Chanda, Ramaprasad

Chanda, Ramaprasad (1873-1942) founder secretary of the varendra research society at Rajshahi and an author of repute. He made substantial contributions to various disciplines of human knowledge such as ancient history, archaeology, anthropology, literature and philosophy. He produced a number of invaluable research works and enrich the genres he had studied so assiduously. He had proficiency in English, Pali and Sanskrit, as well as his mother tongue, Bangla.

He was born on 15 August 1873 at Sreedharkhola in Vikrampur Pargana under Munshiganj district. Son of Kaliprasad Chanda, Ramaprasad passed the Entrance Exam in 1891 from Dhaka Collegiate School, FA in 1893 from Dhaka College, and BA in 1896 from Duff College (now Scottish Church College), an institution affiliated to Calcutta University. After graduation he remained unemployed for about five years, during which period he studied regularly in the Imperial Library (now National Library) and started writing. A few of his articles on ancient history were eventually published. As a result, he was able to attract the attention of a British professor of the presidency college and through his good offices got the job of a teacher in the Hindu School of Calcutta.

Rasamoy Maitra Roy Bahadur, the headmaster of that school, inspired RP Chanda to continue his pursuit of knowledge. The publication of Sir H Risley's 'Census Report of 1901' excited Chanda so much that he vehemently refuted Risley's views as arbitrary, politically biased, and based on inadequate data. Two of his valuable papers were published in East and West and admired by contemporary scholars. Subsequently, these papers were published under the title of Indo Aryan Races, considered an invaluable work by anthropologists.

RP Chanda was transferred to Rajshahi Collegiate School in 1905. There he came to be acquainted with Kumar saratkumar ray and akshay kumar maitreya, two reputed scholars of the age. In 1908 RP Chanda's article on 'The Origin of the Bengal People', presented in the Bengal Literary Conference at the palace of Raja Manindra Chandra Nandi was highly applauded by scholars and he was requested to carry on his research in this area. He was also requested to present an article on the artifacts of ancient Varendra in a forthcoming conference. People became aware of the huge treasure of artifacts hidden in the varendra region on which he presented an article in a meeting held in 1910 at Bhagalpur in Bihar.

Immediately after their return from Bhagalpur, Roy SK Roy, AK Maitreya, and RP Chanda decided to establish a Society and made an exploratory tour to collect archaeological materials from areas adjacent to Rajshahi town. Ram Kamal Sinha and rakhaldas bandyopadhyay joined them from Calcutta and together they collected about 32 rare items during the tour. Rakhaldas wanted to take the findings to the Calcutta Museum and Ram Kamal desired to take them to the Bengal Literary Association. But RP Chanda vehemently opposed their proposal and Kumar SK Ray supported him. As a result the Varendra Research Society was established in September of the same year at Rajshahi with Kumar SK Ray as its president, AK Maitreya as its director and RP Chanda as its secretary.

After the establishment of the Varendra Research Society, RP Chanda had to shoulder the great responsibility of performing all secretarial jobs, collecting archaeological materials, and registering and preserving them. He classified the total collection into three groups: ancient archaeological findings, ancient sculptural findings, and ancient knowledge and religion-based findings, showing in the process his skill and wisdom. He had to even contribute a sum of money regularly to keep the project at loaf in addition to the work he put into it. Later on, he inspired and assisted Roy SK Ray to construct the museum building at AK Maitreya's bidding.

With the publication of Gauda Rajmala (1912) and Indo Aryan Races (1916) by the Varendra Research Society, the fame of Chanda';s scholarship spread far and wide. Director General of Archaeology, Calcutta, invited him to join the institution as a researcher. He worked here for two years (1917-19), having taken leave from Rajshahi Collegiate School. He visited the archaeological sites of Taxila, Mathura, Sarnath etc and acquired the experience necessary for archaeological excavation and exploration. He made a complete catalogue of the materials preserved at the Sanchi Museum in Madhya Pradesh and won the admiration of contemporary scholars.

After the completion of his service in the Archaeology Department, he returned to Rajshahi Collegiate School and resumed his work at the Varendra Research Society. But because of deteriorating health he soon resigned his post in the school and went to Calcutta. After a few months, RP Chanda joined the Department of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Calcutta University, as a lecturer.

Soon after he joined this position, the Department of Archaeology was opened at the Calcutta University and he was appointed the Head of the Department. He served there for two years (1919-21) and at the request of John Marshal joined the Calcutta Museum as Curator of the Department of Archaeology on 23 March 1921. There he rearranged the display rooms, enhanced the collection, and classified the museum materials following the modern system of classification based on age and period. He also wrote a number of books and articles during these years. In recognition of his intellectual contribution, he was conferred the title of 'Roy Bahadur' by the Government in 1924. He retired from service in 1932.

RP Chanda contributed a lot to the asiatic society and Bengal Literary Association, discharging the responsibility of an executive member in these organisations. After his retirement, he went to England in 1934 to attend the world conference on anthropology as the representative of India and to deliver a lecture on Indo-Aryan races. RL Hobson, Principal of the Eastern Department of the British Museum, requested him to write a book on the Indian Collection of the museum. RP Chanda complied with the request. The book that resulted came out with an introduction by RL Hobson in 1936. The book spread the fame of his scholarship at home and abroad. He died in May 1942. [Saifuddin Chowdhury]