Mahabir Prasad Dwivedi (Pandit) 1862 - 1938

Mahabir Prasad Dwivedi (Pandit)

Mahavir Prasad Dwivedi full biography and he wrote books

Mahabir Prasad Dwivedi (also known as Acharya) was born in 1862 in a lower middle class Brahmin family of village Daulatpur in the district of Rae Bareli (in modern Uttar Pradesh). His father Ram Sahai began service in the Indian army, but his unit mutinied in 1857 and Ram Sahai fled back to his village almost in a destitute condition. Later he got employment in Bombay where he passed the rest of his life. Dwivedi’s grandfather was a scholar the traditional orthodox type, and as such vestiges of scholarly tradition had persisted in the family which the child Mahabir Prasad imbibed.

Mahabir Prasad was married but had no children. Mahabir Prasad’s earliest schooling was at home in Sanskrit religious texts and the ‘Amar Kosh’. He read Urdu in village school and at the age of thirteen joined the district High School to learn English. But owing to extreme poverty, his academic career did not last long, and he had to leave school even before matriculation. He joined the railway service as a telegraphist, and it was during hu stay at Hoshangabad that he came into contact with educated people and his innate love for learning found a concrete expression. Later in Jhansi he developed his taste for scholarship and made a deep study of Hindi literature and the English works of Bacon, Mill and Herbert Spencer. He cherished the ambition of being a poet and learnt prosody, but did not pursue this line far enough. He cultivated a good prose style and translated some English classics into Hindi.

It was in 1903 that he entered journalism and became the editor of the Saraswati at Kanpur. It is as a literary critic and journalist that Dwivedi made his impression on the public life of the country. His chief field of work lay in Uttar Pradesh, and continued from 1903 till his death.

Mahabir Prasad was essentially a self-made man and derived little from home influences or close contact with others. He was considerably helped in the making of his character and personality by his studies, specially of the Ramayana of Tulsidas, poetical works of Harish Chandra and the writings of Mill. A peculiar mixture of orthodoxy and liberalism is therefore evident in his thought and actions. He played scarcely any significant part in the national movement, for politics was not his field of work. His contribution was mainly in the realm of the progress of Hindi prose, which he helped to develop as editor of the premier Hindi monthly journal, the Saraswati. He was a great stickler for Sanskritisation and moulded the Hindi style in the frame-work of Sanskrit grammar and etymology. He has left a great mark on Hindi literature and its devotees, and for his services to this cause he was given the appellation of “Acharya” or “Great Teacher”. As the editor of the Saraswati, he corrected the writings of others and introduced a style which bears his appellation, and is based-largely on Sanskrit. His poetic works were modelled on Kalidasa and Bhavabhuti; but it is largely as an essayist that Dwivedi has a place in Hindi literature. His essays arc devoid of originality but convey information culled from Western literature and science. He wrote profusely, translating Sanskrit and English literary pieces, communicating knowledge through essays or children’s books and commenting on style and form of language. More than a journalist, Dwivedi is known for his literary production and influence on contemporary Hindi literary style.

As a journalist, he occasionally commented on contemporary political, economic, social and international affairs, but there was little of originality in his observations. In the field of nationalism, he reiterated the conventional ideas about the utilitarian and materialistic character of the educational system inaugurated by the British Government, the poverty and backwardness of the rural population as compared to the urban professional classes, disunity among the Indians and the apathy of the Englishmen to the Indians. He advocated the cause of peasant welfare, largely as a result of his close contact with them and insight into their miserable conditions. He spent the last 18 years of his life in his village home. He had respect for Mahatma Gandhi, but it is doubtful if he had any living faith in his ideas. There is little evidence of any contribution to social reform, for Dwivedi remained orthodox in his personal conduct. He died in 1938, highly respected as a leader of reform and progress of Hindi. In recognition of his services, he was given an ‘Abhinandan Granth’ on his 70th birthday by the Nagri Pracharini Sabha at Benares, which ended his long feud with the Sabha since 1904.

(Mantosh Singh) Bisheshwar Prasad



Reference: DICTIONARY OF NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY – Vol 1 edited by S. P. Sen – Institute of Historical Studies – Calcutta - 1972

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