Nabadwip, a small town on the western bank of the Bhagarathiin the district of Nadia, West Bengal, about one hundred kms away from the state capital Kolkata and sixteen kms away from Krishnanagar, district headquarters, now needs no introduction. Apart from being the holy birth place of Sri Chaitanyadev, the propagator of GoudiyaVaishnavism and apostle of unbounded love, peace and humanity, the place has carved a niche for itself in home and abroad for a number of reasons. At present it is one of the most popular international places of pilgrimage, tourist destinations and bustling business hubs. Though the fame of the present day Nabadwip chiefly rests on its religious significance and its association with ‘ISKON’ on the other side of the Ganges, this one thousand plus year old human settlement has a glorious past and an immensely rich tradition and heritage. ‘RaiGunakar Bharat Chandra’, the celebrated Bengali poet of ‘Mangalapoetic literature’ eulogised about Nabadwip, in his “Annadamangal” as the capital of Goddess Saraswati (‘BharatirRajdhani’). Mention of Nabadwip may be found in numerous books of the old and middle ages like ‘Bengali Version of the Ramayana’ by Krittibas Ojha, ‘Bhakti Ratnakar’ by NarahariChakraborty, ‘SambandhaNirnoy’ by NuloPanchanan, ‘Kulakarika’ of BallalSen and ‘Chaitanyamangal’ by Jayananda.
Name of Nabadwip: A subject of hot debate:
Etymologically Nabadwip means a newly formed island or a constellation of nine islands. According to some scholars, the name of the district Nadia was derived from the word Nabadwip, which some scholars opine, is a changed form of a Persian word meaning a ‘new island’. Abul Fazal mentioned Nabadwip in his Ain-i-AkbariPart –I‘The BengalSubah’
The Rulers of Nabadwip:
Nabadwip was ruled by different rulers of different dynasties but its most intimate association was with the Sen rulers particularly Ballal Sen and Laxman Sen. Nabadwip being the second capital of the Sen rulers, its invasion by Ikhtiyar Uddin Mohammad-Bin-BakhtiyarKhilji and many other such topics on Nabadwip still remain inconclusive.
The History of Nabadwip as a scared seat of learning:
“People from different parts of the country head towards Nabadwip because Nabadwip provides intellectual succour to them, ’’ a poet exuberantly sings in praise of Nabadwip’s academic supremacy. The history of Nabadwip’s intellectual effulgence dates back to an antiquity and it reached its pinnacle of glory in the 15th century. For more than 500 years from 15th century to the 1st half of the 20thcentury this small town remained the epicentre of Sanskritic studies like Vedas, Vedanta, NabyaNaya, Smriti, Jyotish, Tantra, Ayurveda and other allied oriental subjects, a rare distinction shared only by Mithila and Beneras.
But towards the end of the 19th century the graph which soared so high registered a downward tendency and the ‘Oxford of Bengal’ a sobriquet earned by the altar of learning from the British rulers, started losing its glory. In 1886 a group of distinguished scholars established a scholar’s body named Banga Bibudha Janaji Sabha to salvage the lost ground with significant success.
In 1949 a government Sanskrit college was established in the residential premises of BunoRamnath (The Legendary scholar-teacher Ramnath Tarkasiddhanta) but in 2002 the college closed down.
Sanskrit Language and Literature – the greatest treasure of India:
Pundit Jawharlal Nehru regarded ‘Sanskrit language, literature and all that it contains’ as the greatest treasure of India. Sanskrit is ‘the most musical language of the world’, according to Maxmuller and once he remarked, “If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered over the greatest problems of life and has found solutions of them which will deserve the attention of even those who have studied Plato and Kant, I should point to India”. Shopenhauer most respectfully commented on the Upanishads which recorded the profound thoughts of ancient Indian sages, “In the whole world there is no study so beneficial and so elevating as that of the Upanishads. It has been the solace of my life, it will be the solace of my death.”
Nabadwip, the torch bearer of ancient Indian education:
“The fact of having studied at Nabadwip and gained an ‘Upadhi’ there will ensure respect for a pundit in every part of India, Lahore to Travancore”. Commented a scholar. Though the fame of Nabadwip as a centre of learning, spread far and wide on the wings of Nabya Nyaya (Neo-logic). “There were several other men of letters in different subjects who built up the reputation of Nadia (Nabadwip) as a sacred seat of learning” is the assessment of a researcher. The uniqueness of Nabadwip as an academic centre is that this alluvial fertile soil on the bank of the Bhagirathi produced formidable scholars generations after generationsand till today such families in this land are not rare which have been pursuing sanskritic studies for centuries together.
The genesis of BharatiChatuspathi Sanskrit Mahavidylaya:
Pundit Rajendra Chandra Tarkatirtha (1914-2007), the former professor of Vaishnava Darshan of Government Sanskrit College (Now defunct) was one of the members of the last group of representatives of the fast dwindling list of Sanskrit scholars and a worthy successor of the Buno Ramnath Legacy. He was also the president of Banga Bibudha Janani Sabha, the celebrated scholars’ body and head of Sri Sri Guru KarunaNiketan Ashram, which was situated just opposite to this college and set up by his Gurudeva, Swami Dasananda Maharaj. Born in the year 1914 in Sylhet or Srihatta, now in Bengladesh, Rajendra Chandra received his early education in sylhet and college education at Sylhet Government Sanskrit college. In 1940 he came to Calcutta and in 1945 to Nabadwip, where he spent the rest of his life with an occasional break in Beldanga, Murshidabad where he launched his professional careeras a teacher at ‘ShailabalaChatuspathi’in Maniknagar near Beldanga, Murshidabad. In 1952 he joined government Sanskrit College, Nabadwip as a professor of VaishnavaDarshan and retired from services on August 31st 1972. An exceptionally meritorious student Rajendra Chandra, topped the merit list in almost all the examinations and was awarded gold medals on a number of times. Although he led an ascetic life and was an intensely religious person, he never gave up pursuit of academic activities. It was surprising that a man, having retired from services, started an educational institution the next day. On 1st September, 1972 BharatiChatuspathi embarked upon its glorious journey with only four students . Profound erudition, unbounded love for the students and peerless organisational skill of Sri Tarkatirtha led to the rapid expansion of the institution and he felt the need for a higher educational establishment. Just at that moment Sri AnantashriMaharaj of HrisikeshKailash Ashram and Gurudeva of Dr.Debananda Giri Maharaj came on a pilgrimage to Nabadwip. He proposed to Sri Tarkatirtha to open a branch of Sri Sampurnananda University of Beneras, and in 1994 BharatiChatuspathi turned into a full pledged Sanskrit Mahavidyalaya.
Affiliated to Rastriya Sanskrit Sansthan (A Deemed University), New Delhi, Bharati Chatuspathi Sanskrit Mahavidyalaya is housed in a three storied building in Ampuliapara lane, Nabadwip, near Bharat Sevasram Sangha and Nabadwip Puratatva Parishad, two land mark organisations. The post graduate college is one of the handful of higher educational institutions of the state which are dedicated for Sanskrit studies. The college now has a student strength of about six hundred and fifty who come from a far. A model of communal harmony, the college where students belonging to different communities and social strata pursue higher studies in a peaceful, student friendly and atmosphere under the proper, loving and caring guidance of the teachers and other support staff at present has a staff strength of nine teachers & eight support staff respectively.
Unique features of BCSM::
“Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man”, said Swami Vivekananda. By education Rabindranath Tagore means an exercise which makes ‘a complete human being’ Our scripture say that a teacher removes the darkness of mind of his disciple and opens his eyes to the light of knowledge with the magic wand of education. In ancient India Gurukul system was the foundation of education. The pupils were the members of the extended family of Acharyya or teacher and as the head of the family he had to cater to the needs of their food and lodging in addition to educational expenses. In the heydays of Sanskritic studies in Nabadwip when there were so many Tols or Chatuspathis, the learners stayed with the Acharyya and the latter had to bear their maintenance cost. This system was known as ‘Antebasi’.
Pundit Rajendra Chandra Tarkatirtha establishedBharatiChatuspati in the tradition of ancient Indian educational system and he resolved not only to provide free education to some needy students but also to shoulder the responsibility of their sustenance. Initially he started with six or seven students and his desire was to provide food and lodging as well as education to at least twenty eight students taking four students from each of the Prak-Shastri (two years) Shastri( Three Years) and Acharya (TwoYears) classes. His worthy disciple and the present head of the Sri Sri Guru Karuna Niketan Ashram, Sri Prabuddha Goswami has taken within his fold twenty students and is desirous of adding eight more, to fulfil his departed Gurudev’s dream.
The sacred relation between the teacher and the taught:
Indian scriptures speak of ‘Pancha Pita’ or five fathers of a man and a teacher is regarded one of these five fathers. In Srimad Bhagbathgitha Arjunasayas to lord Krishna, “Shishystehayam shadhi Mam Twam Prapannam i.e, a student should not only pay respect to his teacher but surrender completely to him. On the other hand, ‘Shishyat Ichhet Parajoyam’ i.e. defeat in the hands of a disciple is glorious for the teacher. Such was the lofty ideal of teacher-taught relationship.
“The great hope of society is individual character” Indian educational system lays great stress on the character building of a student. The sage like characters of the teachers exercised great influence on the characters of the learners and their austere life style, astounding erudition, dedication to high ideals of life and devotion to duties served as a role models for the students. The Indian education aimed at infusion of a spirit of piety and righteousness, formation of character, development of personality, inculcation of civil and social sense, promotion of social efficiency and preservation and spread of national character. An epitome of all these virtues Pundit Rajendra Chandra Tarkatirtha wanted the students of this educational institution to imbibe all these qualities.“Nasti Vidya samam Chakshuh, Nasti Satyasamam Tapah” There is no vision (eyes) as powerful as education, no................ as effective as truth, this spiritual sayings was epitomised in his life and dreamed this o be reflected in the lives of the learners.