In remembrance of Dr Muhammad Shahidullah
Bangla Academy organised a commemorative programme on Dr Muhammad Shahidullah at Poet Shamsur Rahman Auditorium on July 14.
The welcome speech was given by the director general of Bangla Academy Habibullah Shiraji. Following the speech, Professor Hakim Arif presented a keynote paper on Dr Muhammad Shahidullah. The programme was presided over by National Professor Anisuzzaman.
Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah was an internationally renowned educationist, writer and philologist. He was born in the village Peyara, Chobbish Pargana, West Bengal (now in India).
Shaidullah passed his school finals (known as Entrance examination at that time) in 1904 from Howrah Zila School. In 1906 he passed the FA examination (equivalent to HSC) from Presidency College, Calcutta (now Kolkata). He received the Bachelor of Arts degree with Honours in Sanskrit in 1910 from City College, Calcutta, and Master of Arts in 1912 in Comparative Philology from the same institution.
Shahidullah's teaching career started in Jessore District School where he taught between 1908 and 1909. He also worked as the headmaster of Sitakunda High School, Chittagong between 1914 and 1915. He practised law for some time and was elected vice-chairman of the Bashirhat municipality.
He joined the University of Dhaka as a lecturer of Sanskrit and Bangla in 1921. His years at the university constituted the most important period of his life. During his teaching and research career there, he explored the origins of the Bangla language. In 1925, he was able to show that Bangla originated from Gaudi or Magadhi Prakrit.
To pursue his doctoral studies, Shahidullah went to France and Germany in 1926. He studied Vedic Sanskrit, Buddhist Sanskrit, Comparative Philology, Tibetan and ancient Persian at University of Paris, and Khotni, ancient Vedic Sanskrit and Prakrit at Freiburg University in Germany. He received his doctorate from the Sorbonne in Paris in 1928 for his research on the distiches of the "Charyapada", the earliest extant specimens of Bangla language.
Dr. Shahidullah became principal of Bogra Azizul Huq College after retirement. He then rejoined the Bangla Department of the University of Dhaka as a supernumerary teacher and taught there for six years as departmental head and dean of the Faculty of Arts. Also, he taught part-time at the Law Department (1922-25) and the International Relations Department, as a teacher of French (1953-55). He also worked as head of the Bangla and Sanskrit Department of the University of Rajshahi (1955-58).
Dr. Shahidullah was a devout Muslim, and his books on religion reflect his deep faith. He addressed public gatherings to uphold the importance of Islam. He was liberal and progressive.
Dr. Shahidullah was a polyglot and an expert in philology. He knew many languages and thus had access to the treasures of many different literatures. He was made Professor Emeritus by the University of Dhaka (1967) and awarded 'Knight of the Orders of Art and Letters' by the French government (1967) for his lifetime achievement in research on language and literature.
Dr. Shahidullah passed away in Dhaka on July 3, 1969.