Dr. Govindo Gopal Mukhopadhyay: In Memoriam
By Anurag Banerjee
The Man and his Work
With the passing of Dr. Govindo Gopal Mukhopadhyay (1918—2009) into the Beyond on 27 March a profound void has been created in the world of scholastic literature of which he was one of the greatest landmarks. His death was not premature; his soul left the body after prolonged illness and hospitalization but what is lamentable is that it is almost impossible to find his replacement to fill up the void. A Sanskrit scholar par excellence, an interpreter of the sacred scriptures of Hinduism, a musicologist and a singer who was trained by none other than Dilip Kumar Roy himself who loved and looked upon the former as a close pal, a biographer, a writer—it is difficult to describe all the aspects of his multi-faceted personality. But what stood out distinctly were his spiritual consciousness and spiritual wisdom and knowledge that compelled the palms to join without any second thought or hesitation to offer obeisance to him. He was not a Guru but a firm believer of Guruvada; he was a direct and probably the last surviving disciple of Swami Balananda Brahmachari of Deoghar (a scholarly biography of whose he wrote later). He was a householder-ascetic; a rare soul who was consecrated to the Divine whole-heartedly and yet fulfilled all the material duties and responsibilities that a householder is supposed to do. Men like him are rare and hence they are so special. Bestowed with a golden voice his rendering of the hymns of the Bhagavata-Gita and Chandi as well as the songs mostly of Dwijendralal and Dilip Kumar Roy escalated the mind of the listeners to the seventh heaven.
Born on 23 May 1918 in Deoghar to Prangopal Mukhopadhay (who was a yogi) and Surobala Devi, Govindo Gopal obtained a first class in the matriculation examination; he obtained his B.A. in philosophy and Sanskrit where he attained a first class and his success was repeated when he earned his M.A. degree in Sanskrit from Calcutta University where he stood first-class-first. After the completion of his higher studies when the possibility of research emerged, his father sent him to Benaras where he spent four years (1944—48) in the company of Satish Chandra Mukherjee (of Dawn Society) and Gopinath Kobiraj. He did his research in Benaras Hindu University under the guidance of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan from whom (as well as from Gopinath Kobiraj) he received lessons in Indian Philosophy, the Vedas and the Vedanta. By the time he had turned thirty he had attained a distinct and assured standing in the cosmos of spiritual seekers and scholars. After obtaining his doctorate he taught for a while at Benaras Hindu University and then he worked as the professor of Sanskrit in Krishnanagar Government College, Presidency College, Sanskrit College and was also the Head of the Sanskrit Department of Burdwan College. He was also the visiting professor at Rabindra Bharati University as well as a researcher-professor at the Ramakrishna Mission. He was also a member of the Central Sanskrit Board and was associated with All India Radio and Doordarshan. He was the recipient of the title of Sankyatirtha and was also conferred the title of Mahamohopadhyay some years ago. Those who have had the opportunity of listening to his lectures (some of which have been published in various magazines) would vouch the fact that he possessed the unique skill of making others think on what he said. He was close to the greatest stalwarts of Indian culture and spirituality like Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, Gopinath Kobiraj, Dilip Kumar Roy, Krishnaprem, Anandamoyee Ma, Srimat Anirvan, Swami Pratyagananda Saraswati and Satprem to name a few. In fact it was through the epistolary exchanges between him and Swami Pratyagananda Saraswati that later led to the creation of the latter’s masterpiece Japasutram which throws a new light on the system of japa.
Those who knew this great personality would always remember him for his illuminating discourses on the sacred scriptures of our religion. Govindo Gopal’s entire life was an offering at the altar of Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning. The colour of his soul matched with the colour of the robe he wore which was always ochre-coloured. The number of his published works—the most notable of which are Chetonar Arohini, Sursudhakar Dilip Kumar Roy Jibone O Gane, Patra-prasad, Troyeer Tridhara, Sri Aurobindo O Upanishad: Prashange Acharya Shankar—is not numerous but every work of his is stamped with a flawless perfection. It is a pity that the present generation does not know much of him or his works for he had past his prime by the beginning of this century. His books on philosophy are not just mere volumes of dry interpretation, on the contrary, they are priceless gems that reveal the innermost meaning and essence of our scriptures; one marvels at his in-depth study of the scriptures and the light of which he gave to us. He was a sailor in the ocean of knowledge who brought out the precious pearls of wisdom from the lost treasures of the bygone ages. The burning fire of scholarly creativity was always aflame in his heart. He can be rightly hailed as one of the greatest jnana-yogis of the past age. At the same time it can be said that his sadhana was a natural flowering of his soul under the bright sun-rays of his Guru Swami Balananda Brahmachari. His books on topics of spiritual interest are certainly not for the masses or for the common man but they are understandable to those who have the will to understand and realize. The keys of the doors leading to everlasting Light is hidden in his books. Men of the bygone era have benefited from them and so would the posterity if they go through them with proper attitude and interest.
What is sincerely regretted is the fact that with the demise of Dr. Govindo Gopal Mukhopadhyay we have lost the ‘last of the Mohicans’, a true pilgrim of the star, an artist-cum-ascetic who believed in the philosophy of ‘Art for the Divine’s sake’ and showed us the way to maintain a constant equilibrium between our material quest and spiritual aspiration and to make considerable progress in both. His life has been a teaching itself and may we all take lessons from it. More
Born on 13 October 1984, Anurag Banerjee is an essayist, biographer, poet and researcher. His first book, Nirodbaran: The Surrealist’s Journey was published in December 2006. He wrote the biography of Dilip Kumar Roy at the age of twenty in 2005 and translated 100 poems of Sri Aurobindo into Bengali at the age of twenty-one in 2006. His published works include Nirodbaran: The Surrealist’s Journey (2006), Achinpather Dibyapathik (2008), and Debotar Shrom (2008).
Amal Kiran on the Mind of Light
Aspects of Amal Kiran
Dilip Kumar Roy
Dr. Govindo Gopal Mukhopadhyay
Prithwi Singh Nahar
Sri Aurobindo’s Birth Place
Suresh Chandra Chakravorty (Moni)