Sunday, 21 February 2016

Judge William Jones' passion for India and Sanskrit.

Among the scholarly British intellectuals in early pre-independence day, no body took so much interest in India and Indian languages as Judge  Sir Williams Jones (born Sept. 28, 1746, London—died April 27, 1794, Calcutta),did.  He was born in London, the son of William and Mary Nix Jones. His father was a mathematician who was a friend of Sir Isaac Newton. To him India was an obsession for a long  time. Being a voracious reader, before embarking on a long journey to India to take up the covetous job of judgeship in Fort Williams, Calcutta (Kolkata), he read as many books as he could about India, its culture, people, etc.
Sir William Jones .www.walesonline.co.uk
No  doubt, a posting in India was ,indeed, a blessing in disguise, a dream come true for him and  he  already made up his mind  mentally to use this rare opportunity  to  learn about India. Of Welsh parentage, he did his schooling at  Harrow  and later  University College, Oxford (1764–68), After completing a degree in law he was called to bar in 1774. In his spare time, it is quite amazing, he developed skills in 28 languages, mostly self-taught, including Arabic, Persian and Chinese. In recognition of his special skills in many languages, he was knighted before his trip to India.


 By profession he was a lawyer, a sitting judge, but in his heart he is an Orientalist. He wanted to learn more about India' ancient language Sanskrit and his peer was one  Sir Charles Wilkins, a scholar in Sanskrit. It was in India he discovered the greatness of Sanskrit and he was  mainly instrumental in introducing to the world the greatness and uniqueness of Sanskrit and its connections with western languages. Sanskrit  was widely spoken  in Northern India in ancient times.

His five month long  sea journey to India along with his beloved wife Anna Maria Shipley aboard the frigate that had a weird name  "crocodile" in 1783 was an important event in his life - a deep seated desire to fulfill his passion and his natural involvement with India - a strange mystical subcontinent with a glorious past, people speaking different languages, using different dialers and, of course,  thick wooded forests that have strange wild animals. Upon his arrival at Chandpal ghat - 25 September 1783 on the Hoogly river, Jones and his wife were given warm welcome with a 21 gun salute. He  and his wife  took the barge along with the Governor General and got off at Esplanade where he was greeted by a large gathering.

As a judge he felt a knowledge of Hindi/Urdu is a must and along with it Sanskrit (a liturgical language of Hinduism and Buddhism primarily) as well.  A good perception of related languages would help him understand the Hindu and Mohamadan laws, he thought. An important contribution he made was the founding of "Asiatik" society in 1784 along with Thomas Colbrooke and Nathaniel Halhed, British officers with similar interest. The Sanskrit Language, published in 1786, he observed  had a strong resemblance to Greek and Latin, which led him to suggest that the three languages not only had a common root but they were related to the Gothic, Celtic, and Persian languages and to confirm his conclusion he gave numerous examples and cases. The work had a large impact on the European linguists and may be comparable to those of  Charles Darwin an Galileo of Galilee. He published innumerable literary woks of value in Sanskrit and he made prolific contributions on various topics related to Indian languages through Asiatik Society.

He died in Calcutta on 27 April 1794 at the age of 47 and was buried in South Park Street Cemetery, Kolkata. Among the world's very ancient classical languages, two Indian languages Sanskrit and Tamil are included. The entire Indian nation, no doubt, owes a debt of gratitude to late Sir William Jones for his vast contributions to Indian languages, in particular, Sanskrit. His name is ever etched in the pages of British India history.


Ref:
http://navrangindia.blogspot.in/2015/01/judge-william-jones-who-made-sanskrit.html

 http://www.notablebiographies.com/supp/Supplement-Fl-Ka/Jones-William.html#ixzz40obBqGMu