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contribution of raja shiv prasad to hindi

Raja Shiv Prasad

His contribution to growth of Hindi

Kewal Krishan Sethi

June 8, 2011


Amongst the persons who worked for advancement of Hindi, the name of Raja Shiv Prashad deserves special recognition. He worked for the development of Hindi all through his life. But his role was forgotten due to exaggerated role of Bhartendu Harishchander who was a contemporary. Raja Shiv Prashad was a versatile writer. Not only he wrote novels and poetry but also on history, geography and science.


Raja Shiv Prashad belonged to a Jain family but it had been influenced by Hindu customs to a large extent. Following the murder of many of the members of the family dozing Nadir Shah's massacre, his ancestors moved to Bengal. Born in 1824 in Varanasi, he was educated in Hindi, Urdu, Persian and English. He was amongst the few who knew English well at that time. At the age of 19, he joined service, first as dewan in Bharatpur and then joined the British Government. His boss Williams Edward became superintendent in hill states of Shimla where Shiv Prashad became a Meer Munshi. He opened the first schools in the area and prepared the first textbook for them. Looking to his interest and ability, in 1856, he was appointed Joint School Inspector in Varanasi for the Northwest Province (as Uttar Pradesh was known at that time). He was promoted as Inspector and retired from there in 1878. In 1870, he was given the title of Sitare Hind, and in 1874, the title of Raja. He became a member of Legislative Council of Viceroy in 1883. He was also made fellow of Allahabad and Kolkata Universities.


His literary activities included preparation of 32 books, 18 in Hindi and 14 in Urdu. Besides he had some poetry books also. He translated a number of books from English to Hindi and Urdu. His, probably, last work was his autobiography in Urdu Sawaneh Umri (Literally it means autobiography).


In 1858, with the establishment of Asiatic Society in Kolkata, the revival of Hindu philosophy began as a large number of old manuscripts were found, published and translated. In 1864, Shiv Prashad wrote his book 'Itihastimirnashak' (literally destruction of darkness in history) on Indian History. In this book, he describes the atrocities of the Muslim rulers. he expressed the view that Muslims did not contribute anything to India's progress whereas Europe and America advanced. They did not look beyond their religious book. The ultimate aim was to destroy the idols and to make slaves of the local people. In contrast the Hindu period was eulogised.


The book made the Hindus look upon their past with some pride. It was made a textbook in Hindi medium schools. It was translated and tried in the Urdu medium schools also but had to be withdrawn following protests by Muslims including Syed Ahmed. Syed Ahmed and Shiv Prashad were friends but also rivals in furtherance of education on different lines.


Devnagari became the vehicle of revival of Hindu chetna. In the nineteenth century, Urdu in Persian script was the language of the offices and courts. Everybody learnt it. It was also the means for maintaining the supremacy of Muslims in offices and courts. In UP, in 1868, Muslims were 14 % but had 35 % of the posts in the offices. In the High Court, the percentage went up to 56. This was despite the fact that in 1860 - 61, the number of Hindu students was 90 %. Shiv Prashad became the voice of Nagri script for its adoption in offices and courts. he did not want to change the language, only the script. He averred that progress of Bengal is due to Bengali which is spoken from the high up to the villages. He opposed giving preference to Muslims for government jobs. He also expressed his opinion against giving special consideration for education of Muslims. According to him, the education was open to all and there was no restriction on Muslims making use of the schools in existence. if, because of their own reservations, they do not come forward, it is not a reason for giving extra facilities.


In 1868, he submitted a memorandum 'court character in the upper provinces of India' in which he called for changeover of script to Nagri. He said that present day Persian is half Arabic and there is no sense in forcing such alien things down the Hindu throats. His view was that 'to read Persian is to become  persionized, all our ideas become corrupt and our nationality is lost'. This memorandum can be said to mark the revival of Hindi.


The protest was taken up by others. In 1873, Bhartendu submitted his memorandum to British Government. In 1882, several memorandums were submitted to Hunter Commission (the first education commission in India). In 1897, Madan Mohan Malviya submitted his memorandum which included the arguments given by Shiv Prashad.


Shiv Prashad remained true to this demand all through his life. Later he developed differences with Bhartendu regarding the nature of Hindi to be used. Whereas Shiv Prashad wanted the script to change without affecting the language except for giving up the Arabic and Persian high flown words, Bhartendu and his group favoured Sanskritised Hindi. this led to a bitter rivalry in which Shiv Prashad was even criticized as being anti-Hindu and even pro Urdu. It is known that Shiv Prashad wrote books in Urdu also and in some (for example the rise and fall of Sikhs) language was Persianized Urdu. But by and large, his books used the common language spoken and understood in all houses. Shiv Prashad was even condemned as being agent of British whereas the fact is that both Bhartendu and Shiv Prashad were pro-British. Both remained Government servants though Bhartendu was obliged to resign following an outrageous satire against a British officer. Actually the satire was meant to ridicule Shiv Prashad but the interpretation was different. The Government also stopped buying his publications and Bhartendu was obliged to sell them off. This only resulted in increasing Bhartendu's indignation and he used his supporters to attack Shiv Prashad even going to the extent of using cheap language.


Shiv Prashad was a scholar in Urdu and Persian and he has demonstrated it through his books but for all that, he is pro Hindi. His book Gutka, on literature, in 1887, was pure Hindi. Itihas-timirnashak has Urdu words but also Sanskrit words. Even in his books on geography, physics, chemistry his language remains simple and lucid. In translating books from English, he followed the same line of thought. the language should have its own flow. Several other authors. Devki Nandan Khatri (of Chandarkanta and Chandarkanta Santati), Munshi Prem Chand, Ayodhaya Prashad Khatri were in the same genre. It is to the credit of Shiv Prashad that though critical of their language, he included the writing of Lallu Lal (Prem Sagar), Raja Lakshman Singh (Shakuntla) in his Gutka, the intention being to have a representative collection of Hindi literature.


Besides taking a stand for introduction of Devnagari, Shiv Prashad had also played a role in religious reforms or for protection of cows. But we confine ourselves to his campaign for Nagari only.

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