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View of a massive gathering to hear Prof. Shastri

An Eminent Scholar and Friend : An Appraisal
Oscar Botto

This is a happy occasion to express my feelings of sincere and deep admiration for an eminent scholar like Prof. Satya Vrat Shastri who has honoured us, since a long time, with his precious friendship. The feelings of admiration we hold for each of his works are so many and varied that the choice to talk about anyone of them is very difficult indeed.

His experience as a philologist, his sensibility as a poet and man of letters are exceptional, so exceptional that whenever one is asked to express an appreciation of any of his works, one feels a strange embarrassment due to the knowledge that nothing can be added to any judgement passed by him, nothing must be changed to improve it and nothing has to be taken away.

Each of his statements must be accepted in its absolute entirety. Only an illogical conceit could induce one to even think of modifying, revising or integrating what this renowned scholar has set forth on the methodical basis of ever-thorough, subtle, perceptive analysis, of considerations systematically supported by his enviable cultural and scientific heritage, sustained as it is by that unique familiarity he has with Sanskrit.

We rarely find these endowments combined and harmonized to such an extraordinary degree, as they appear to be harmonized by the sensitivity and learning of Satya Vrat Shastri and we feel happy and lucky of having the opportunity to benefit from his most rare and learned capacities emerging from his scientific and literary output. I am privileged to be present in this book in his honour and I am proud to announce that on his visit to Turin, in the Autumn of 2001 he was awarded with the Cesmeo Golden Prize and that Cesmeo will also publish in Italian a book containing some of his learned articles on Kalidasa.

Dr. Satya Vrat rat Shastri : An Appreciation
P. L. Bhargava

Dr. Satya Vrat Shastri is one of those persons whom to know is to like. I am delighted to know that the Government of India has been pleased to give him the award of Padmashri which he richly deserves for his deep learning and his services, particularly in the cause of Sanskrit and Indology in general. He has numerous friends and well wishers throughout the world, among whom I count myself as one. I had several occasions of meeting him when he visited our home in Jaipur with his learned wife Usha. It has always been a pleasure to me and my wife to meet this learned couple.

Dr. Satya Vrat Shastri has made profound contribution for the advancement of Sanskrit language and literature. He has written many essays on various aspects of Sanskrit language and literature, a collection of which was published under the title of Essays on Indology. But his greatest contribution is a book entitled Indira Gandhi Charitam. In it, he has shown how sad was Mrs. Swaroop Rani Nehru on the birth of her grand-daughter Indira because she expected a grandson and how Pandit Moti Lal Nehru consoled her by making a prophetic statement that their grand-daughter will be greater than any grandson. Hardly any prophecy has been as true as this. Dr. Satya Vrat has further shown that when a Darbar was held by Emperor George V at Delhi, all the Indian princes vied with each other dressed gorgeously with ornaments like women. They showed their loyalty to the Emperor by paying him the greatest respect and some lay even prostrate before him.

I join all the other friends of Dr. Satya Vrat Shastri in wishing him a life of full hundred years devoted to the cause of the advancement of Sanskrit language and literature.

Professor Satya Vrat rat Shastri: The Refined Humane Gentleman
D. Prithipaul

I first met Professor Shastri when he came to visit the University of Alberta in the late 70’s or early 80’s. He was on a lecture tour to the United States and Canada and my Department invited him to give two lectures. Later, when I became Chairman of the Department of Religious Studies I managed to get a share of the university funding for Distinguished Visiting Professors. My Department then invited Dr. Shastri for a series of seven lectures, which he delivered over a period of three weeks. These lectures were learned expositions of such themes as Time in Indian Philosophy, The Ramayana in Thai culture, Christian Theological Writings in the Sanskrit Language, the Hindu Ritual of Marriage. It is unfortunate that subsequently these lectures could not be published by my University, as they ought to have been. During the twenty-two days which Professor Shastri and his learned spouse spent in Edmonton they were frequent guests at our home. We would spend the evenings talking quietly about a variety of themes in Sanskrit literature and in the Darèanas. As anyone acquainted with him would know, he constantly offered himself as an inexhaustible source of knowledge on most aspects of Indian lore. He was affable, modest, generous in providing references and advice concerning my own work. I learnt a lot from him.

My wife and myself wanted to show the Shastris the Rockies. We drove to Calgary and thence to Banff where we stayed for a weekend. He was ecstatic when he saw the snow-capped mountains and he told me he fell into a poetic mood and already had certain verses appearing in his mind. He was joyous like a child in the presence of the grandeur and beauty of the Rockies. During that trip, I presented him with a puzzle, “If a wicked sorcerer were to wave his wand and thereby make you forget all your knowledge of Sanskrit, with the exception of only three words, what would be these chosen words of yours?” He mused for a while, then smiled and said: “I know you want to entrap me. Let me hear what would be your three words.” I said: “panditya, sannyasa, moksa.” He said: “I agree!” Then we laughed.

I met him again in December of 1991, when I stayed at his home for more than a week. I had gone to Delhi to attend an international conference on nationalism, communalism and secularism, held at the Centre of Gandhian Studies, University of Delhi. Struck down by the heavy smog hanging over the capital, I got laid down with heavy cough, sore throat and high fever. The hospitality of the Shastris was most beneficient and I left Delhi after the conference with a profound feeling of gratitude for having received so much kindness as a guest. Dr. Shastri’s intervention at the conference showed to what extent he is open-minded with his provision of a large space in his heart in which he could accommodate the divergent ideologies of the minorities living in India. He evinced his fidelity to the official ideal of ‘sarva-dharma-sama-bhava’, a position which some of the participants vehemently rejected. I still correspond with Professor Shastri and I particularly like to read his answers.

Indeed during the more than four decades of my experience in writing to Indian intellectuals and academics he stands out almost alone in never failing to respond to my letters. I value and honour this form of civilized refinement on his part. Such unfailing courtesy is a rare sign of friendship, of respect for the other; it is an expression of a cultured, refined soul.

The literary outpourings of Professor Shastri, his unassuming attitude and his vast learning testify to the still vibrant spiritual genius of traditional India. May this felicitation volume be an inspiration to the devotees of Sanskrit striving with selfless motivation to perpetuate a tradition that needs to survive in the face of a West-born materialism moving like a tidal wave that threatens to engulf Bharata. Scholars like Professor Satya Vrat constitute the shore that holds back the fury of the ocean which wants to ride and sweep away the soul of Sanskrit culture.

Professor Satya Vrat Shastri : An Appreciation
by Visudh Busyakul

In 1973, I was appointed the Head of the Department of Eastern Languages of the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand. A few years later, in January 1976, I had the honour of being a touring guest of India, under the auspices of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, to visit a number of educational institutions, archaeological remains, and other cultural monuments. It was during this trip that I had the opportunity to visit the home of Professor Satya Vrat Shastri, then the Head of the Department of Sanskrit and Dean of the Faculty of Arts of the University of Delhi. That was 24 years ago, but the day was memorable because that was the starting point of my acquaintance with a kind and understanding scholar and his erudite wife, Professor Satya Vrat Shastri and Madame Usha Satya Vrat, an acquaintance which I have always cherished.

Professor Shastri came to Chulalongkorn University in October 1977 as a Visiting Professor of Indian Studies under the aegis of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. He was in charge of a number of Sanskrit courses in the Graduate School. At the time H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn was working for her M.A. in Pali and Sanskrit, and Professor Shastri at once became one of her Sanskrit teachers.

In a sense it is difficult to define the rare quality of his teaching. The medium of teaching in his class was necessarily English, and granting that the majority of the students were able to follow his English instruction with relative ease, some were not. Professor Shastri was a true model of a kind and understanding teacher who combined the spirit of the enlightening Adhyapaka with leniency and patience towards all his students. He would persist in his explanation and not allow students to leave him until all the doubts in their mind had been cleared. Being the scholar of Indological Studies, he was always ready and he got never tired to explain any question directed towards him. This spirit of a teacher in him is a true merit that makes him highly respectable and well liked by all his Thai students. Personally, he was friendly and kind towards his Thai colleagues and very understanding with his Thai students, who mention his name with respect and admiration even these days.

After finishing a two-year term as Visiting Professor at Chulalongkorn University, he continued his stay in Bangkok further, again as a Visiting Professor in the Department of Oriental Studies, Faculty of Archeology, Silpakorn University. Being a poet at heart, Professor Shastri could not let the time pass by without having Sanskrit poems flowing out of his pen. His first stay in Thailand coincided with the time we were preparing the celebration for the 200th anniversary of the founding of the city of Bangkok as the capital of the country, due in the early part of April of 1982. Although a newcomer to Thailand, when part of his time was spent in touring the countryside and in studying about Thailand in detail, he was able somehow to spare some of his busy moments composing a lovely Khandakavya on Thailand entitled Thai-desha-vilasam which he finished in the following year. What he reported in that poem was partly what he had acquired through his own observation of the life style of the Thai urban and rural folks at different places. His poem also shows that he read a great deal, evidenced by the popular anecdotes concerning places of touring interest, and by his report of literary activities of several kings of the Royal House of Chakri. His writing, even in poetic garb, is precise, although at times necessarily brief as required by the exigencies of metrical schemes. His interpretation of what he reported was supported by an insight which was objective and in the same time sympathetic.

The book is tri-lingual, namely, Sanskrit, Thai and English, and, as a matter of fact, could be a brief introduction to prospective serious tourists to Thailand. As it was the first Sanskrit work specifically written on Thailand, the translator of the work into Thai was no less than H.R.H. Princess Mahachakri Sirindhorn of Thailand herself, with Dr. Prapod Assavavirulhakarn, now Head of the Pali-Sanskrit Section in the Department of Eastern Languages, Chulalongkorn University, as co-translator. M/s Eastern Book Linkers, Delhi, published the book in early 1979.

We know that Professor Shastri came from a family devoted to Sanskrit erudition. He told us that his revered father, Professor Charudeva Shastri, used to recite the whole Valmiki Ramayana to his mother. Thus, being an authority on Sanskrit literature himself, and highly interested in the spread of Indian culture in South East Asia, he was always looking with sharp eyes and was active in acquiring knowledge about the intellectual and cultural aspects of Thailand. It is therefore natural that the Thai Ramakien (Sk. Ramakirti) could not pass unnoticed by him who had the Ramayana in the bottom of his heart from his childhood. This Ramakien is the Thai version of the Ramayana; its main thread follows the work of Valmiki, but it includes a large number of extraneous episodes not found in the critical edition of the epic. Some of these episodes can be traced back to the regional Bengali and Tamil recensions, some additions probably came from the Srivijaya Empire, and, of course, a number of exotic episodes were the contributions devised by popular Thai story-tellers of olden days.

It should be said here that Buddhism has been the main religion of Thailand and it was firmly recognized so during the composition of the Thai Ramakien. The superiority between the sectarian Vaisnavism and Saivism, in the eye of the Thai people in general, was only theoretical and rivalry between the two sects never existed. The early court of Cambodia preferred Saivism and the Ramayana epic very likely came to that part of the world during that period. Thus, it should not be confusing to any student of Indian sectarianism to find that Ramakien, the name of which openly professes the affiliation with Vaisnavism, would hold that the God Isuan (Sk. Isvara, i.e. Siva) in several passages in the Ramakien is the supreme member of the Trimurti. Professor Shastri studied this Thai Ramakien, and came up in 1989 with the Sri Ramakirtimahakavyam, a work divided into 25 sargas, (the first sarga being an introduction), consisting of a little more than twelve hundred stanzas composed in fourteen metres. Although the main thread of this Ramakirti follows the Ramayana of Valmiki, Professor Shastri's Mahakavya is not a Sanskritized reproduction of just another recension of Ramayana. Professor Shastri makes it clear that he has chosen to concentrate on the episodes of the Ramakien as are not to be met with in the Valmiki Ramayana, or other Indian Ramayanas. This means that this Mahakavya is not the complete edition of the Thai Ramakien. Professor Shastri retained the main backbone of the epic, then expertly had the extraneous episodes woven neatly along in such a manner that the work could be read from the beginning to the end as a complete unit with no sense of discontinuity. He remarked about the work: “As a story, the Ramakien is of gripping interest. Told through a variety of incidents and episodes,... it has an appeal of its own. It is a good insight study of the human imagination at play in inventing chips of different hues and sizes, of possibles and impossibles and putting them together....

It is this mosaic that makes the Ramakien stand out as an independent entity and not a pale shadow of the pioneering work of Valmiki, who might have been the first to tell the Rama story, but as the Thai Ramakien...prove(s), was not the last. It is the Rama story everywhere but not the same. And that is the beauty of it. Professor Shastri deserves congratulations in accomplishing this pioneering work. No one could predict the outcome of the small shoot of the original Valmiki Ramayana when it first went to South East Asia, but Professor Shastri has now collected the colourful blooms and savory fruits of that shoot, which has developed and grown in those foreign lands for a long time, and is now bringing them back to their original homeland, in the language of its parent in particular.

Thus are the two beautiful literary works produced by Professor Satya Vrat Shastri during his stay in Thailand. We are grateful to him from the academic point of view as well as from the fact that by means of his literary efforts he has effectively been an ambassador whose ultimate aim is to strengthen the cultural bond between our two countries, India and Thiland.

Professor Satya Vrat Shastri : The Grammarian and the Poet
Juan Miguel de Mora

Professor Satya Vrat Shastri is one of the very few experts who truly masters the Sanskrit language at all levels, both that of the Pandits and that of the most knowledgeable and eminent academics. Neither Vedic nor Epic Sanskrit, nor the Astadhyayi, nor its exceptions have any secrets for him. But to stop at Panini is to barely scratch the surface of Satya Vrat's erudition. He is a Mahakavi. The art of poetry he masters so absolutely that his poetry may be compared to Kalidasa.

Wonderful Moments with Professor Satya Vrat Shastri
(Late) Paul Thieme

I had the rare opportunity of teaching at Tubingen the same class. We differed on many points sometimes. Every time I found that he was invariably right. He is the tallest of the Sanskrit scholars of India. His knowledge of Sanskrit grammar is unbelievable..

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