The Bihar Historian You Won’t Find in Most Indian Textbooks – Radhakrishna Choudhary


Radhakrishna Choudhary lived the life of a quintessential historian who devoted his entire life to rigorous study and writing comprehensive research papers on the social, cultural and political history of Bihar and the discovery of inscriptions and rare pieces dating from the post-classic period between the eighth and 12th century AD.

He was famous for his vast contribution to the historical and archaeological studies of Bihar – from being the first author to write on the history of Muslim rule in the Tirhut division of Bihar to be the pioneer researcher to study and reconstruct the cultural history of the Mithila region. But more importantly, Choudhary was hailed as one of the handful of state historians who gave prominence to and stimulated research into the otherwise unknown and neglected folklore of Mithila, which now forms the north- east of Bihar.

Besides being a “devoted, selfless” researcher, Radhakrishna Choudhary was also considered one of the best scholars and teachers in his home country. “He gave everything to teaching and research” wrote his close friend and eminent historian Ram Sharan Sharma, professor of ancient Indian history at the University of Patna, University of Delhi and later visiting professor at the University of Toronto.

He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from Tej Narayan Banaili College, Bhagalpur and Patna University, respectively, and later joined Ganesh Dutt College, Begusarai as a lecturer in history in July 1946.

For more than a decade Choudhary taught at Ganesh Dutt College, Begusarai, where in 1947 he established the Kashi Prasad Jaiswal Archaeological Museum for “preserving the scattered archaeological remains of the Begusarai area and ran the history department for several years. He also served as Deputy Principal and Principal (Acting) of the college for over 22 years.

On his next pass, he served as director of Shankar Sah Vikramshila Mahavidyalaya in Kahalgaon for about three years. During his tenure as a history professor at GD College, he also completed his Ph.D. thesis on law and justice in ancient India.

In March 1974, he joined the postgraduate history department of Bhagalpur University, from where he retired in 1984. Following this, he moved to his residence in Deoghar and started working on his project “Corpus of Bihar Inscriptions” for which he had received a sufficient amount. funds from the University Grants Commission. Unfortunately, Choudhary met an untimely death on March 15, 1954 due to cardiac arrest before he could complete the project.

Although very little is known about his personal life, his love for ancient heritage ran deep and it was no secret. “I don’t know of any other university professor who has done so much to save and rebuild the heritage of the country and especially of Bihar. But his deep love for ancient heritage does not make him chauvinistic. In fact, whenever the obscurantists tried to twist history, he raised his voice against them and even suffered because of it,” Sharma wrote.

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Discovery of rare and ancient inscriptions and coins

Not only did Radhakrishna Choudhary devote his whole life to meticulous research and writing about his home country, but he also dug up and discovered valuable ancient Pala Empire inscriptions and coins, which ruled Bengal and Bihar from the 8th to the 12th century. During his tenure as a lecturer he also published a series of newsletters titled ‘GD’ College Research Bulletin Series on his research and discoveries won applauded by the greatest historians of the world at the time, including the influential American mythologist Joseph Campbell.

These series, more significantly, brought to light the archaeological importance of the districts of Jayamangala Garh and Naulagarh – abandoned but rich archaeological sites – and established their place in the history of Indian archeology as great centers of cults. Tantrics and Buddhists. Thanks to Radhakrishna Choudhary, a small place like Begusarai had literally become a “place of pilgrimage” for Indian and world historians, Noted Thakur in The Journal of Bihar Research Society, Professor Radhakrishna Choudhary Volume, January-December 1983-1984 PTS I-IV.

“I commend you for discovering the Pall inscriptions in particular, which prove the existence of the Pall rule in North Bihar. The silver coins you discovered are also the coins of Vigrah Pall,” had written the Dr AS Altekar, Head of the Department of History and Culture of Ancient India at the University of Patna, praising Choudhary Famous Austrian-born art historian Stella Kramrisch had said, “Any assistance should be given to the GD College Bulletin and the activities reported within its pages. They will benefit greatly from better breeding.

To vouch for Marx

While Radhakrishna Choudhary has published many “rigorously researched writings” and review articles, in addition to three dozen books in English, Hindi and Maithili over the years, some of her most famous works include History of Bihar, Mithila at the time of Vidyapatiand History of Muslim rule in Tirhut (1207-1765). Many of his writings have been widely cited in Bihar-related scientific articles and publications.

Although he was the first historian to write a scientific and comprehensive history of Mithila in Mithila’s storyrenowned historian Upendra Thakur credits Choudhary with supporting his research with his pivotal findings.

He wrote: “Professor Choudhary gave it an archaeological basis through his discoveries of a number of rare coins, inscriptions and manuscripts, which he came across during his extensive exploration of the regions of Begusarai to Madhubani and from Khagaria to Saharsa – virtually all of North Bihar – tremendous work that no archaeologist had undertaken before. These discoveries have eliminated many age-old misconceptions and misconceptions about the history of Bihar in general and that of Mithilā in particular.

Applauding Choudhary for “interpreting history without any prejudice to the past”, Thakur, former vice-president of the Bihar Research Society, Patna, said: “He (Choudhary) was the first historian of Bihar who laid the foundations of the Marxist interpretation of history through his many analytical writings on the rise and growth of feudalism in ancient India in the socio-economic context of the time. He called him “a Marxist by conviction but a nationalist at heart”.

Sanskrit and Prakrit scholar Parashuram Krishna Gode noted that Choudhary’s book Bihar, the homeland of Buddhism was a must read for students studying history and culture in colleges and even took into consideration it deserves to be prescribed as a textbook in colleges.

Basing its research on the literary writings of the famous poet Vidyapati and the folklore of Mithila, Choudhary’s acclaimed research paper Mithila at the time of Vidyapati not only provided a detailed account of the life and state of the district, but also delved into the distinct role it played in Indian history.

“The kingdom of Mithila was the first building block of Vidyapati’s political theory,” he wrote, further noting that it “was the only semi-independent Hindu state surrounded, on all sides, by Muslim rulers “.

“Mithila’s leaders were nothing if not extremely conservative. They failed to keep pace with the growing needs of the times and instead became hardened with their conservative needs,” he observed.

Crediting Choudhary for his “analytical inclusiveness” and projecting Mithila as “a historically constituted unit with its own heterogeneity, connections and specificities”, Sadan Jha, associate professor at the Gujarat Center for Social Studies, wrote“For the first time we find a historian not only invoking a vast territory of Mithila, but actually bringing landscapes from Vaishali, Nepal, ancient districts of Purnea (also known as Koshi region) as making integral part of the region’s history.”

Having been considered the best guide to understanding the history of Mithila, in March 1967, Choudhary was elected member of the then newly constituted advisory council for Maithili at the Sahitya Akademi.

(Edited by Monami Gogoi)


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