Sanskrit University

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Old Sanskrit University

From The Flower Raj Encyclopaedia

Shri Ganesh, SU entrance.

The Sanskrit University, Banaras (aka Queen Victoria Goverment Sanskrit College, aka Queens College, aka वरनसेय सम्स्क्रित विश्वव्द्यालय, now Sampurnanand Sanskrit University).



The 'Varanaseya Sanskrit Vishvavidyalaya' (aka The Government Sanskrit College, Banaras, later The Sanskrit University, Banaras, now Sampurnanand Sanskrit University).

In 1791, Jonathan Duncan, Resident of the East India Company proposed the establishment of a Sanskrit College for development and preservation of Sanskrit Vangmaya. Pt. Kashinath was its first teacher and Acharya.

In 1844, Sri J.Muir,ICS, was made its first principal. Efforts were made to develop the college in various aspects. Dr. J.R.Valentine developed the spirit of a comparative study of oriental and occidental classics and specific Sanskrit texts were translated into English in order to achieve this goal. Dr. Valentine established an Anglo-Sanskrit Department with this end in view. In 1861, Dr. R.T.H.Grifith was appointed its Principal. He was the first scholar who translated the Valmiki Ramayan into English verses. A reasonable achievement was made in the direction of development, preservation and advancement of Sanskrit learning during the principalship. The publication of ‘The Pandit’ – ‘Kashi Vidya Sudhanidhi’ was launched which contained translations of many rare Sanskrit texts. The publication of this magazine continued till 1916. During the principalship of Dr. G.Theibo the system of oral examination was abolished and the system of written examination as well the issue of certificates and degree was started.

During the period of Dr. Arthur Venis (1888-1918), the publication of Vijayanagara series of Sanskrit texts was accomplished. In 1909, the post examination controller was created. In 1904, an effort was made to give it the name and form of university. Efforts were made to collect , preserve and publish Sanskrit manuscripts which resulted in the establishment of the “Saraswati Bhavana” library, which is most reputed and well known in the whole world.

Sanskrit University Great Hall - Dec 2009

During the principalship of Dr. Ganga Nath Jha (1918-1923) the publication of “Saraswati Bhavana Garnthamala” and “Saraswati Bhavana Studies” was started and specific Sanskrit texts based on deep research were published which marked a remarkable approach in the direction of study and dissemination of knowledge inherent in Sanskrit texts. Moreover, a Board of Sanskrit Studies was set up to conduct examination.

Mahamahopadhyaya Pt. Gopinath Kaviraj (Principal – 1923-1937) contributed significantly through translation and publication of specific texts as well as cataloguing of manuscripts.

In 1937, another effort was made to give it the name and form of a University but it could not materialize until 1956 when Varanaseya Sanskrit University Act was passed. It is remarkable that this college performed all those acts which an all India University is expected to do. Convocations were held between 1947 to 1958 every time in the manner of a University. The Sanskrit Colleges of this country and that of Nepal were affiliated to this college even before this University was founded. The number of affiliated colleges in U.P. alone was 1441. thus this college acted like a University not only for this country but also for other countries. Pt. Kuber Nath Shukla was the last principal of the Govt. Sanskrit College. He was also the first Registrar of the University.

(thanks to university history for much of the above).

Saraswati Bhawan Library

Saraswati Bhawan Library 2010

The foundation stone of the library building was laid on the occasion of the visit of Prince and Princess of Wales on 16 November 1907.

The building was completed in 1914 and it was named ‘the Prince of Wales Saraswati Bhavan’ The library underwent a number of changes after the establishment of the University. Six year after the University came into its existence a large new building was constructed to accommodate printed books. The framed Saraswati Bhawan building was earmarked for manuscripts only.

In 1988-89 an air conditioned building was constructed for its preservation and maintenance.

The Library has a collection of more than one hundred thousand manuscripts of different Sanskrit text. In its printed section there are more than one hundred thousand & ninety thousand printed books.

Bauddh Kaksh

The Buddhist hostel built on-campus in the early 1960s for Tibetan & other non-Hindu students.

Although predominantly a Brahmin institution, with 800 Brahmin students, a Buddhist Dept was started in the late 1950s under the auspices of Pandit Upadhyaya & Herbert Guenther. Some 40 Tibetan, Ladakhi & other hill monks, Tulkus, Rinpoches, nearly all Lamas, came to study Sanskrit.

During the 1960s a number of more or less eccentric foreigners studied there & lived in rooms in the Bauddh Kaksh; many other travellers also passed through & socialised.


Blog Posts

  • To be added.


  • Geshe Jamspal Interviewed Geshe Jamspal is a former student who went right through the old Sanskrit University system, then taught there, reaching the advanced degree of 'Acharya'; he now teaches & translates at Columbia University in the USA.

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