Dev, Govinda Chandra

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Govinda Chandra Dev

Dev, Govinda Chandra (1907-1971) philosopher and educationist. Govinda Chandra Dev Purakayastha was born on 1 February 1907 in the village of Lauta in Biyani Bazar, sylhet. The family tradition goes that Dev's ancestors were high caste Brahmins who had fled the political, economic, social and religious turmoil in their native Gujrat and settled down in Sylhet in the 5th century. Following the family tradition, they engaged themselves in the study of the vedas, the vedanta and the upanisads.

Dev obtained his BA (Hons) in Philosophy from Sanskrit College, Kolkata in 1929 and an MA in philosophy from Calcutta University in 1931. He took up teaching and also worked on a doctoral thesis on “Reason, Intuition and Reality,” which earned him a PhD in philosophy from Calcutta University in 1944. He taught for some time at Surendranath College at dinajpur and in 1953 joined the Philosophy Department of the university of dhaka.

Inspired by Socrates, Dev accorded equal importance to the fundamental questions of philosophy on the one hand, and on the other to society, life, literature, arts, culture, economy and religion. He was a secular and humanistic philosopher who looked at all religions from a broad and universal perspective.

He strongly criticised fanaticism and extreme materialism, believing that both were one-sided and unable to further the cause of human welfare and progress. In his view only a synthesis of the two could lead to human freedom. He believed that a worthwhile philosophy of life would transform materialism into spiritualism and spiritualism into materialism. All his books advocate this philosophy, which is a synthesis of the philosophies of Hinduism, buddhism, Christianity and Islam. He was influenced by the Vedas, the Vedanta and the Upanishads, by the philosophy of ramakrishna Paramhansa, by Swami vivekananda';s modern concept of hinduism, by Lord Buddha's concept of love and humanism, by islam';s message of equality and goodwill and by christianity's message of love.

Govinda Chandra Dev successfully introduced the idea of a synthetic philosophy in this subcontinent. What distinguishes his philosophy from others is his idea of progress. Instead of confining himself to discoursing on the fundamentals of philosophy, he emphasised its practical application. It was his conviction that philosophical thoughts, even if conceptually perfect, might not contribute to human welfare. This is why his philosophy was a synthesis of fundamentals and application.

Apart from publishing over a hundred articles in English and Bangla in national and international journals, Dev published nine books, among them Idealism and Progress (1952), Idealism: A New Defence and A New Application (1958), Amar Jibandarshan (1960), Aspiration of the Common Man (1963), The Philosophy of Vivekananda and the Future of Man (1963), Tattvavidyasar (1966), and Buddha: the Humanist (1969). Two other books- Parables of the East (1984) and My American Experience (1993)- were published posthumously.

Dev was awarded the honorary title of 'Darshan Sagar'; by the East Pakistan Saraswat Samaj in 1967 for his contribution to philosophy. The same year, 'The Govinda Dev Foundation for World Brotherhood'; was established in USA for propagating his humanistic philosophy. In 1980, the dev centre for philosophical studies was instituted in the Philosophy Department of Dhaka University. In 1986 the Bangladesh government awarded him the Ekushe Padak posthumously.

Dev donated all his property and money to Dhaka University to further the cause of human welfare, to establish truth, justice, and human liberty, to realise the hopes and aspirations of the common man and to propagate his philosophy of secularism and humanism. He was imprisoned during the 1965 Indo-Pak war. He was brutally killed in the army crackdown on 26 March 1971. His mortal remains lie buried in the mass grave at Jagannath Hall. [Pradip Kumar Roy]