Prithwindra Mukherjee-Zinal 2011
Prithwindra Mukherjee-Zinal 2011

Prithwindra Mukherjee (Bengali: পৃথ্বীন্দ্রনাথ মুখোপাধ্যায়; born 1936), who retired in 2003 from his career as a researcher in the Human and Social Sciences Department (Ethnomusicology) of the French National Centre of Scientific Research in Paris, is an author of a number of books and other publications on various subjects.

He is the recipient of India's highly prestigious award Padma Shri 2020 for his work in the field of literature and education.[1][2]

Early life and education

Mukherjee was born in Kolkata, India, in 1936, and educated at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram School (at present, the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education)[3] in Pondicherry. He is the grandson of the Bengali revolutionary Jatindranath Mukherjee (Bagha Jatin).

Professional and academic life

Prithwindra began his working life as a teacher of Bengali, French and English languages and literature in Pondicherry. He was mentioned by the Sahitya Akademi (New Delhi) manuals and anthologies as a poet before he attained the age of 20. As a specialist in the French language and literature, he translated works by such French authors as Albert Camus, Saint-John Perse, and René Char.

He moved to Paris with a French Government Scholarship (1966–70). He prepared and defended a thesis on Sri Aurobindo at Sorbonne. Later he served as a lecturer on Indian civilization and philosophy, producer of several radio features on Indian culture and music for Radio France, and he was also freelancing as a journalist for the Indian and French press. His next thesis for Doctorat d'Etat (Ph.D.), was supervised by Raymond Aron in University Paris IV, on the pre-Gandhi a phase of India's freedom fight. His thesis discussed this movement from 1893 to 1918 and its spiritual roots.

In 1977, invited by the National Archives of India as a guest of the Historical Records Commission, he presented a paper on Jatindra Nath Mukherjee and the Indo-German Conspiracy in the presence of personalities like Arthur L. Basham and Professor S. Nurul Hasan. Prithwindra's original contribution in this area has been recognized by Professor Amales Tripathi, Bhupendrakumar Datta, Dr. Jadugopal Mukhopadhyay, Dr. M.N. Das (Utkal University),¨Professor A.C. Bose, Samaren Roy, Bhupati Majumdar, Basudha Chakravarty. Quite a few of his papers on the subject have been translated into major Indian languages.

Life after reaching France

Since his reaching Paris, for a number of years, invited by the literary magazine Desh of Calcutta he published his impressions of Paris life (Paris'ér chithi – Letters from Paris), as well as several cover features including Jatin Mukherjee alias Bagha Jatin, M.N. Roy, Tarak Nath Das, Dhan Gopal Mukerji, French Revolutionary and the Bengali intelligentsia and the poetry-cum-dance genre of the kîrtana (on which he has also produced a documentary film).

He went to the USA as a Fulbright scholar and discovered, especially in the Wilson Papers, scores of files covering the Indian revolutionaries. On returning to France in 1981, he joined the French National Centre of Scientific Research in 1981. He was also a founder-member of the French Literary Translators' Association [1]. He retired from there a few years back. He has published as much in Bengali as in French. One of his recent contributions is a documentary film on the musical pillars in the temples of South India (CNRS-Audiovisual, Paris).

Since 1981, Prithwindra Mukherjee joined the LACITO of the CNRS (Department of Ethnomusicology) working on a comprehensive cognitive study of scales of North and South Indian music.

The eminent author Jacques Attali in his French biography of Gandhi (Fayard, 2007) mentions his debt to PM for having revised the manuscripts and collaborated actively. Later, Mr. Attali has qualified Prithwindra Mukherjee as "the man of Franco-Indian Renaissance".

On 1 January 2009, the Minister of Culture of France has appointed Prithwindra Mukherjee to the rank of chevalier (Knight) of the Order of Arts and Letters. The French Academy (Belles Lettres) selected Prithwindra Mukherjee for its Hirayama Award (Prix Hirayama) 2014. On 1 January 2015, the French Prime Minister, requested by the Minister of Education, has appointed Prithwindra Mukherjee to the rank of chevalier (Knight) of the order of Palmes académiques (Academic Laurels).

Selected bibliography