Latin and Greek in India

Srinivasan Pichumani srini at ENGIN.UMICH.EDU
Sun Feb 15 07:15:30 UTC 1998

        This topic has jogged my interest and I am now pursuing my way slowly
        through some possible leads. Thus, I was reminded that Raja Ram Mohan
        Roy--having already learned Arabic and Sanskrit, (he "grew up" with
        Persian), some time after 1914 when he moved to Calcutta, studied and
        learned Latin, Greek and Hebrew, becoming quite proficient in the last
        two, such that he made extensive use of them in writing his PRECEPTS OF
        JESUS, The Guide to Peace and Happiness....Boston: Christian Register
        Office, 1828, see  Preface by Thomas Rees, Secretary to the Unitarian
        Society, p.iv.  This book was a polemic against Christian Trinitarianism.

        When he was appointed Dewan--collector of revenue-- in Calcutta, he also
        became adept in English, having begun the study of it some years
        Surely there were also other luminaries of the Renaisance who studied
        European classical languages?

        Nirad Chaudhuri often sprinkled his accounts with both Latin and French,
        but I haven't yet found out if he actually studied Latin, or if he
        simply used a phrasebook to create his sophisticated effects.

        Joanna Kirkpatrick

Although he didn't belong to the Bengali Renaissance, P.Seshadri
Iyer (? - 1969) of Kerala seems to have studied Greek and Latin.
On the back cover of his book "Sandhyavandanam" (Bharatiya Vidya
Bhavan, 1978), there is a writeup on him.  Apparently, he was a
great linguist and scholar... and was renowned for his polyglotism.

The writeup says that he learnt Greek to read Marcus Aurelius and
Epictetus... and translated the former's Meditations into Malayalam...
he also translated the History of Pelopponnesian War from Greek into

Among his other translations into Malayalam are Plutarch's Lives,
Montaigne's Essays... and he translated Rajaji's "viyAcar viruntu"
(Mahabharata) from the original Tamil into Bengali !


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