ACHARYA PRAFULLA CHANDRA ROY & HIS CONTRIBUTIONby Prabir Kumar Roy Educationist
Prafulla Chandra Roy has a very significant place in the panorama of Bengali
culture. An exact contemporary of Tagore and Vivekananda, his life's mission
was to teach us to stand on our own legs. Certainly an arduous task at a time
when for the vast majority of Bengali youth clerkhood represented the acme of
achievement in life. Distressed and agitated, the Acharya pointed to many
independent avenues of enterprise which he expounded in one writing after
another. At time it was pisiculture, at other times it was cattle farming; he
even wrote a lengthy essay on the career prospect offered by the profession of
There is an interesting Bengali book penned by the Acharya called Desi Rang (Our Indigenous Dyes), which deals meticulously with the local methods of producing pigments. Not satisfied with exposition, he appended small pieces of handloom cloth dyed in different pigments as specimen at the end of a special edition of the book. The Acharya was at that time an internationally acclaimed chemist; his monumental History of Hindu Chemistry had given him the prestige and position of an unquestionable pioneer in this area of research. But he was not content with the unruffled life of a scientist; he yearned to bring the benefits of science to remote corners and especially to poor localities of the country, to the very homes of the uneducated indigent people. He asked every one to wield the spade and make a garden of roses and jasmine with ones own hand. That would unite sense of beauty with the enterprise of business. Indeed, on many occasions he proudly proclaimed himself a businessman.
Though he shunned all excesses in his life-style which was austere and even monkish, he gave away money freely to improve facilities for research at the Calcutta University; he would also provide financial help to poor but eager research students. As Professor at the Presidency College and the University of Calcutta, his fame as a teacher of science reached proverbial level. But his devotion to science was no exclusive affair; he had an intense appreciation and love for literature and arts as well. In fact, his initiation to literature was at a very early age when he started reading literary books of his father's library. Indeed, his proficiency in Bengali and English literature, his avid interest in historical studies which were well known among his contemporaries; even today the handful of readers who are familiar with his writings know it. He could recite long passages from Shakespeare, Tagore and Michael Madhusudan Dutta. He was also a good linguist who knew, beside Bengali and English, French, German, Latin, Greek and Sanskrit.
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