Datta, Akshay Kumar

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Akshay Kumar Datta

Datta, Akshay Kumar (1820-1886) educationist, social reformer and the chief activist of Adi Brahma Samaj. He was born on 15 July 1820 at village Chupi, five miles north of Nabadwip. His father Pitambor Datta was the treasurer of police station at Kunt Ghat, and later became a sub-inspector. His mother was Dayamoyee Devi.

While a student of class seven in the Oriental Seminary of Kolkata, his father died and his formal education came to an end. In the school he could attract the attention of his teacher Hardman Jeffrey, a great philologist with whom he took lessons in the Greek, Latin, Garman, French, and the Hebrew. Hardman Jeffrey taught him physics, geography, geometry, algebra, trigonometry, general science, psychology etc. He learnt Persian and Arabic languages from Amiruddin Munshi.

In 1838 Akshay Kumar came in contact with Ananda Chandra Bose and ishwar chandra gupta. The latter inspired him to write articles for the weekly newspaper Sangbad Prabhakar. While writing for this paper, Akshay Kumar Datta came in contact with Devendranath Thakur. When the Tattvabodhini Sabha was established on 6 October 1839, he became its member on 26 December. In January 1840, he was elected its assistant secretary. By the initiative of Tattvabodhini Sabha, the Tattvabodhini Pathshala was established in Calcutta on 13 June 1840, and he was appointed as one of its teachers. He used to teach geography and physics. As Bangla books on these two subjects were not available at that time he wrote two textbooks Bhugol (1841) and Padarthavidya (1857). His Bhugol is the first science-related book written in Bangla, and through this book Akshay Kumar introduced punctuation marks in the Bangla language. Though written later, Padarthavidya is the first Bangla book on pure science.

In collaboration with Prasanna Kumar Ghosh, Akshay Kumar Datta launched the publication of a monthly journal named Bidyadarshan. The main objective of the journal was to inculcate in the minds of The Babgalis the sprit of conciousness on science and get them science oriented. Later on, some other paper like Babga Darshan, Aryadarshan, Hindu Darshan took their name after the Bidyadarshan.'

On 30 April 1843, the Tattvabodhini pathshala was shifted from Kolkata to the village Bansberia in Hugli district. On that occasion, Akshay Kumar Datta delivered a speech on the importance of establishing such schools.

On 16 August 1843, Tattvabodhini Patrika was launched under the patronization of Debendranath Thakur with Akshay Kumar Datta as editor. This paper was the organ of the Brahma Samaj, and its objective was to discuss the Brahma religion and spiritual knowledge. However, with the initiative of Akshay Kumar Datta the theme of literature, science, philosophy, sociology, archaeology, history, geography got priority.

Although on 21 December 1843 Akshay Kumar Datta along with his twenty friends embraced the Brahma faith and offered allegiance to Ram Chandra Vidyasagar, he remained indifferent on religious matters. On 1 June 1845, his David Hare Memorial Address was published, which was published in the following year. In his speech on that day, he put a special emphasis on developing a national education policy and highlighted the need to introduce education in the mother language. He wanted to change the old textbooks and introduce new syllabus. He proposed to the British government to raise funds from each village to set up Bangla schools and to introduce compulsory, free education. He also proposed to establish agriculture and technical schools in the villages. He put a special emphasis on setting up of a library in each village.

Akshay Kumar Datta along with Rakhaldas Halder, Kanailal Pyne, Ananga Mohan Mitra established the Atmiya Sabha (Society of Friends) in the residence of debendranath thakur. Debendranath Thakur became its president and Akshay Kumar Datta its secretary. The aim of this Atmiya Sabha was to discuss the following issues: social problems, science and knowledge of the East and West, and social reform. He believed that religious services should be in Bangla and not in Sanskrit. This particular idea of Akshay Kumar Datta was materialized in the Brahma Samaj of Rakhaldas Halder and Ananga Mohan Mitra in February 1853. According to him, humans' petitions or prayers do not have any effect on the law of God's universe.

On the problems of the peasantry, he wrote a regular, scathing column titled Palligramastha prajadiger durabostha (misery of the rural folk) in the Tattvabodhini Patrika to protest the oppression by the zamindars and indigo planters. He vehemently criticized the permanent settlement as it sapped the agricultural resources of the country.

Akshay Kumar Datta's Baspio Ratharohidiger Prati Upadesh and Darmonnati Songsadhan Bishoyak Prostab were published in March and April of 1855 respectively. The former was the first book on railway by a Bangali writer and the second book provides a brief history of the development of various religions.'

On 17 July 1855 the Normal School was established in Calcutta for teachers' training. On Ishwar Chandra's request, Akshay Kumar Datta became its head teacher. At this time, he became serious to make the Tattvabodhini Patrika more effective in order to accelerate the activities of his movement for social reform with regard to widow remarriage, prevention of child marriage, curse of polygamy, eradication of drug addiction and developing a scientific mind in national life. However, as Akshay Kumar Datta was indifferent of spiritual matters, Devendranath Thakur was unhappy with him and dismissed him from his editorial post.

The first part of Datta's Bharat-Barshiya Upashok Somproday was published in 1870, and the second part on 23 March 1882. In the first part, he discusses in brief the history of the Aryan languages: original Aryan (Indo-European), Aryan (Indo-Iranian) and Indian Aryan (Vedic and Sanskrit). This was the first discussion on linguistics by an Indian. In his introduction to the second part, he made his observations on the ancient Indian religion (Vedic and mythological), philosophy, economy, politics, literature, social order, political structure, etc. In the two parts of his book Bharat-Barshiya Upashok Sampradai, he provides description of 185 religious communities in India. Akshay Kumar Datta's Prachin Hindudiger Samudrajatra O Banijya Bistar was published posthumously in 1901. This book is actually a history of political economy of ancient India. [Muhammad Saiful Islam]

Bibliography Mahendranath Ray, Sriyukta Babu Akshaykumar Datter Jiban-Brittanta, Kolkata, 1292; Brajendranath Bandhyopadhyay, Akshaykumar Datta, Bangiya Sahitya Parisat, Kolkata, 1388; AK Vattacharya, Akshaykumar Datta O Unish Shataker Banglai Dharmo O Samajchinta, Kolkata, 2007; MS Islam, Akshaykumar Datta O Unish Shataker Bangla, Bangladesh Asiatic Society, Dhaka, 2009.