Maitreya, Akshay Kumar

Maitreya, Akshay Kumar (1861-1930) lawyer, social worker, historian. Akshay Kumar Maitreya contributed to different disciplines of human knowledge, especially history, literature, language, culture, art and the archaeology of Bengal. His sagacity probably influenced Kumar saratkumar ray to establish the varendra research society and the varendra research museum.

Akshay Kumar Maitreya

Born on 01 March 1861 at Simulia under Nawapara Police Station of Nadiah district in a Varendra Brahman family of Gournai in Naogaon district, AK Maitreya started his education at Kumarkhali under the exemplary Harinath Majumdar, better known as 'Kangal Harinath' for his teaching. At the age of 10 he came to his father Mathura Mohan who was practising at Rajshahi. He passed the Entrance in 1878 from Boalia English School (now Rajshahi Collegiate School), FA in 1880 from Rajshahi College, and BA in 1883 from Presidency College, and BL in 1885 from Rajshahi College. He joined the Rajshahi bar in the same year.

AK Maitreya’s interest in his profession was no more than skin deep. His passion was history and research and he dedicated his whole life to them. When as a student of First Arts class he had studied Macaulay’s Clive and Hastings, he found it an utter subversion of the truth. He decided to produce a series of short historical sketches or monographs with a view to awakening the interest of his countrymen in their own history and culture. Hence he collected source materials, both literary and archaeological, for a long period. He acquired profound and authoritative knowledge of ancient and medieval history, and of the art and iconography of Bengal.

Maitreya produced the series of historical monographs under the title of Aitihasik Chitra (1899) and introduced sirajuddaula and mir qasim, rani bhabani, Sitaram, Firingi Banik, and a host of other historical figures to readers in Bengal. Simultaneously, he produced and published numerous dissertations on the political and cultural history of Bengal, on places of historical importance, and on art and iconography. In Gaudalekhamala, published in 1912, he edited a few Pala copperplates and inscriptions, and provided their Bangla translation. This opened up new avenues of historical research in Bangla.

In his quest for the correct history of our country, AK Maitreya felt the necessity of documentary evidence and research. He ignored health hazards while he was engaged in archaeological exploratory tours in the Varendra region. He collected ancient archaeological artifacts, age-old stories and folk sayings. He plunged into books related to the artifacts that he had explored.

During the first decade of the twentieth century Sarat Kumar Ray of the Dighapatiya Raj family, Akshay Kumar Maitreya, and a school teacher named ramaprasad chanda, came together for their common interest in research and antiquarian studies. They established the Varendra Research Society for the promotion of higher studies and research in the glorious past of Bengal in general, and of Varendri in particular. They also established the Rajshahi Museum in April 1910 (now the Varendra Research Museum) in order to preserve and display archaeological findings which were explored during their first successful tour to the adjoining areas of Rajshahi. The Society was the parent institution of the Museum. Hence the role of the Society in regard to the Museum was that of proprietor and caretaker.

The Museum was under the council of management of the Varendra Research Society of which SK Ray was President, AK Maitreya Director, and RP Chanda Secretary. AK Maitreya was the life and soul of both the institutions. As Director of the Society he guided its academic activities for thirty years, organised and participated in exploratory tours, and collected numerous archaeological materials.

AK Maitreya expedited the material and cultural advancement of the Rajshahi town when he served as a commissioner of Rajshahi Municipality. He contributed significantly to the Diamond Jubilee Industrial School at its initial stage. He even taught sericulture as honourary instructor of the school. He was associated with the production of a number of Sanskrit plays. A good cricketer and painter, AK Maitreya breathed his last on 10 February 1930, leaving glorious deeds in plenty to make the Bengalis remember him for ages. [Saifuddin Chowdhury]