on Prof. Shastri
by Satya Vrat Shastri
All rights reserved.
of a massive gathering to hear Prof. Shastri
Eminent Scholar and Friend : An Appraisal
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
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
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.
Satya Vrat rat Shastri: The Refined Humane Gentleman
met Professor Shastri when he came to visit the University of Alberta
in the late 70s or early 80s. 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. Shastris 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.
Satya Vrat Shastri : An Appreciation
by Visudh Busyakul
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.
Satya Vrat Shastri : The Grammarian and the Poet
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
Juan Miguel de Mora
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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