Friday, July 16, 2010

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Famous Indian Geographer

Shashi Bhusan was born in 1840 at Konnagar of Hooghly district in erstwhile Bengal. He was educated in the famous Konnagar High School, later in Sanskrit College and received ‘Bidya Bachaspati’ appellation from there. He had also a great love for astrology and comprehensively studied it at Mithila in Bihar.

He had to his credit several pioneering endeavours in geography and mapping exercises. He wrote a book entitled, "Bharatbarsher Bishes Bibaran" (Special Discourse of India) and perhaps this was then the only officially recognised text book of geography for the school students in eastern India comprising Assam, Bihar, Bengal and Orissa. He had strong passion for map making as he had realised that the maps and globes were the essential tools of teaching geography. He had established a lithographic press to print and publish the multi- colour maps, especially wall maps, and globes. They were published not only in English, but in many other regional languages like Bengali, Hindi, Oriya, Kannari, Urdu, etc. with his all out realisation that the students should learn through their respective mother tongues and he carried out this mission through out his whole life. In 1871 he established a
printing press named as, ‘The New School Book Press’. Simultaneously he undertook a rigorous research exercise on geographical maps of the world and India. He forwarded his prepared maps to London for critical review and acceptance of the British Geographers. They overwhelmly recognised his pioneer works and conferred him the two appellations - "Fellow of Royal Geographical Science (FRGS)" and "Fellow of Royal Society of Arts (FRSA). Thereafter, he gained monopoly in map-making throughout the country.

His literary talent was worthwhile. He initiated to bring out a monthly magazine known as "Sahabar" and became its founder editor. He left his mark of literacy talent on his book, "Ramer Rajyabhishek" which received great praise from the then literary circle. Late Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, the great Bengali story writer and novelist, mentioned in one of his stories, ‘Ekadashi Bairagi, the omnipresence of Shashi Bhusan’s wall-maps in schools.
The most pleasurable incident in Shashi Bhusan’s life was to have Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar as his friend and well-wisher. Concerned with Shashi Bhusan’s prolonged ailment Vidyasagar advised him for a change of place. At his instance he built a house christened as ‘Rest Bungalow’ at Madhupur of Santhal Pargana district in Bihar (presently Jharkhand). Later on, also under Vidyasagar’s advice, Shashi Bhusan opened a ‘Pathshala’ (children’s nursery school) within the bungalow campus with the object to teach the local children through their mother tongue without any fee, but with free meals. Unfortunately, it became defunct after his death. The octogenarian left Madhupur for his heavenly home in 1926. His ‘samadhi’ is still presence in one of his gardens. Shashi Bhusan, indeed, was a ‘self-made’ person. He did not inherit any ancestral property. But at the time of his death he left a number of properties to his ancestors.
Shashi Bhusan’s services in the dissemination of geography-cartography knowledge deserve all honour. He undertook his challenging task at a time when research on mapping found a little scope for seeing the light of the day. His work stimulated his inheritors who have been un-interuptedly holding the ever- abiding place in the arena of printing and publishing maps, atlases, charts, globes, etc. over the decades. His works command immortal fame.