargapanjika and Bodhipradipa of Atisha Dipankara (980-1050 AD), of Vikrampur, Chhandomanjari of Gangadasa (1000-1100 AD), Herukasadhana of Divakarachandra (1000-1100 AD), Chikitsasarasanggraha of Chakrapani Datta (1100 AD), Kichakavadha of Nitivarman (1100 AD), Ramacharita of Sandhyakara Nandi (c 1084-1155 AD), Shabdapradipa and Vrksayurveda of Sureshwara (1100-1200 AD).
The Sena Period (1097-1260)
The Sena kings were Hindu. In this period, Sanskrit language and literature as well as the texts of the Hindu religion were studied widely. Many people believe that this was the golden era of Sanskrit studies in Bengal. Vallalasena (1159-1185) and Laksmanasena (1185-1206) were both scholars and fond of literature. In the court of Laksmanasena there were the five celebrated Sanskrit poets: Jayadeva, Umapati, Dhoyi, Govardhana and Sharana. Vallalasena himself wrote Danasagara, Amrtasagara, Pratisthasagara, Acharasagara and Vratasagara.
Other books of the period that merit mention are Vyavaharatilaka, Karmanusthanapaddhati, Prayashcittakarana of Bhavadevabhatta (1100-1200); Naisadhacharita of Shriharsa (1200 AD); Aryashaptashati of Govardhanacharya, Pavanaduta of Dhoyi, Gitagovinda of Jayadeva, Saduktikarnamrta of Shridharadasa (1200 AD), Haralata and Pitrdayita of Aniruddhabhatta, a preceptor of Vallalasena; Brahmanasarvasva, Mimangsasarvasva, Vaisnavasarvasva, Shaivasarvasva, Panditasarvasva of Halayudha Mishra, the court-judge of Laksmanasena; Bhasavrtti, Haravali, Ekaksarakosa of Purusottamadeva (1200 AD); Durghatavrtti of Sharanadeva (1200 AD) etc., Kalikapurana (1000-1100), Vrhannandikeshvarapurana (1100-1400) and Devibhagavata were also composed in this period.
The Muslim Period (1206-1757)
In this period Sanskrit was widely studied. Many books were written in every branch of literature and philosophy. The main books were written by the Vaisnava poets. Navadvipa, the sacred place of the Vaisnavas, became the main centre of Sanskrit study. Some notable books of this time are Padyavali, Harinamamrtavyakarana, Ujjvalanilamani of Rupa Gosvami; Shrikrsnachaitanyacharitamrta of Murari Gupta (1500-1600); Vrhadbhagavatamrta, Vaisnavatosini of Sanatan Gosvami (c 1465-1555); Danakelichintamani of Raghunath Das (c 1490-1577); Suktimuktavali of Vishvanath Siddhantapanchanan (1500-1600); Bhramaraduta, Pikaduta of Rudra Nyayavachaspati (1500-1600); Satsandarbha, Harinamamrta of Jiva Gosvami; Chaitanyacharitamrta, Chaitanychandrodaya, Gauraganoddeshadipika, Alangkarakaustubha of Kavikarnapura; Shurjanacharita of Chandrashekhar (1600-1700), Padyamuktavali of Govinda Bhattacharya (1700 AD); Vikhyatavijaya of King Laksmanamanikya (1600-1700); Vaikunthavijaya of Amaramanikya, Apadeshashataka of Chandramanikya; Kautukaratnakara of Raghunath Kavitarkika, the court poet of Laksmanamanikya (these Manikyas are the kings of bhulua, the present Noakhali of Bangladesh); Anandalatikachampu of Krishnanath Sarvabhauma and his wife Vaijayanti (1700 AD); Shyamarahasya of Priyangvada (1700 AD); Shrikrsnabhavanamrta of Vishvanath Chakravarti (1700 AD), Padankaduta of Shrikrsna Sarvabhauma (1700-1800), etc.
Notable books about Navyasmrti are Dayabhaga of Jimutavahana (c 1050-1150), Prayashchittaviveka of Shulapani (c 1375-1460), Smrtisagara of Kullubhatta (1500 AD), Krtyatattvarnava of Shrinath Acharyachudamani (1500-1600), Astavingsatitattva, Dayabhagatika of Raghunandan Bhattacharya (1500-1600), etc. These books influenced the Hindu society of that time deeply, and continue to do so today.
Other important books on philosophy are Anumanapariksa of Vasudeva Sarvabhauma (c 1430-1540), Pratyaksamanididhiti, Anumanadidhiti of Raghunath Shiromani (1500-1600), Nyayarahasya of Ramabhadra Sarvabhauma (1600 AD), Advaitasiddhi, Vedantakalpalatika, Advaitamanjari of Madhusudan Saraswati (1525-1632), inhabitant of Kotalipara, Gopalganj (the greater Faridpur); Vijnanamrtabhasya of Vijnanabhiksu (1600-1700), etc.
On Vyakarana notable books are Mugdhavodha of Vopadeva, Sangksiptasara of Kramadishvara (1500 AD), Katantrapradipa of Pundarikaksa Vidyasagara (1500-1600); on the lexicon Abhidhanatantra of Jatadhara (1500 AD), of Chittagong, Padachandrika of Vrihaspati Rayamukuta (1500 AD), Ekavarnarthasanggraha and Dvirupadhvanisanggraha of Bharat Mallick, Trikandaviveka of Ramanath Vidyavachaspati etc are books worth mentioning.
Noteworthy books on rhetoric and prosody are Kavyavilasa and Vrttaratnavali of Chiranjiv Bhattacharya (1700-1800); on tantra the Tantrasara of Krsnananda Agamavagisha (1600 AD), Shaktanandatarangini of Brahmanandagiri (1600 AD), and Shyamarahasya, Satkarmollasa, Tattvanandatarangini of Purnananda Paramahangsa Parivrajaka (1600 AD) are considered important.
During the British Period, a revival in Sanskrit studies took place, accompanied by a renaissance in education, society and culture not only in Bengal, but across the whole of India. Though only a few fundamental works were written, the reading, teaching and translation of Sanskrit works were evident throughout the period.
Navadvipa was well-known in history for the study of Navyanyaya. In addition, Bhatpada or Bhattapalli, Guptipara, Burdwan, Triveni, Bali of Howrah, Vishnupur of Bankura in West Bengal and Vikrampur, Kotalipara, Chittagong, and Sylhet in East Bengal were famous for the study of Sanskrit. A centre for the study of Sanskrit was traditionally known as tol. From various Government reports it can be ascertained that there were many tols in Bangla and sufficient students studied in them.
Bengalis made major contributions to the study of Navyasmrti. During this period many scholars contributed significantly to smrti. Jagannath Tarkapanchanan (1694-1807), son of Rudra Tarkavagisha, an inhabitant of Triveni compiled a large book of smrti, entitled Vivadabhangarnava. Sir William Jones (1746-1794) inspired him to write this book. In 1796 Colebroke (1765-1837) translated some parts of this book into English, and this became known as Colebroke’s Digest. This book was very much useful in solving disputes involving Hindu Law all over India.
Vivadarnavasetu is also a famous collection of smrti pieces. Vaneshvara Vidyalangkara (c 1700-1788) compiled this work with the help of ten more Bengali pundits at the request of Waren Hastings. This book proved to be very useful in solving the disputes according to Hindu Law. It was first translated into Persian. Then Halhed (1751-1830) translated it into English from Persian (A Code of Gentoo Law, London, 1776). In addition, Vaneshvara also wrote Chitrachampu, Rahasyamrta, three Khandakavyas and a play entitled Chandrabhiseka.
Kasichandra Vidyaratna (1854-1917) was a famous scholar of Navyasmrti. He was born in a Brahmin family at Vikrampur, near Dhaka. Uddharachandrika is his most important book. The subject of the book is about the re-entry of a Hindu into society, who has travelled to a western country on ships. He wrote the commentary of twenty Dharmashastras, including Manusanghita.
Mahamahopadhyaya Chandrakanta Tarkalankar (1836-1910) of Sherpur (greater Mymensingh) wrote some major books on Navyasmrti. His Udvahachandraloka is well known among scholars of Bengal. Two other books by him are Shuddhichandraloka and Aurdhvadehikachandraloka. In addition to smrti he also wrote books on grammar and literature. The name of his grammar book is Katantrachhandahprakriya.
Beginning in the last part of the nineteenth century and continuing to the second part of twentieth century, Haridas Siddhantavagish (1876-1961) contributed significantly to the study of Sanskrit. He was born at Unashiya, a village of Kotalipara in Gopalganj district. Haridas wrote Smrtichintamani. Navyasmrti includes a Bangla translation containing directions for following all kinds of rules and regulations of the Hindus governing conduct from birth to death. Besides smrti he had masterd kavya and grammar. He had also translated many Sanskrit books and provided them with his own commentaries.
In the study of Navyanyaya and Navyasmrti some other notable works are Krsnakanta Vidayavagisha (1800 AD), Golokanath Nyayaratna (1806-1855), Harinath Tarkasiddhanta (1829-1889), Mahamahopadhyaya Krsnanath Nyayapanchanan (1833-1911), Mahamahopadhyaya Kamakhyanath Tarkavagisha (1843-1936), the famous Naiyayika of Navadvip, Kamalakrsna Smrtitirtha of Battapalli etc. Nyayaratnavali, Nyayapatri, Nyayaratnaprakashika, Tarkamrtatarangini of Krsnakanta; Nyayaprakasha, Vedantaparibhasatika, Arthasanggraha, Tattvakaumudi of Krsnanath; Sangkhyadipani, Nyayatattvavodhini, Nyayasaptapadarthi, Nyayakusumanjalitika of Kamakhyanath; Danakriyakaumudi, Krtyaratnakara, Rajadharmakaustubha (edited by Kamalakrsna) have had a remarkable influence on the study of Nyaya and Smrti.
During colonial rule, many native kings and zamindars made significant contributions to the study of Sanskrit. Among them were Krishnachandra Roy, the king of Nadia; Kirtichand and Tilakchand, the kings of Burdwan; Ramakanta and Bhavani, the king and queen of Natore respectively; Gopal Singh, the Malla king of Vishnupur; Rajavallabh Sen of Rajanagar, Dhaka etc. Krishnachandra Roy donated money for the study of Sanskrit in different parts of Bengal.
The accounts of Sanskrit study in tols, chatuspathis and colleges of Bengal are recorded in various Government reports of that time. Among these, William Adam’s Report (1835-1838) and Reverend James Long’s Report (1868) are worth mentioning. A clear picture of the study of Sanskrit in Bengal can be deduced from these reports.
The study of Sanskrit by Europeans during the Company and British rule in India
Foreigners felt that to run business and administration, knowledge about native language and literature was very essential. For this reason and to satisfy the eagerness of many about Oriental language and literature, a new era started in the field of Sanskrit studies. In this area the contribution made by some European administrators, scholars and linguists is very significant. Among them are Sir William Jones, Sir Charles Wilkins (1749/50-1836), Henry Thomas Colebrooke, Horace Hayman Wilson (1786-1860) and James Princep (1799-1840). Through research, translation, collection and editing of manuscripts, and archaeological surveys they performed an important role in preaching and spreading Sanskrit and introducing Sanskrit to the world.
William Jones came to Kolkata as a judge of Supreme Court in 1783. Expert in many languages, Jones noted for the first time that the Sanskrit language had a unique relation with Greek and Latin and that all these languages originated from one language. Under his leadership in 1784, the Asiatic society was established in Kolkata for research on Oriental language, history and culture. Through Asiatic Researches, the journal of this institution, he attracted the attention of the western world to the education, culture, history, philosophy, etc. of India. In 1789 he published Abhijnanashakuntalam, a Sanskrit drama by Kalidasa, from Kolkata, titling it Fatal Ring.
Colebrooke came to India as a writer of the Bengal service in 1783. In 1786, at the time of his employment as a collector at Trihut, he was attracted to the study of Hindu religion and culture and begun to learn Sanskrit. After Jones, Colebrooke’s contribution to Sanskrit study must be mentioned. He read Vedic and Puranic literature and Sanskrit grammar carefully. He wrote Grammar of the Sanskrit Language and compiled the Sanskrit Dictionary. By reading his book, The Translation of Two Treaties on the Hindu Law of Inheritance, foreigners were able to get a clear idea about Hindu Law. He played an important role in the institutional study of Sanskrit and its spread as President of the Asiatic society and as Professor of Hindu Law and Sanskrit at Fort William College.
In the spread of Sanskrit studies, the name of Wilkins is significant for a number of reasons. He came to India in 1770 as a writer of East India Company. He earned proficiency in Persian, Bangla and Sanskrit and became an expert in making types of these languages. He established a printing press at Hughli and made Bangla and Sanskrit types. So he is called the founding father of printing in Bengal. He translated the Sanskrit Hitopadesha into Bangla and deciphered some copper and stone inscriptions composed in Sanskrit. In 1785 the Bhagavadgita translated by him was printed in England. He published many valuable essays in Asiatic Researches. Among them are: A Grammar of the Sanskrit Language, Radicals of the Sanskrit Language, Compilation of Jones Manuscripts etc. He also translated some portions of Manusanghita.
Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, a long line of scholars have kept the Sanskrit language alive, inspiring students and teachers alike in their continual efforts to understand, utilize and master Sanskrit.
Many manuscripts written in Sanskrit on various subjects are preserved in different institutional and personal libraries of the country including Dhaka University Library. In the 1920’s and 30’s of the last century, Sushil Kumar De, Radhagovinda Basak (1885-1982) and Rajendra Chandra Hazra edited some manuscripts, e.g., Kichakavadha (1929), Padyavali (1934), Krsnakarnamrta (1938) and Ghatakarparakavya. After a long time in the 90’s, teachers and researchers have resumed work on a few manuscripts, e.g. Apadeshashataka (1993), Kautukaratnakara (1998), Apadeshiyashatashlokamalika (1998), Kirtishataka etc. The first two of these have been published in the book form with Bangla translations and the third one has been published as an article. At present some researchers are continuing to research on Sanskrit manuscripts in the regions.
A project for collecting and developing manuscripts was conducted from 1984-1988 under the supervision of Dhaka University Library. Then thousands of manuscripts were collected from different collections of the country and their microfilms, accompanied by short descriptions, were preserved in the library. In addition, thousands of manuscripts from the library’s own collection have also been identified briefly. All these manuscripts have been compiled in three volumes.