India has pioneered the human quest for knowledge since aeons. Its soil has given birth to such great intellectuals as “Maharshi Vyasa” who reorganized the Vedas and composed the timeless epic of “Mahabharata” and the eighteen Puranas, a treasure of our cultural heritage, “Maharshi Patanjali” who gave the world a unique system of “Yoga” by composing “Patanjala Yogasutra”, “Maharshi Panini” who reorganized the Sanskrit grammar by composing “Ashtadhyayi” and last but not the least “Maya” who gave the world the sciences of “Architecture” and “Astronomy” by composing “Mayamata” and “Suryasiddhanta” respectively, which were probably the first ever expositions of these subjects. Incredible as it may be, in the first quarter of the last century, was born a legend in this league only.
“Pt. Raja Ram Shastri” was a versatile genius with a number of great achievements to his credit including the most outstanding research work on Sanskrit grammar which outdid “Maharshi Panini.” He was a curator of folk art, writer, linguist, astrologer, anthropologist and a supreme researcher of Indian traditions all combined into one.
Born on 27th Dec., 1918 in Tohana Distt., Haryana in an orthodox Brahmin family, he grew to be a research scholar of no mean stature. His parents died in his infancy and was brought up by his grandparents. He showed signs of an extraordinary intellect early on in life. Without ever devoting much time to studies, he stood fourth in the state of Punjab in his matriculation exams. Then he went ahead to complete his Shastri in half of the required time.
After completing his education, he became inclined towards the field of literature and in the course of time made an outstanding contribution with his works. During his tenure as a dramatist in “All India Radio” from 1947 to 1957, he composed more than 300 one-act plays which were broadcast on AIR. “Dr. Hazari Prasad Dwivedi” has also acknowledged the contribution of Shri Shastriji in composing his Granthavali in the first volume. But a proper acknowledgement has not been made. While “Dr. Dwivedi” was writing his Granthavali he considered using some authentic material in which Shri Shastriji helped him by completing the termite-eaten portions of some original handwritten manuscripts on the classical principles of literature. This work alone speaks volumes of his scholarship.
Among his numerous literary works, seven collections of one-act plays in Hindi were also published including “Sat Ladi Ka Har”, “Uljhan”, Damrunath” and “Devhuti.” He authored many novels like “Jhumman”, “Uljhe Tar” etc. in Hindi together with the first ever novel in Haryanvi language, “Jhadu Phiri” which was later included in the postgraduate syllabus of Kurukshetra University in the year 2002.
Other of his writings include at least ten books on astrology and various research works including “Agroha” which deals with the history of Agrawal community of India.
Haryana and Haryanvi language were of special interest to him. His contribution in the political, cultural, social and linguistic arenas of Haryana is unparalleled. The cause of Haryana remained closely associated with him throughout his life. Under this association, he went on to establish “Haryana Lok Manch” in the year 1963 which has been a pioneering institution in its work on preserving, developing and researching the different aspects of Haryanvi culture and folk art. The motto of “Haryana Lok Manch” is “Deshosti Hariyanakhyah Prithivyam Swargasannibhah” meaning “Equal to heaven there is a place on earth known as Haryana.”
Shastriji collected treasures of folk art on tape while wandering throughout the rural Haryana. He later composed “Panipat Ki Teesri Ladaai” and published it in 1972 which deals with the history of the Third Battle of Panipat. The work was originally composed by “Nigahi” in 1761 A.D. as an eyewitness account of the battle as he himself mentions in this folk epic of Haryanvi language. This has been proclaimed as a unique work in the world of literature. It is a “Haryanvi Giti Kavya” (Haryanvi Epic Poem) and the whole work is an example of “Aprastut Prashansa Alankar” which sets it apart from all other works. For his outstanding services in the field of Haryana’s art, culture and language he was awarded the first “Lakhmichand Puraskar” in the year 1972.
Despite having many opportunities to go abroad and work there he refused and chose to remain in India and work for the cause of Indian culture and especially that of Haryana. Money was no attraction to him and was rather a detraction. He was a master in criticism and radicalist by nature. Perhaps that is why he did not follow the beaten track of things in whichever field he entered. With his extraordinary research and collection of rare works in Haryanvi language, he went on to prove that Haryanvi is not an “Upbhasha”(semi-language) of Hindi or a “boli”(accent) as is usually understood, but a well-developed language in itself with its history of written literature going back to the 8th century A.D.
Original handwritten manuscripts on both palm leaves and paper formed a part of his lifetime collection, which was rarest of the rare. These include works on astrology, history, religion, yoga, Ayurveda and a host of other subjects. He not only studied and researched on them but also made necessary corrections wherever required. One of the priceless gems in his collection is a work by sindhi poet “Kazi Kadan” which contains 216 padas(stanzas) composed by him. So far, only seven padas (stanzas) of Kazi Kadan were available which were termed as “seven pearls of Sindhi literature.”
Linguistics was the field to which he added a completely new dimension by outdoing the legendary “Ashtadhyayi” of “Maharshi Panini.” This became the work of his crowning success in the field of research. He developed 54 phonetical differentiations of “a”, the first letter of Hindi alphabet, as against the 18 originally enunciated by “Maharshi Panini.” Now, “a” could be spoken and written with the help of special signs developed by him in 54 different ways. Unfortunately, the special pronunciation that he had developed was lost after his death. This was partly due to indifference of intelligentsia and lack of adequate publicity in his lifetime. The “magnum opus” of Shri Raja Ram Shastri still lies unpublished in two volumes under the title of “Hindi Varnmala Ka Pratham Akshar “a” Evam Anya Varna”. This work of his was given the stamp of approval by eminent scholars after prolonged debates and discussions at the “Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth” (Deemed University) in Delhi. This work was also referred to the “Nobel Prize Committee” in the year 1992.
In his later years, he was working on a still advanced concept of his own that these 54 kinds of “a” can further be expanded into 378 if each of the 54 different “a” can be combined with the “Saptasuras”(the seven musical notes). His linguistic genius opened up such an unusual field of research that few could have dreamt of.
On the 6th of Nov., 2002, the Sun of Sanskrit Grammar set with the death of Shri Shastriji at the ripe age of 84. He left behind a legacy of intellectual achievement, erudition and the quality which is born once in ages. His life will remain a source of inspiration for ages to come.