It is well known that only a small portion of the vast Sanskrit literature has so far been published while the major part of the literature still lies in manuscript, written in various scripts and on various types of material. Some of the collections are preserved in India and abroad, many more are in private collections.
During the nineteenth century, when the British rules of Indian and European Indologists took keen interest in India studies, particularly in the study of various branches of Sanskrit literature, projects where taken up to take stock of Sanskrit manuscript lying in private collections throughout the length and breadth of the country. The search of manuscript in Eastern India was assigned to the illustrious scholar Raja Rajendralala Mitra (1822-1891). He carried on extensive searches for manuscript in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa and also made a survey of the manuscript found in some private collections in Benares (Varanasi). He then compiled a descriptive catalogue of the manuscript, so surveyed by him.
The Notice record all the necessary details about each manuscript listed. Viz. the title, the author, the substance, size, line in a page, character, date, name of the scribe, the place of deposit and condition. Beside, long extracts from the beginning and the end of the manuscript have been recorded. This part of the record is very important, since it gives a fair idea about the contents, subject and merit of the composition. The Notices cover almost all branches of Sanskrit learning, right from the Vedas to the Dharmasasta, poetry, grammar and lexicons, philosophies, rituals, astronomy and astrology, mathematics, stotras, commentaries, glosses, etc. etc. The work also brings out the trends in the Sanskrit studies during the classical and medieval ages, in eastern India. In brief, the notices contain invaluable research material for the studies of Indian literature, mythology, Philosophy, religion and material sciences.
The repaint edition contains biographical sketches of both the authors by an erudite Sanskrit scholar.
Raja Rajendralala Mitra is rightly called the pointer of scientific research in history in India. He was an institution in himself.
Raja Rajendralala Mitra was born on February 16, 1822 at Sunra, in the District of 24 Parganas, Bengal, as the twenty-forth descendant of Kalidasa Mitra, who is believed to have migrated from kanauj to Bengal. Kalidasa Mitra was the founder of an old an respectable kayastha family of Bengal. Rajandralala’s greta grandfather Raja Pitambara Mitra, was a notable person in the Court of Delhi and the then monarch awarded him the hereditary title of Raja Bahadur through a royal charter (sanad). It is known from authentic records that Pitambara Mitra helped in 1781. Warren Hastings to suppress the revolt of Chait Singh of Benares. Rajandralala’s father Janamejaya Mitra (1796-1869) did not inherit much of the family’s fortune and lived in the suburb of Calcutta like a commoner were admired by his contemporaries.
Rajandralala received his early education form a pathasala a vernacular primary school and learnt some Bengali and Persian. He was also educated in English in the Hindu Free School of Gobinda Chandra Basak. On completion of his studies in the school he joined the Medical College, Calcutta, in 1837. He studied there for four years with much promise but had to leave the College due the opposition of some Englishmen. Most probably he was expelled from the College because he refused to disclose the names of some students who had committed some crime. While studying medicine he mastered the English language thanks to the teaching of one Mr. Cameran. After leaving the Medical College he turned his attention to legal studies but for some unknown reasons he never qualified himself as a full-fledged lawyer. During this period he acquired profound knowledge of Sanskrit, Persian, Hindi and Urdu. He also learnt German, Greek and Latin. Even at the age of twenty-four Rajendralala become well-known for his versatility and was appointed the Librarian of the Asiatic Society in 1846 and simultaneously served as the Assistant Secretary of the Society, Rajendralala found his desired field for indological research and remained associated with it, in various capacities till his death such as librarian, assistant secretary, secretary, vice-president. He was the first Indian president of the Society (1885).
During his tenure as the assistant secretary of the society, Rajendralala fully utilized the opportunity of coming into contact with a host scholars as well as having access to the rich collection of books and manuscripts in the society’s library. As a result of his indepth study and research he published many articles in the journal of the Society the first of them was entitled Inscription from the Vijaya Mandir, Udaypur, published in the January 1848 issue. One of the important contributions of Rajendralal Mitra to Indology is editing and publishing Sanskrit text. His editions appeared in the series Bibliotheca India. Among the Sanskrit texts he edited and published in the series the following deserve special menyion: The Nitisara of Kamandaki (2vols. 1849-1884), Caitanyacandrodaya of Kavikarnapura (1854), The Taittriya Brahmana of Black Yaurveda (3 vols. 1859-1890), Chandogyopanisad (1862), The Taittriya Aranyaka of the Black Yajurveda (1872), The Taittriya Pratisakhya (1872), The Gopatha Brahnmana of the Atharvaveda (1972), Agnipurana (3 vols. 1873-1878), Aitareya Aranyaka (1876), Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita (1888), and The Brhaddevata of Saunaka (1892, published posthumously). His original work, The Sanskrit Buddhist Literature of Nepal which opened up new vistas in the field of Buddhist studies was published in 1882.
Rajendralala’s field of research in Indology was vast and varied. He was not satisfied only with the editing and publication of ancient Sanskrit texts. He carried on his research in archaeology, antiquities, history and polity. As a result he presented to the scholarly world, his monumental works like The Antiquities of Orissa (2vols. 1875-1880), Buddha Gaya, the Hermitage of Sakya Muni (1878), and Indo-Aryans (2 vols. 1881).
RajendraIala was also a pioneer in the field of searching and cataloguing Sanskrit manuscripts. This task he carried on with a missionary zeal. Reports of manuscripts compiled by him, such as Catalogue of Sanskrit Manuscripts existing in Oudh (1872-1883), A Report on Sanskrit Manuscripts in Native Libraries in Bengal (1875), A Descriptive. Catalogue of Sanskrit Manuscripts in the Library of Asiatic Society of Bengal (1877) and A Catalogue of Sanskrit Manuscripts in the Library of H.H. the Maharaja of Bikaner (1880) bear enough testimony to his untiring labour in this field. Rajendralala’s most outstanding work, so far searching and cataloguing Sanskrit manuscripts are concerned, however, is the Notices of Sanskrit Manuscripts (9 vols. 1871-1888). This is a monumental work, along with the second series compiled by Mm. Haraprasada Sastri, is still of perennial value and usefulness. Among other important catalogues compiled by him, mention must be made of Catalogue of Curiosities in the Museum of the Asiatic Society (1849) and A Catalogue of Books and Maps in the Library of Asiatic Society of Bengal (1856).
Rajendralala was appointed, in 1856, the Director of the Wards’ Institution, a school established by the Government for the education of minor chiefs and zaminders. While serving this institution, he proved to be a good teacher and able administrator.
An outstanding Indologist as he was, Rajendralala was associated with a number of institutions devoted to the cause of spreading education among the masses and providing textbooks to the students of school level. He was one of the ten members of the School Book Society which published books in English and oriental languages. He was also an active members of the Vernacular Literature Society, founded in 1850, which published textbooks in Bengali. He not only took active part in the activities of these societies, but also wrote many textbooks to be published by them. Some of the textbooks written by him may be mentioned here. They are: Prakrta bhugola darsana (1860), Mebarer rajetivrtta (1861), Sivajir caritra (1860). With the financial assistance of the Vernacular Literature Society, he edited and published a Bengali journal under the title Vividhartha Sangraha (1851-1860). The journal contained articles ‘on a variety of subjects such as history, biographies, places of pilgrimage, zoology, food and agriculture, trade and commerce, etc. He was also a member of the selection committee of the famous journal Tattvabodhini., started in 1843.
Rajendralala was a philanthropist and was actively associated with almost all the works carried on in public interest in nineteenth century Bengal. He was a member of the British Indian Association and was elected its Vice-President: he was elected a fellow of the University of Calcutta. When Calcutta Municipality was formed he was elected its Commissioner. He was member of the Bethune Society, Society for the Promotion of Industrial Art, Association of the Friends for the Promotion of Social Improvement, the Photographic Society and the Sarasvata Samaja. When the Englishmen in India stood against the government move to abolish discrimination in justice between Indians and Englishmen he did not hesitate to oppose the Englishmen and to declare: “Devoid of merits which characterize a true Englishmen and possessing all the defects of the Anglo-Saxon race these adventurers from England have carried ruin and devastation to wherever they have gone.”
Raja RajendralaI Mitra received many honours and titles in recognition of his service to the society scholarship and the people of the country. Doctor of Law (honoris causa) was conferred on him by the University of Calcutta in 1876. The titles of Rai Bahadur. C.I.E. and Raja were conferred on him by the Government. Besides, he received several honours from foreign countries.
Rajendralala died on July 26, 1891 at the age of sixty-nine.
Mahamahopadhyaya Haraprasada Sastri is a name in the field of study and research in Indology in general and Buddhism in particular. He is known not only for his multi-faceted scholarship and erudition but also for his scientific approach to the ancient and medieval literature and his insight into the historical data ‘he collected from such literature and related material.
Haraprasada was born on December 6, 1853, in Naihati, District of 24 Praganas, Bengal, in a family of traditional Sanskrit pandits. His ancestors were well- known for their erudition and faithful observance of religion, but they could rise above the superstitions and retrograde traditions of their time. His ancestor, Rajendra VidyaIankara (17th cent.) from whom Haraprasada was seventh in succession, was a very learned man and as such was appointed the court pandit (sabhapandita) by the then raja of Naldanga in the district of Jashore and settled there. Haraprasada’s great grandfather Manikya Tarkabhusana (d. 1809) migrated from Khulna and settled in Naihati, 38 kilometres north to Calcutta, in 1757. He taught Navya-Nyaya and Smrti in his own pathasala (called tol in Bengali) and earned a fame as a successful teacher of those subjects. He was known to Sir William Jones who sought his advice about the interpretations of Hindu law from time to time. Manikya’s third son Srinatha Tarkalankara, who died in the hands of decoits at the age of only thirty, was a talented pandit. His son Ramakamala Nyayaratna. (d. 1861) was also a noted scholar of his time. Haraprasada was the fifth son of Ramakamala. His early name was Saratnatha which was changed to Haraprasada owing to the fact that he recovered from a serious illness through the grace of Siva (i..e. Hara). His primary education was started in the Kandi High School where his eldest brother Nandakumara (1835-1862) was the head pandit. On the untimely demise of Nandakumara, Haraprasad’s education was neglected. He then admitted in the Sanskrit College. Calcutta by Iswarchandra Vidyasagar and lived in the hostel run by the latter at his residence. Thus Haraprasada came in contact with vidyasagar, which gradually became closer and greatly influenced Haraprasada’s personality, literary taste and scholarly insight.
Haraprasada studied in the Sanskrit College and the Presidency College from 1866 to 1877. Among his teachers in the Sanskrit College, he was influenced by Prasannakumar Sarvadhikari and Maheshchandra Nyayaratna, both principals, Dwarakanath Vidyabhushan and Ramanarayan Tarkaratna. All these teachers were profound scholars of Sanskrit and at the same time progressive in their thoughts.
Haraprasada graduated from the Presidency College in 1876 and passed the M.A. examination from the Sanskrit College in 1877, being placed in the First Class and obtained the Degree of Sastri. While a student Of the M.A class, he was introduced to the Bengali novelist Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya (1838-1894) and his research work Bharata Mahila was published in the Vangadarsana edited by Chattopadhyaya. A few articles by Haraprasada were published, even when he was a student, in the vangadarsana and the Aryadarsana, edited by Jogendranath Vidyabhushan (1845-1904?).
Haraprasada started his career as a teacher of Here School, Calcutta and taught subsequently in the Canning College., Lucknow, Presidency College, Calcutta, Dacca University and Sanskrit College, Calcutta. Later on was appointed the principal of the Sanskrit College. He came in contact with Ramesh Chandra Datta (1848-1909) and Raja RajendralaIa Mitra (1822-1891) at early age. Both these noted indologists recognised his talent and considered him to be an equal in scholarship. He assisted the former in his Bengali translation of the Rgveda. He also worked with RajendralaIa and assisted him in compilation of his Buddhist Sanskrit Literature of Nepal. This opportunity of working with Rajendralala enabled him to learn the technique of reading, deciphering and interpreting old manuscripts. As matter of fact the succeeded RajendralaIa, after the latter’s demise, the projects of the Asiatic Society 1 discovering and cataloguing of old manuscripts. He was a keen student of history. History did not mean him simply dry chronology of royal dynasties and the achievements and conflicts, but it meant the development in the life and culture of the people. He discovered history of the people from the old records which he himself discovered and interpreted. As a discoverer of manuscripts, he was crowned with unparalleled success. Among his noted discoveries three are very important they are: Saundarananda Kavya of Asvaghosa, Ramacarita of Sandhyakaranandin and Kirtilata of Vidyapati Thakura. All these three manuscripts he discovered in Nepal. Besides he discovered the Varnaratnakara of Jyotirisvara. But the most important discovery of Haraprasada was the mistic songs of the saint poets of the Vajrayana sect. The four collections of such songs he discovered were the Caryacaryaviniscaya of Luipada, the Dohakosa of Sarohavajra the Dohakosa and the Dakarnava of Kanhapada. He discovered all these four collections in 1907 in Nepal and then edited and published them, in 1916, under the title Hajara bacharera purana Bangala nhasaya Bauddhagana o Doha. This publication started a new era in the linguistic research in Bengali, Maithili, Asamiya and Oriya, since the language of these songs marks the beginning of all these eastern languages. Sastriji also edited for the first time Asvaghosa’s Saundaranada which was published in the Bibliotheca Indica serried of the Asiatic Society (1910).
Other important contributions of Haraprasada to Indology include his descriptive catalogues of Sanskrit manuscripts, and the second series of the Notices of Sanskrit Manuscripts (First series was compiled by Raja Rlajendralala Mitra), both published by the Asiatic Society
Besides Sanskrit and historical studies, Haraprasada is well-known for his service to the cause of Bengali language, and literature. He was a prolific writer in Bengali and enriched the language by both his creative and critical and analytical writings. Like Bankimchandra he could write in both the chaste sanskritized and popular styles. Among his Bengali writings mentioned may be made of Kancanamala and Bener meye, both novels based on some historical themes, though not exactly historical novels. Most of his Bengali articles deal with Sanskrit poets and poetry. Through these articles, he added a new dimension to the literary criticism of Sanskrit poetry.
Haraprasada is known as one of the pioneers of Buddhist studies in India. His forte was Tantric Buddhism. He was the first to assert that though Buddhism is known to have disappeared from the soil of India, it does live in the religious traditions and practices of eastern India, particularly of Bengal. He showed that Dharma Thakura worshiped by Bengali Hindus is nothing but a deified Buddhist symbol. He also indentified quite a few gods and goddesses in the Hindu pantheon of Eastern India, as Buddhist deities.
Haraprasada died on December 17, 1931 at the age of seventy-eight.
In May, 1868, Pandit Radhakrishna, of Lahore, suggested to His Excellency the Viceroy, the “compilation by Government, of a catalogue of all the Sanskrit manuscripts preserved in the Libraries of India and Europe and stating that anything done towards the encouragement of Sanskrit learning would be gratefully appreciated by scholars.” The suggestion was most favourably received, but owing to the want of the necessary materials, the work could not then be undertaken with a view, however to further the object and to discover and utilize the large collections of Sanskrit MSS. Lying unnoticed and uncared for in native libraries it was, among other things, resolved
1st. “To print uniformly all procurable unprinted lists of Sanskrit manuscripts in Indian Libraries and to send to them the various learned societies of Europe and to individual scholar in Europe and India, with an intimation that the Government will carefully attend to their suggestions as to which of the manuscripts therein mentioned should be examined, purchased or transcribed.”
2nd . “To institute searches for manuscripts, and to this end prepare lists of desirable codices to distribute these lists among scholars and other persons willing to assist in the search with a request that they report their discoveries to such officer as may from time to time be appointed by the Government of India and to depute competent scholars on tours through the several presidencies and provinces to examine the manuscripts reported upon, to seek new manuscripts, to purchase manuscripts procurable at reasonable rates, and to have copies made of such manuscripts as are unique or otherwise desirable, but which the possessors refuse to part with.”
In Bengal the task of collecting the lists was made over to the local Asiatic Society and by it intrusted to the writer of this note.
The following pages are the first fruits of the undertaking on this side of India. In submitting them to the public, the Compiler is anxious that their scope and purpose an laid down in the Government resolutions quoted above, should be distinctly understood that nothing more should be expected from them than just what they profess to be records of names, dates, extent and subjects of little know manuscripts with just so much of explanation as might awaken, without presuming to gratify, curiosity and assist competent scholars in the examination and analysis of such works as are likely to prove interesting with a view ultimately to the compilation of a catalogue raisonne of Sanskrit literature. The catalogue of the Asiatic Society’s Library has been adopted as a guide and only such codices have been noticed as are not to be found in it. Those described as belonging to the Asiatic Society were, when first examine, in the possession of a Pandit at Benares, from whom they have since been purchased.
The works have been named as they have turned up, without any attempt at classification. It is intended however, to supply a classified index on the completion of a Volume.
The Sanskrit portion of these Notices has been revised by Pandit Harachandra Vidyabhushana.
The circumstances under which these Notices have been taken in hand, have already been explained in the Preface to the first volume; and as the general plan which was originally adopted, bas been strictly followed in the present issue, little need be said by way of preface to it. Some alterations, however, have been made in the details, which call for a few remarks.
In the first volume, the names of the persons in whose possession the different MSS. noticed were found, d the extent, size, appearance, and character of the MSS. We given in Sanskrit; but this was found objectionable, as many persons, who did not read’ Sanskrit, but took an interest in the Indian classics, could not make use of the information to advantage. The whole of the information under those heads has accordingly been given in the present volume in English. The analytical portion has also been in many instances greatly amplified.
Advantage has also been taken of a suggestion some time ago made by the learned Dr. A. C. Burnell of Mangalore, to supply facsimiles of some of the MSS, that have come under examination. The object of these facsimiles is not to give the finest specimens of writing available, but to afford typical examples of the styles of writing which were current at different times, and in different localities, in order that it may be possible to ascertain the date of a manuscript from its appearance in these cases where dates are wanting, For this purpose it is necessary that a great number of samples should be placed before the reader, so that sufficient materials may be at hand to distinguish local styles of different times from individual peculiarities. Accordingly a large number of specimens have been collected, and photozincograph facsimiles are in course of preparation for publication in the next volume.
The Berlin Catalogue of Professor Weber and the Bodleian Catalogue of Dr. Aufrecht are by far the-best specimens of descriptive catalogues of Sanskrit Manuscripts that have yet been presented to the public. Without pretending to give a complete summary of every book, like D’Herbelot’s “Bibliotheque Orientale” or Taylor’s “Examination and Analysis of the Mackenzie Manuscripts,” they afford all the information about the codices noticed that can reasonably be expected from works of that description. In preparing the following pages, the author has adopted those works for his models, and followed them as closely as circumstances would admit of. Writing, in many instances, without an opportunity of seeing the texts, and depending in such cases solely on notes prepared by pandits, who do not always enter into his ideas of what is wanted, owing also to the fact of the work being designed to serve only as an inventory-a help to others who may hereafter take up the task of analysis he has not been able to supply quite as much information as his models do, and make his notices quite as full. It is expected, however, that in the majority of instances, the descriptions given will be found to be all that are needed for a correct understanding of the works enumerated, and in the case of the larger works, to supply a sufficient indication of their nature to help the future analyst in making his choice of what really require further examination. It would have been a source of satisfaction to the writer if he could have added a few extracts with translations of important passages, but they would have been foreign to the scope of these “Notices,” and would have involved the devotion of more time, labour and expense than he was in a position to afford.
The plan followed in collecting information for this work will be found explained in the Prefaces to volumes I and II; and also in the Appendix to this volume.
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