Acharya Jadunath Sarkar as a Rishi of Indian History: His Asceticism and Indifference to Fame

In the concluding episode of this series, G.S. Sardesai gives us a vivid, moving, and stirring portrait of Acharya Jadunath Sarkar as a man, his routine, habits, his sense of duty, his unflinching patriotism, and his ascetic devotion to the sacred pursuit of Indian History.
Acharya Jadunath Sarkar as a Rishi of Indian History: His Asceticism and Indifference to Fame

Read the Earlier Parts of this Series

Acharya Jadunath Sarkar as a Rishi of Indian History: His Asceticism and Indifference to Fame
Jadunath Sarkar as I Know Him: A Heartfelt Portrait of the Great Acharya by his Close Friend, G.S. Sardesai
Acharya Jadunath Sarkar as a Rishi of Indian History: His Asceticism and Indifference to Fame
Journeys with Knowledge: G.S. Sardesai's Notes from Travels with Jadunath Sarkar
Acharya Jadunath Sarkar as a Rishi of Indian History: His Asceticism and Indifference to Fame
Jadunath Sarkar's Attachment to Sanskrit Literature and his Encyclopaedic Memory
Acharya Jadunath Sarkar as a Rishi of Indian History: His Asceticism and Indifference to Fame
Jadunath Sarkar as an Exemplary Student and how he Won the Daunting Premchand Roychand Scholarship
Acharya Jadunath Sarkar as a Rishi of Indian History: His Asceticism and Indifference to Fame
Nine Years of Penance: How Jadunath Sarkar Wrote "India of Aurangzib"
Acharya Jadunath Sarkar as a Rishi of Indian History: His Asceticism and Indifference to Fame
Jadunath Sarkar as a World-Class Scholar and Original Historian

Jadunath Sarkar as a Man

JADUNATH HAS NEVER CARED for popularity with the masses of his countrymen either as a historian or a social being. He is a born aristocrat in his unostentatious pride and stern sense of duty and patriotism. Possibly one cannot call him an amiable personality for common purposes. He is by nature unusually reserved and taciturn, inclined rather to avoid tactfully than to avidly seek any limelight. He has been and aspires to remain always a student as well as a teacher.

Punctual in all his engagements, regular in correspondence, methodical in habits, strict in exacting work from himself as from others, alert in garnering every bit of fresh information on any topic he has on hand, Jadunath is all that a genuine student and gentleman should be.

My long and intimate association with him enables me to know his worth as a man and scholar as hardly anyone else probably does. Usually reticent by nature, uncommunicative and unobtrusive, it is very difficult at first to know his mind or fathom his views. Not being outspoken, he has this advantage that one cannot easily impose upon him. He will not lightly trust a stranger, until he personally tests the sincerity of purpose and his genuine desire to learn. He hates nepotism and partiality in the public administration. His sense of duty as a citizen sometimes diverts his powerful pen to outspoken criticism of officials and workers. He is a fearless critic and, on that account, he had to suffer much in worldly advancement under the British regime, and now in popularity with the public.

While it is difficult to dislodge him from a position or view that he has formed, he is equally ready to admit his mistake when sufficient evidence is placed before him. Indeed, one of his peculiarities is that he is always decisive and never halting or hesitating. As a rule, he always carries his point in open discussion. He is sharp and assertive in what he says and writes and is certainly a living encyclopaedia on the subject of history.

In monetary matters he is liberal and charitable to those in need and those who deserve, but otherwise he is strict and economical in his expenditure. He has never hankered after money. He spends lavishly on books and travels and the needs of a large family. He has spent much in taking copies of rare manuscripts by hand or photography from England and other countries, for which he had to pay heavy charges as micro—filming was unknown in those early days. I noticed clerks in his house at Patna employed in copying Persian works of which he now possesses a rare collection.

Acharya Jadunath Sarkar as a Rishi of Indian History: His Asceticism and Indifference to Fame
Anecdotes from the Acharya: The Sprawling Gurukulam of Jadunath Sarkar Home

His own personal needs are quite few. He can sleep on the floor and take rest wherever he needs it. I have observed him working with a kerosene lamp during the long hours of the night and soundly asleep in the late morning hours. He has often worked days and nights without remission when work imposes on him a stress of that kind.

I know that the period of his Vice-Chancellorship of two years was to him a time of abnormal strain and anxiety. He hates aimless or idle, talks. In such cases his remark, a short word or sentence, conveys a meaning. He does not smoke or drink and lives a life of puritan simplicity. He has the gift of commanding sleep or rest at any time that may be convenient. On getting up in the morning he usually takes a light stroll in the open air, as if musing within himself or gathering the scattered threads of a subject which is the uppermost in his mind.

He hates show in dress and goes to functions in a simple unostentatious style; but he never fails to impress the gathering by his tall stature, dark penetrating eyes, the determined grip of his lips and his grave serene countenance.

Acharya Jadunath Sarkar as a Rishi of Indian History: His Asceticism and Indifference to Fame
The Vow of Aparigraha of Vedacharya Sri Sheshanna Shrauti

He would never leave to others what he can do himself. When he is my guest in the dearth of servants, he has always done his own washing himself and even cleaned the cup and saucer that he has used. To my objection he used to reply by quoting Socrates, “He who has the fewest wants is most like the gods.” He never requires the services of a stenographer or a typist. His own drafts are always better than printed matter, accurate to a comma.

I have experienced occasions in his company when he has not spared to criticise anything he disapproved in my acts but more often, I have received at his hands such tender care and brotherly affection as I thought I never deserved. Bhavabhuti in a beautiful little verse has described the hearts of uncommon personalities as harder than adamant and yet softer than flowers:

वज्रादपि कठोराणि मृदूनि कुसुमादपि |
लोकोत्तराणां चेतांसि को हि विज्ञातुमर्हति ||

I have no hesitation in saying that this description of Bhavabhuti aptly depicts Jadunath’s character and life. If I may give another illustration, I would like to compare him to a raw unpeeled fruit of the coconut tree, the exterior of which is hard and uncouth, but once you reach the inside, you will be rewarded with the sweetest juice and kernel the like of which you would not find in any other fruit.

Epilogue

G.S. Sardesai was arguably the closest friend Jadunath Sarkar ever had. It was a lifelong friendship watered by the perennial Ganga of a shared love for scholarship in history. But clearly, Jadunath Sarkar was the greater stalwart, a truth that Sardesai has joyfully admitted in his profile of the giant, which we have seen throughout this series. Clearly, Sardesai’s profile of Sarkar is an outcome of abiding affection and is tinged with the rainbow colours of the selfsame brotherly love that he mentions.

Acharya Jadunath Sarkar as a Rishi of Indian History: His Asceticism and Indifference to Fame
DVG as the Cultural Chronicler of Bharatavarsha in Two Anecdotes

In fact, this quality of writing commemorative articles and tributes on great personalities was the mien of that Renaissance era. Miserliness, pettiness and grudging admiration towards genuine achievers was absent in all such writings because these defects were absent in the character of the writers.

Indeed, that was the last of the era of colossuses. The Nehruvian era of darkness birthed and bred an army of dwarfs who by the strength of sheer numbers, overpowered these leviathans and simultaneously ushered in a period where no giant could be born. Today, we live with and in that accursed era.

Concluded

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