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Let us know about Harinath Dey- the exceptionally gifted linguist

The genius of Harinath Dey is still well-known among the scholars of Linguistics all over the world. This genius has been famous for his astounding work in various languages, both Indian languages and other ancient and modern languages of the world. This article describes the life and works of this great scholar.

Bengal has given birth to many great people. Among them, a considerable number have excelled in different branches of academics. They have made indelible marks in the fields of Literature, History, Archaeology, Physics, Statistics, Mathematics, Chemistry, Biology and many other subjects. But even among the galaxy of stars in the universe of Bengali intellect, this star has been shining very brightly. This extraordinarily brilliant linguist and polyglot is still remembered even more than hundred years after his death. Common people are astounded by his brilliance, quality and quantity of his work which he had done in his thirty-four years of short life. Let us recall the achievements great linguist, Harinath Dey (1877-1911).

Early life

Harinath Dey was born in Ariadaha, in present North 24-Paraganas district of West Bengal. His father, Rai Bahadur Bhootnath Dey, was a high-ranking Government official posted at Raipur in Central Province. Raipur is now the capital of Chattisgarh state. Harinath's initial education was at Raipur High School. He passed his Entrance Examination from this school at a very young age. He took admission in Presidency College in Calcutta. After completing his Graduation, he went to Christ College in Cambridge for higher education.

Academic life and teaching career

Harinath was an exceptional genius. He was a polyglot. He achieved mastery in thirty-four ancient and modern languages which included Bengali, English, Hindi, Tamil, Pali, Chinese, Tibetan, Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian, Greek, Latin, German, French and Spanish. He obtained Masters degree in fourteen of these languages.

Harinath was a professor of English literature in both Presidency College in Calcutta and Dhaka College in Dhaka. He was the first Indian to join Indian Education Service. In 1907, he joined as a professor in the newly-opened Linguistics department of the University of Calcutta.

Professor Harinath Dey was the first Indian Librarian of the Imperial Library (now National Library), the biggest library of Asia. He was the second Librarian of this very prestigious institute after John Macfarlane.

His works

During the extremely short span of life, Harinath did exemplary work in the field of Linguistics. His works are astounding both in terms of quality and quantity. He published a totally new version of Palgrave's Golden Treasury in 1903. He also published a new edition of Macaulay's Essay on John Milton. Harinath translated Ibn Battuta's travelogue, Rihla, in English. He also translated Al-faqri written by Abu Zafar Muhammad. His work on Arabic grammar is also noteworthy.

So far as Sanskrit is concerned, Professor Harinath Dey translated a part of the Rigveda in English. He edited Lankabatar Sutra. He also translated Abhigyan Sakuntalam and Vasavdatta.

But many scholars think that Professor Dey's most remarkable work was his English-Persian lexicon. His entire works contained in eighty-eight volumes have now been kept in the National Library in Calcutta.

Concluding comments

The exemplary brilliance of Harinath Dey has given birth to many anecdotes, the most famous of which is his performance in one exceptionally tough paper in English literature. He reached the examination center late, took special permission to appear in the paper from the Center Supervisor and completed the paper in only one hour. He got the highest marks in that particular paper in M.A. This great linguist left the world in 1911 at an age of 34, creating a large void in the field of Linguistics.

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Author: K Mohan13 Mar 2018 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 3

After reading this article , I was astonished to know that the the great author Harinath Dey has mastered in various languages and also done doctorate in many. But what interested me that he also mastered in Tamil language. I would request the article author to give further more details on his Tamil language works and if possible give the details of the literature done in Tamil alone.

Guest Author: Anjan Roy19 Sep 2019

Could you please tell me, if known, how to obtain Harinath De's edited volume of Palgrave's Golden Treasury? Why are his works not re-printed?

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