A forgotten scholar of world repute

Dr S.P. Shrivatas
There are a few litterateurs in the world who devote themselves towards the development of literature in letter and spirit. Dr. Siddheshwar Verma was one of them who was an internationally known linguist and phonetician. By dint of his devotion towards study he had acquired a fair knowledge of many major languages when he had just touched 37th year of his life. These languages are Sanskrit, English, French, German, Greek, Latin, Arabic, Hindi, Urdu and when he reached 70th year of his age he had mastered over 30 languages including Tamil, one of the most difficult languages, amongst the world, languages. With the result he had been acknowledged by the both Indian as well as European scholars. But if is really very sad that such a great son of our country had expired in Delhi almost unsung and unwept on 17 August, 1985. Even in Jammu, where, he had served as a Professor of Sanskrit for a pretty long time, he wasmourned in a very small gathering of his admirers and disciples though he had dozens of them in this city of temples and at the time of his first death anniversary only a few scholars had gathered in a small room and paid tribute to him and passed a resolution demanding a Siddheshwar Verma chair of Professorship in Jammu University and to raise a memorial after his name. But alas! After 1987 it was felt as if the name of Dr. Siddheshwar Verma was just a myth. Linguistic Society of India, Jammu, Club, however, held a seminar on 12th December 1991 which was presided over by Dr. Ved Ghai and Prof. M.L. Lakhanpal, the then Vice-Chancellor of Jammu University. Thus after a silence of four years he was again remembered by his admirers in Jammu. But it may be pointed out that great men never die and thus always remain immortal on the pages of history. It is true that Dr. Siddheshwar Verma was not so popular amongst general masses but he was highly acclaimed by the scholarly world e especially across boundaries of the seas and nations including Pakistan.
Born in Rawalpindi on 3rd November 1887 to a well known Khatri family and named as Pindidas, he was brought up in a very serene and pious atmosphere as his mother Smt. Jamana Devi and father Ram Dass Nanda had made a very religious couple. Ram Dass Nanda’s ancestors had migrated from Totral, a small village near “Katas Raj” the only prominent and popular Hindu pilgrimage in Pakistan.
A contractor by profession Ram Das Nanda was very hard worker. Also contrary to the characteristics of his profession he was sincere and conscientious. With the result his son Pindidas who was highly influenced by his parents had imbibed all good qualities from them which later on contributed to shape his great personality to a great extent.
Actually, a healthy family back-ground and good tradition spay tremendously to shape a rare personality.
His father being a P.W.D. contractor was supposed to move from one place to another alongwith his family, with the result his son, Pindidas had to be admitted in different schools for his early education. He, therefore, studied in Rawalpindi, Kamalpur, Gujarat (Punjab), Jhelum, Gujaranwala, Miyanwali (now all in Pakistan). It is said that his paternal uncle Mr. Thakurdas was not in favour of his higher education as he wanted him to be a great-businessman or reputed contractor. *But the boy, Pindidas had been bestowed with altogether different nature. So he did not agree with his uncle’s proposal and carried on his studies uninterruptedly. He, therefore, studied upto B.A., in Godan College, Rawalpindi and passed M.A. in History from the Forman College, Lahore in 1911 (affiliated to Punjab University, Lahore).
Incidentally, during those days he came into the contact with Dr. Keshava Deva Shastri in 1906, whose dynamic personality and scholarship not only made an ever lasting impact on his career but also brought a commendable change in his outlook. With the result the boy, Pindidas inclined towards Sanskrit study and within a short span of period he acquired a working knowledge of this great language. Obviously, the company of Dr. Shastri proved to be blessing in disguise to Pindidas.
After doing MA (History) though he held several administrative posts by and by, none could give mental solace to him as he was very much eager to acquire deep knowledge. After M.A. first of all he joined as a private secretary to Raja Sir Nahar Singh and side by side he was also asked to work as a private tutor to Prince Satrunjaya Singh who later on had become Raja of Bijwa (Oudh). But since he wanted to study Sanskrit he left Maharaja’s job and joined as a teacher in Hindu High School at Gujranwala whereafter sometime he was promoted as a headmaster in 1915. But that administrative job too did not suite his nature in any way, rather that proved a great hinderance in his scholarly, pursuits. So ultimately he had to leave that job also. But luckily soon after that he joined as lecturer in Sanskrit in Prince of Wales College (now Gandhi Memorial Science College) Jammu and he continued there till his retirement in Nov.1943, barring a period of about three years when he was sent abroad in connection with his research leading to D. L. degree.
During his stay in Jammu he apart from his literary pursuits developed interest in the comparative study of all the branches of the Indian philosophy vis-a-vis western philosophy and culture. He worked day and night for four consecutive years and thus acquired very good command over philosophic knowledge. This study actually proved blessing in disguise for him, as then authorities of education department knew regarding the same he was asked to deliver special lectures on religious instructions on secular lines, and soon after that he was appointed as Secretary for India of the International Moral Education Congress in 1923.
Apart from his tremendous achievement in the field of philosophy, religion and culture he showed keen interest to learn the major languages of the world such as French, Greek, Latin, Russian, Slavonic, German, Arabic and Persian etc. and also some Indian languages like Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi and also Tamil (at the age of 70). Actually, it was the result of this keen interest of learning languages of Dr. Verma that he was awarded a language scholarship by Government of lndia for higher studies in Europe.
Sincere by heart and sweet-spoken as he was, he never lost his temper and thus was affectionate towards all. He was punctual in true sense of term. When he used to go to Prince of Wales College (now G.G.M. Science College) people used to correct the time of their watches. He was very systematic, precise and consistant with regard to his daily routine. During summer vacation he used to spend most of his time either in collecting data’ of the above mentioned groups of dialects or staying at Kud to consolidate them. Actually, whole credit goes to his wife who used to attend him like his shadow.
No doubt due to his scholarship of the world repute he was an institute himself. He was also an instrument for the foundation of the several literary societies like-(1) Linguistic Society of India alongwith Dr. Suniti Kumar Chatterjee and Dr. A.C. Woolner with its first headquarter in Lahore, which was later on shifted, to Calcutta and then to Poona where it is still functioning, (2) Association of thinkers, (3) Shabda Brahma Parishad, and (4) Samab hava MandaI. When Dogri Research Institute, Jammu was founded in 1962, Dr. Verma was requested to be its one of the patrons which he continued till last moment of his life. When there was a question for the recognition of Dogri language by ” Sahitya Akademi it was Dr. Verma who pleaded the case of this language and ultimately the Chairman Dr. Suniti Kumar Chatterjee was convinced to grant recognition to this language, in 1969.
In recognition of his, devotion towards linguistic study and love for all the great languages of the world and their literature he was awarded ‘Padma Bhushana’ by the Government of India in 1957. He was also awarded the President’s Certificate of honour for his contribution in the field of Indology in 1967. In the same year the Punjabi University, Patiala had conferred the D. Lit. (H.C.) upon him and also so by the University of Jammu in April 1982. The Jammu and Kashmir Government had felicitated him with ‘Robe of Honour’ Acharya Vishwa Bandhu of V.V.R. Institute had edited a felicitation volume namely ‘Siddha Bharati’ in two volumes in 1950 and presented to him in a function organised in his honour. We are very thankful to Dr. Verma that he had refuted Dr. Grierson that Dogri being a tonal language like Punjabi may be considered as one of the dialects of the later. On the contrary he had established that Dogri was an independent language and was a ruin of a greatlanguage which was ever spoke n in the area stretched from Himalaya to Ambala Cantt. Though at present Dr. Verma is no more with us, yet his great deeds are with us to guide us for furthering the cause of the languages and literature. Let the people forget him but the niche of him to be carved on the pages of history can never be removed.
On his death Mr. Kalim Akhtar had rightly recorded in Pakistan Times, Lahore sometime in October 1985-“He is no more in this world, but I still visualise him walking quietly on the Residency Road, Jammu, steeped deeply in his thoughts. So weep no more on his death, for his achievements will be remembered a long time to come. He was indeed a great ‘Darwesh’ who always worked for the upliftment of humanity in general.”
It was my good luck that he had given me so much time as he was very much generous towards Jammuites. That meeting was fixed one month earlier through a correspondence otherwise without prior appointment it was very difficult rather impossible to meet him as he was very much punctual. He used to schedule his daily routine from minute to minute. It is really, sad that people of Jammu have forgotten Dr. Verma. After all he had remained and worked here for 30 long years. Something should have been done to keep on his memory.