Ram Nath Shastri
|Born||15 April 1914|
|Died||8 March 2009 (aged 94)|
Padma Shri Ram Nath Shastri, known as the "Father of Dogri" for his pivotal role in the revival and resurgence of the Dogri language, was born on 15 April 1914. He was a versatile and prolific litterateur who excelled as Dogri poet, dramatist, fiction writer, lexicographer, essayist, educationist, translator, and editor. Through his writings in the various genres he has succeeded in urshering Dogri language on the national stage.
In 2001, he was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship, awarded by the Sahitya Akademi, India's National Academy of Letters, the highest literary honour conferred by the Government of India.
Prof. Shastri's father, Vaid Gauri Shankar, was an Ayurvedic doctor and originally belonged to a small village Marhi in Reasi tehsil of Udhampur district (now Reasi district). For better prospects, he moved to Jammu. Initially, he wanted Ram Nath to adopt the same profession and instructed him to learn Sanskrit. All ancient scriptures being in Sanskrit, it would be immensely helpful as an Ayurvedic doctor. He joined Ranbir Sanskrit Pathshala at the Ranbir High School. After which, he did post graduation in Sanskrit and Prabhakar in Hindi. He started his career as a high school Sanskrit teacher for 5 years and later he became a college lecturer.
In 1944, on the day of Basant Panchami, along with a few friends, he established the Dogri Sanstha. Every upcoming writer in the Dogri language would first enroll himself in the Sanstha .Dogri is highly indebted to Professor Ram Nath Shastri, who is always giving it his paternal blessings. He also edited the Dogri literary periodical Nami Chetna of the Sanstha. In 1970, on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee Celebration of Dogri Sanstha, he edited the RAJAT JAYANTI GRANTH in which research oriented articles on Dogra life, art, culture, literature and history were put together.
In 1970, he retired as a professor in the J&K State Education Department. From 1970 to 1975 he has been a Senior Fellow of Dogri in the University of Jammu.
From 1977 to 1985, as Chief Editor in J&K Cultural Academy he edited the 'Dogri – Dogri Dictionary′ which is regarded as a monumental addition to the development of the Dogri language for J and K Cultural Academy.
He died on 8 March 2009, in Jemmu.
Professor Shastri began his literary career with the writing of Hindi short stories and essays as Dogri was more of a regional local language with insignificant literary history. Later, he resolved to be at the forefront of the Dogri literacy movement.
Later, in 1943 he along with his fellow writers, switched over to writing in his mother tongue Dogri, giving impetus to the spirit of renaissance in the community to recognise and appreciate the beauty of their language He has contributions in different genres to his credit and he worked tirelessly to promote the Dogri Language.
Prof. Shastri presented an ideology that he believed in, shunning old and outdated values and embracing values like- fairness, equality and individual heroism. His writings have undercurrents of satire and irony as he exposes the double standards of our society. He always placed emphasis on writing biographies of dogri heroes, who challenged establishment and followed a track unvisited by others. When asked to write his own autobiography, he was hesitant as his humility would pose a major hurdle in doing so.
He translated array of prominent works in Dogri to further dogri language including-
On the last day of the high school wrote parting message on classroom blackboard-
Alvida ai karma man Alvida
Ab Dua hai Phir Na Laye Yaan Khuda
(Adieu! My classroom, I hope God does not bring me back here again)
TALKHIYAN (Collection of Dogri Gazals)
Dharm de naa cha inna Kura,
Kee nayi issi tili lagande
(So much rubbish in the name of religion; why don't you just forget it?)
Changa ai ke marha hai, jiyan bhi hai, Kirdaar mera ai
(Good or bad, this character is at least mine)
Describing Central Government's decision to include Dogri in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution in December 2003, as the happiest moment of his life, Ram Nath Shastri, said: "This has ended the long struggle of the Dogri-speaking people for a rightful place for their language. (Prime Minister) Atal Bihari Vajpayee has fulfilled his promise to Jammuites."
Ramnath Rath, an eminent Oriya poet and president of Sahitya Akademi says, " There are few in India and elsewhere in the world who excel in so many areas of literature.”
Eminent Dogri litterateur Padma Sachdev says, "Professor Ramnath Shastri is the Bharatendu Harishchandra of Dogri. There is not a single person, who is writing in Dogri now has not been influenced by him Not a single word is there in Dogri on which his stamp has not been registered.”