R. D. Banerji
12 April 1885|
Berhampore, Murshidabad, Bengal, British India
|Died||23 May 1930
Kolkata, Bengal, British India
Rakhaldas Bandyopadhyay (12 April 1885 – 23 May 1930), also known as R. D. Banerji, was an Indian historian and a native Indian pioneer in the fields of Indian archaeology, epigraphy and palaeography. He was the Manindra Chandra Nandy Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture at the Banaras Hindu University from 1928–30. He is mostly known as the discoverer of Mohenjo-daro, the principal site of the Harappa culture.
Early life and background
Bandyopadhyay was born on 12 April 1885 in Berhampore of Murshidabad district to Matilal and Kalimati. He passed his entrance examination from the Krishnath College School in Berhampore in 1900. Soon he married Kanchanmala (1891–1931), the daughter of Narendranath Mukhopadhyay. He passed his F.A. examination in 1903 and graduated from Presidency College, Kolkata with Honours in History in 1907. He obtained his M.A. in History from the Calcutta University in 1910.
Bandyopadhyay joined the Indian museum in Calcutta as an Assistant to the Archaeological Section in 1910. He joined the Archaeological Survey of India as Assistant Superintendent in 1911, and was promoted to the rank of Superintending Archaeologist of the Western Circle in 1917. In 1924, he was transferred to the Eastern Circle and took part in the excavations at Paharpur. He took voluntary retirement in 1926. After teaching at the University of Calcutta, he later joined the Banaras Hindu University in 1928 and held the post till his premature death on 23 May 1930.
Bandyopadhyay's first major independent professional work was in the fields of palaeography and epigraphy. He won the Jubilee Research Prize of the Calcutta University for The Origin of the Bengali Script published in 1919 (and reprinted in 1973). Rakhaldas was the first to study the proto-Bangla script, the original form of Bangla script. He wrote the classic historical works on medieval Indian coins, and the standard works on the iconography of Indian art, in particular Gupta sculpture and architecture. His best known work was Eastern Indian Medieval School of Sculpture, published posthumously in 1933.
Discovery of Mohenjodaro
Bandyopadhyay is most famous for unearthing pre-Buddhist artefacts at the ruins at Mohenjodaro and for noting similarities between the site at Mohenjodaro and Harappa. Those discoveries lead to excavations at the two sites that established the existence of the, then unknown Bronze Age, Indus Valley Civilisation. His interpretations of this civilisation were published in a number of articles and books: "An Indian City Five Thousand Years Ago" (Calcutta Municipal Gazette, November 1928); "Muhen-jodaro" (in Bangla, Basumati, 1331 BS); Prehistoric, Ancient and Hindu India (posthumously published, 1934) and Mahenjodaro – A Forgotten Report (1984).
Bandyopadhyay wrote two textbooks for Calcutta University, namely, History of India (1924) and A Junior History of India (1928). His The Age of the Imperial Guptas (1933) is a collection of lectures delivered by him in 1924. His standard two-volume Bangalar Itihas (History of Bengal) in Bengali (1914 and 1917) was one of the first attempts at writing a scientific history of Bengal. He also wrote two volumes on the history of Orissa, titled History of Orissa from the Earliest Times to the British Period (1930 and 1931).
His other significant non-fiction works include, Prachin Mudra (1915), The Palas of Bengal (1915), The Temple of Siva at Bhumara (1924), The Paleography of Hati Gumpha and Nanaghat Inscriptions (1924), Bas Reliefs of Badami (1928) and The Haihayas of Tripuri and their Monuments (1931).
Except three novels, Pakshantar (1924), Byatikram (1924) and Anukram (1931), rest of his literary works in Bengali language were historical fictions. The setting of his Pashaner Katha (1914) is Kushana period. His three other novels, namely, Dhruba, Karuna (1917) and Shashanka (1914) are set in the different phases of the Gupta period. His Dharmapala (1915) narrates the story of the Pala emperor Dharmapala. Mayukh (1916) describes the Portuguese atrocities in Bengal during the reign of Shahjahan. Asim (1924) narrates the condition of Bengal during the reign of Farrukhsiyar. His last novel, Lutf-Ulla is set in Delhi at the time of the invasion by Nadir Shah. His another fictional work, Hemkana (incomplete) was published in Prabasi magazine from 1911–12. A number of his novels were translated into other Indian languages.
- "Some of our Distinguished Teachers: Rakhaldas Banerji". University of Calcutta. Retrieved 29 July 2013.
- Sengupta, Subodh Chandra (ed.) (1988) Sansad Bangali Charitabhidhan (in Bengali), Kolkata: Sahitya Sansad, p.465
- Humes, Cynthia Ann (2012). "Hindutva, Mythistory, and Pseudoarchaeology". Numen. International Review for the History of Religions 59: 178–201. doi:10.1163/156852712x630770.
- Sen, Sukumar (1999). Bangala Sahityer Itihas, Vol.V, Kolkata: Ananda Publishers, ISBN 81-7215-950-1, pp.210–11
- Bhattacharya, Asok K. (1999). Rakhaldas Bandyopadhyay, Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, ISBN 81-260-0848-2
- Dasgupta, Kalyankumar (ed.) (1990). Shatabarsher Aloy Rakhaldas Bandyopadhyay (in Bengali), Kolkata: Sharat Samiti.
- Bandyopadhyay, Umesh, Abhishapta Rakhaldas, Kansai Shilai (Bengali Journal), April–September issue 2005,Calcutta.