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Sir Jadunath Sarker: Pioneer of Indian history

Published : Wednesday, 29 June, 2022 at 12:00 AM  Count : 525

Sir Jadunath Sarker: Pioneer of Indian history

Sir Jadunath Sarker: Pioneer of Indian history

Sir Jadunath Sarker was a Bengali historian. He was the pioneer of the modern style of historiography of the Mughal Empire. Jadunath Sarker was a Columbus for discovering past history from unknown documents. For long sixty years of his active life he produced many works of merit which entitle him the father figure of Indian history writing. He is an all-rounder who wields his pen on every branch of history-biography, topography, religion, polity, economics, statistics, and military science.

His prolific pen produced at least fifty monumental works - all having the touch of a Ranke's technique delving deep into the original documents letters, diaries and other records.

He learnt the Persian, Rajasthani, Hindi, French, German, Portuguese and made a vast collection of original source materials at great pains and costs. Not content with the original sources, he visited those places and people connected with his work in order to understand the... events more intimately.

Born in a landlord family on 10th of December 1870 at Rajshahi District of modern Bangladesh,Jadunath naturally inherited happy and enlightened surroundings. He was educated at Rajshahi and Calcutta and distinguished himself as a brilliant student. Sharp as he was, he secured double Honours in English and History in 1891, and next year he secured first class position in M.A. in English literature examination, breaking all previous records.

He was awarded Griffith gold medal and won the coveted Premchand Roychand fellowship of the Calcutta University and secured lecturership in English in Ripon College in 1893 and impressed students by his scholarship.

Jadunath Sarker believed that in the study of history introduction of mother language is indispensable.In "Modern review" newspaper, he worded this in an opinion named 'Confessions of the history teacher "and" The vernacular medium: Views of an old teacher "composition.

In 1901, Sir Jadunath Sarker published his first work of research, 'India of Aurangzeb' which established him as a first-rate researcher and historian.  The reputed historian was shifted to the History Department in Patna College. It was from here that he went to Banaras and Cuttack in 1918 and was promoted to Indian Educational service. He was a perfect model of punctuality and a serious teacher.

He became the Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University in 1926 but declined a second term and devoted himself to historical research. In 1923, he was nominated the honorary member of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, an honour bestowed on not more than 30 scholars of the world. The American Historical Society of Washington also honoured him.In 1929 he was conferred a knighthood.

Jadunath presented himself as a stylist historian, and it was here that he displayed his literary genius. And he chose the Indo-Muslim history because of its vast and virgin historical wealth. Surprisingly, he chose the most difficult and risky subject of his study, Aurangzeb. And he was the only Hindu, after Ishwardas Nagar and Bhimsen Burhanpuri of Aurangzeb's time, to undertake the study on Aurangzeb.

Sir Jadunath Sarker

Sir Jadunath Sarker

Aurangzeb was a challenge to Sarkar because of the historical sources being in Persian and Marathi, both of which he did not know. But Sarkar did not deter and he prepared him for the formidable task. Since 1904,Jadunath Sarkar kept communication with Marathi historian Govinda Sakharam Sardesai. In Marathi language, he collected history documents about Mughal and Aurangzeb.

Informativeness was one of the speciality of Sir Jadunath Sarkar's history.  He had collected information from material written in about seven or eight languages but did not use him immediately because of the material; previously verified whether it is true at all through the critical method.  

In many cases, Jadunath did not attach much importance to Rajasthani or Marathi folklore, which is an attempt to make history, and mocked that it was written after consuming opium.

Apart from informationalism, the second quality of Jadunath Sarkar is literary quality.  He did not like dusty history.  He thought that in order to compose a history, the writer must have that history.  This attitude is always reflected in his writings.

Overall, we can tell that Sir Jadunath Sarker was one of the best Indian historians notwithstanding some restrictions.He unconsciously founded a school of Indian Historiography and later historians derived inspiration from his work, his style, methodology and sense of objectivity. He may not be a nationalist or a leftist in his professional career but he was a true historian and it is a solace to his disciples. He was a Herodotus and a Thucydides both in one and did a yeoman's service to Indian history.
The writer is a student, Department of History, University of Chittagong

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