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Writer Rahul Sankrityayan's Daughter Opposes Plans to Reorganise Management of His Collection

The Bihar government plans to reorganise management of his rare collection in Patna Museum and hand it over to the Bihar Museum.

Representational use only.Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Patna: Well-known writer and public intellectual Rahul Sankrityayan's daughter, Jaya Sankrityayan Parhak, has protested against the Bihar government's proposal to reorganise the management of his rare collection in Patna Museum and its handover to the Bihar Museum.

Parhak has urged Chief Minister Nitish Kumar not to change the management of the Mahapandit Rahul Sankrityayan collection. “I have recently come to know that your government plans to change the authority to manage the above institute, giving the responsibility to Bihar Museum. As the daughter of Mahapandit Rahul Sankrityayan, I strongly protest this proposal," she said in a second letter written to Kumar.

In the latest letter, she reminded Kumar: “I had written to you on September 12, 2017, when a similar proposal was made and protested on the grounds that the Rahul Collection is a provisional donation to the Patna Museum, made without any remuneration and as the family and heirs of Rahulji we should be consulted and notified before any such change is made as regards my Father’s invaluable donation and the Bihar Government’s opinions regarding it. At that time, you had agreed to allow the Rahul Collection to remain in Patna Museum and for this I thank you. Today I find that a similar proposal is being made again.”

"I strongly oppose this proposal by the Bihar Government. The integrity and the physical safety of the Rahul Collection are threatened by being split up and removed for transport or display by private entities. This proposal is an insult to the memory of my Father and his vision for our country and its intellectual heritage. If the Bihar Government is not able to look after the Rahul Collection any longer, the family should be consulted about forming a committee of serious scholars from all over India to decide its future. It should definitely not be handed over, out of government control, on the whim of the State Government. Despite his significant contribution to Bihar, Rahulji has not been given the honour which was due to him. It will be a way of righting this neglect by creating a dedicated centre for higher studies in his name, housed in the historic premises of the Patna Museum to which he devoted so much effort," the letter, seen by NewsClick, reads.

The eminent intellectual’s daughter has also highlighted the role of her father in public life. "You must know that Rahul Sankrityayana is an internationally known name. A freedom fighter, a linguist, a Buddhist and Sanskrit scholar, a social thinker and an author whose reputation has not faded, instead it has increased even after his passing. Scholars from many universities not just in India but also in Europe, Japan and America have devoted years to studying his contributions in the fields of Buddhist studies, history, archaeology, literature, socio-politics, travel writing, and indeed all the disciplines he touched and wrote about. His life’s trajectory took him to Bihar in the 1920s and he lived and worked there through the years of the freedom struggle, working tirelessly among peasants and the depressed classes."

She also mentioned in her letter how Sankrityayan endured six jail terms in the prisons of Buxar, Chhapra and Hazaribagh. “Yet his erudition placed him among the most respected scholars of his time. The title of “Mahapandit” is not merely an honorific: it was bestowed on him by the Kashi Pandit Sabha Varanasi in 1933 in recognition of his contribution to the progress of Sanskrit studies subsequent to his discovery of the rare ancient texts that were lost in India after the destruction of the monasteries of Nalanda, Vikramshila, and Odantapuri. The title was given after his first journey to Tibet in 1929-1930, she said.

"These texts were invaluable at that time. The Thangka paintings he brought back are also priceless. These were housed in the Patna Museum. He made three more journeys to Tibet and came back with many more originals and photo plates of important texts and paintings. Coins, garments and other significant objects he collected on his travels in India and abroad were also added to the Rahul Collection to which he made further additions upto 1956. The idea was for all these objects to be easily accessible for study by students and scholars in context and close to the places where they had originated. Over 6400 texts and photos he brought are housed in the Bihar Research Society," she wrote.

Rahul Sankrityayan was a versatile writer-activist. Born in 1893, he passed away in 1963, at the age of 70 years. From a traditional Hindu family to becoming a monk, then an Arya Samajist, then a Buddhist and finally a Marxist, he authored/edited/translated nearly 150 books in Hindi, Pali, English and Tibetan.

Sankrityayan travelled a lot and his book 'Ghummakad Shashtra' is a traveller's guidebook. He travelled on foot/ponies/buses/trains/ships/by air and visited many countries.

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