The Encyclopedias of India

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Item Code: NAJ342
Author: Henry Scholberg
Publisher: Promilla and Co. Publishers
Language: English
Edition: 1986
ISBN: 8185002045
Pages: 120
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 10 inch X 7 inch
Weight 450 gm
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Book Description

About the Book

This book fills a gap: India has had plenty of encyclopedias, but no ‘encyclopedia of encyclopedias.’ The eminent bibliographer, Henry Scholberg, has after all produced it. Bibliophile that he is, in the very classical tradition, he has found out, what we should ourselves have done, that India was producing encyclopedias in Sanskrit seven or eight centuries before Diderot did his Encyclopedic in France or the publication of Britannica in Britain!

In all, India has produced forty-five general encyclopedias in the several languages of the country: one in Assamese, six in Bengali, three in Gujarati, four in Hindi, three in Kannada, four in Malayalam, six in Marathi, five in Oriya, one in Punjabi, six in Sanskrit, two in Tamil and four in Telegu. All these forty-five encyclopedias of India, (plus two in Urdu from Pakistan) have been surveyed and analyzed with competence (and humour) by Prof. Scholberg.

Incidentally, the author has done a signal service to Indian linguistics by treating the whole subcontinent as one single linguistic area. Not finding an Urdu encyclopedia in India and baffled how such a major and historically important language could be omitted from his magnum opus, he went over to Pakistan to find one; and he has found two! This underlines a major fact of history that though India has been politically divided, all the languages of Pakistan (including its mother tongue Urdu) are languages spoken and written in India; and what is more significant, there are many more people speaking Urdu in India than in the whole of Pakistan!

And then the author has taken out quite a strange rat from his magic hat: “An Encyclopedia That Never Was. “This should be enough; the reader had better find out for himself the beauties and the depths of this monumental addition to encyclopedic literature.

About the Author

Born of American missionary parents at Darjeeling (India) in 1921, Henry Scholberg received his early schooling at the Woodstock (Mussoorie). His parents were Methodist missionaries from the United States. His father was a scholar of Hindi and published A Concise Grammar of the Hindi Language which has gone through three editions.

The author has been a librarian since 1954. The last position held by him was Director of the Ames Library of South Asia at the University of Minnesota. He retired recently, and now enjoys the rank of Librarian and Professor Emeritus.

During his career at Minnesota he published three bibliographies, each of which is a standard work, and each of which was a pioneering effort: The District Gazetteers of British India: a Bibliography (1970), and Bibliographie des Francais dans I’lnde (1973), and Bibliography of Goa and the Portuguese in India (1982). In 1980 he edited the Catalog of the Ames Library of South Asia, a 16-volume folio set.

Prof. Scholberg has acquired an unusual mastery of the historical material associated with, what may be called the European period in India. It may be safely assumed that almost any book or journal published in or about India since Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope in 1499, must have been seen by the author either in original or as an entry in one catalog or another.

However, his being born and brought up in India and his enduring love for the land of his birth have been an over-riding factor in his life, inclining him to spend his time and talent in creating a research- base for a comprehensive history of modern India. In this endeavour, Bibliography of Goa and the Portuguese in India was an achievement; and he has followed it up by this unique publication The Encyclopedias of India.

This however is not all. An index to the biographical dictionaries of South Asia is in the press. In the planning stage is a biographical dictionary of Greater India.


It is possible to argue that of all the countries of the world no country can claim a larger corpus of encyclopedic literature than can India. The reasons are simple: one, there are so many languages there; and, two, Indian people love to publish things. Each language, with the exception of the classical ones, has its own region, its own culture) and its own peculiar institutions.

Therefore, each language deserves its own encyclopedia. In his article, “Encyclopaedias in the South Indian Languages,” Gangadhara Rao may have stated it better:

“The literate in India are literate in the sense they are only able to read and write in their own mother tongue - the respective regional languages. In imparting knowledge to the pupil or disseminating knowledge to the people, the need for encyclopaedias in the regional languages is of particular importance.”

Or to put it another way, if Britain can have Britannica and if America can have Americana, why can’t Maharashtra have Maharashtriya jnanakosa and Andhra Pradesh have andhra vijnanamu?

One of the problems of doing this study has been that of definition. What is an encyclopedia? This sent me to Webster’s Third Inter- national Dictionary (966) where I learned that the word is derived from the Greek enkyklos (general) + paidia (education) with the following definition: “a work that treats comprehensively all the various branches of knowledge and that is arranged alphabetically; also such a work treating only a particular branch of knowledge.”

For purposes here I have discarded Webster’s second definition and eliminated encyclopedias of art, philosophy, religion or of a particular region. I was looking for the general encyclopedia - one which would tell its reader about the fjords of Norway and the cities of Brazil, as well as the indigenous elements of India.

Using the “general encyclopedia” as the criteria, I set about first to identify and list the ones which would fall in this category. There were forty-seven of them. Each will be discussed in turn, and the list in which it appears will be referred to hereinafter by the party of the first part as “The List.”

In the following pages forty-seven encyclopedias will be discussed and described. Some will even be dissected. Twelve of the regional languages will be represented along with one classical one. This is how it breaks down: Assamese (1), Bengali (6), Gujarati (3), Hindi (4), Kannada (3), Malayalam (4), Marathi (6), Oriya (5), Panjabi 0), Sanskrit (6), Tamil (2), Telugu (4), and Urdu (2). For Urdu it was necessary to borrow from our cousins to the east because at this writing no Urdu encyclopedias have come out of India, but Pakistan is bringing out two of them.

In the fourteeenth chapter there will be a discussion of feeble efforts in the English language and the question will be advanced: Why not one in English?

The arrangement of the chapters may be puzzling to some readers since it was a librarian who arranged them. They should have been alphabetical!

The Sanskrit ones are first because they were written first.

Vasturatnakosa (l) is probably the earliest example and may have been published as early at the tenth century A.D. If so, it pre-dates by eight centuries Britannica and the Encyclopedie of Diderot and may even predate Tai Ping Yu Lan, the Chinese encyclopedia!

Following the Sanskrit works are those in Bengali in Chapter II. The first discussed is the Rev. K. M. Banerjea’s Bidyakalpadruma arthata bibidha bidyabisayaka racana (7) (which was the earliest of the modern encyclopedias of India and one of the few to make its appearance before the twentieth century).

The Hindi follow logically the Bengali encyclopedias because the principal Bengali encyclopedist, Nagendranath Vasu, was also involved in one of the major Hindi efforts.

Marathi follows Hindi for no particular reason, but Gujarati is after Marathi because the renowned “Dnyankoshkar” S. V. Ketkar was involved in encyclopedias in both languages.

Oriya, Panjabi and Assamese follow Gujarati in no particular order and finish off the north Indian encyclopedias, except for Urdu.

The next four languages in alphabetical order are the Dravidian languages: Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu.

Urdu brings up the rear because it involved a•hard decision. The plan was to do only the encyclopedias of India. However, it did not seem right to exclude Urdu, one of the most important and widely spoken languages of India. The only thing to do was to cross the western frontier and ask our Pakistani friends to lend a helping hand.

Each language is given a chapter, and the entries within each chapter are arranged chronologically if possible.

Most, but not all, of the encyclopedias in The List may be found in the National Library in Belvedere, Calcutta. American scholars are twice blessed in that it is not always •necessary for them to subject themselves to the rigors of living in “Load Shed City” in order to study these works. Library of Congress through the Public Law 480 and Special Foreign Currency Programs has picked up quite a few of them and shipped them to several institutions in the United States.



  Introduction 1
  The list 8
i. The Sanskrit Encyclopedias 18
1 Vasturatnakosa  
2 Yuktikalpataru  
3 Manasollasa  
4 Abhilasitharthacintamani  
5 Chaturvarga cintamani  
6 Todaranandam  
ii. The Bengali Encyclopedias 28
7 Bidyakalpadruma arthata bibidha bidyabisayaka racana=Encyclopaedia bengalensis  
8 Bisvakosha  
9 Sisu-Bharati  
10 Janabara katha  
11 Bangiya mahakosha=Encyclopaedia bengalensis  
12 Bharatakosha  
iii. The Hindi Encyclopedias 34
13 Hindi visvakosa = The Encyclopaedia indica  
14 Hindi visva-Bharati  
15 Sacitra visvakosa  
16 Hindi visvakosa  
iv. The Marathi Encyclopedias 37
17 Maharastriya jnanakosa  
18 Vyavaharika jnanakosa  
19 Balakosa  
20 Abhinava Marathi jnanakosa  
21 Sulabha visvakosa  
22 Marathi visvakosa  
v. The Gujarati Encyclopedias 44
23 Jnanacakra=Gujarati cyclopaedia  
24 Gujarati jnanakosa  
25 Jnanakosa  
vi The Oriya Encyclopedias 46
26 Oriya encyclopaedia with a short dictionary of Orissa - Bibidha ratna sangraha  
27 Sisu-sankhali  
28 Bisva paricaya=A concise encyclopaedia in Oriya  
29 Jnanamandala=Popular encyclopedia in Oriya  
30 Sankshipta Odia jnanakosha  
vii. The Panjabi Encyclopedia 51
31 Panjabi wishawa kosha  
viii. The Assamese Encyclopedia 53
32 Asamiya biswakosa  
ix The Kannada Encyclopedias 55
33 Kannada visvakosa  
34 Balaprapanca  
35 Jnana Gangotri : kiriyaravisvakosa  
x. The Malayalam Encyclopedias 58
36 Vijnanam : Malayalam ensaiklopidiya  
37 Vidyartthimitram Malayalam ensaiklopidiya  
38 Visvavi jnanakosam  
39 Sarvavi jnanakosam  
xi. The Tamil Encyclopedias 62
40 Kalaikkalanciyam  
41 Kuzhantaikal kalaikkalanciyam  
xii. The Telugu Encyclopedias 65
42 Andhra vijnanamu = Telugu encyclopaedia  
43 Vijnanasarvasvamu  
44 Sangraha Andhra vijnana kosamu  
45 Prapanca rajya sarvasvamu  
xiii. The Urdu Encyclopedias 69
46 Insa iklopidya ma’lumat=Maloomat: encyclopaedia of general knowledge  
47 Urdu jami insa’iklop!dya  
xiv The English Efforts 71
xv The Encyclopedia that Never Was 76
  Illustrations 79
  Index 93

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