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Sunday, May 28, 2023

Remembering Prof. Raghu Vira: The Great Indian Linguist and Scholar Who Uncovered the Richness of Asian Culture

Prof. Raghu Vira was a multifaceted personality who contributed immensely to the understanding of Asian culture and India’s linguistic development. Born on 30th December 1902, he was a linguist, scholar, Constituent Assembly-member, and later became President of Bharatiya Jana Sangh.

Prof. Raghu Vira was one of the editors of the critical edition of the Mahabharata compiled at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune. He was the editor of the fourth Book of the critical edition of the Mahabharata, i.e., the Virataparvan. His extensive knowledge of languages, including Hindi, Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, English, Urdu, Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, and Punjabi, helped him in his research work.

Prof. Raghu Vira excavated and collected approximately three lakh Sanskrit manuscripts, which are the glorious work of the Hindu & Buddhist monks, spread worldwide & especially in China, Mongolia & South East Asia. He also completed the “New Tibeto-Mongol Pantheon” in 20 volumes providing a wealth of information on the unexplored aspects of the iconographic art of trans-Himalayan Asia as far as Siberian and Volga regions.

In 1943, Prof. Raghu Vira translated a “Chinese Dictionary of Indian Geographical Names” which was compiled in 517 AD from Chinese literature and accounts of travelers. He established the International Academy of Indian Culture named ‘Saraswati Vihar’. It was Prof. Raghu Vira’s personal center for Research work in Bharatiya Culture, Literature, And Religion. It was first established in Lahore in 1932 and later shifted to Nagpur in 1946.

It is interesting to note that the word "Samvidhan" was given by late Prof. Raghu Vira. He was an instrumental figure in the drafting of the Indian constitution.


Prof. Raghu Vira’s visit to China in 1955 was a significant event in his life. He was invited to China for a cultural study trip and stayed there from 23 April to 25 July. Premier Zhou Enlai received him on 15 May, and they discussed Dunhuang and the visit of the seventh-century Chinese monk Xuanzang en route to India. Their conversation is recorded in detail in his account of his China trip.

On 27 May, with 29 other members of the expedition, Prof. Raghu Vira and his daughter Sudarshana Devi left for Dunhuang. The expedition included doctors, nurses, photographers, cooks, car mechanics, scholars from Peking University and The Academy of Sciences, archaeologists, and a female companion for Sudarshana. The Director of the Dunhuang Institute, Professor Chang, joined them on 28 May in Lanzhou. They arrived in Dunhuang on 30 May.

During his three-month tour, Prof. Raghu Vira visited a number of caves and the twenty-six stupas of the Five Dynasties. Inside one stupa were statues and an earthen lamp of Indian design. He then started visiting the caves, keeping a detailed record. When he came back from China, he had 300 wooden boxes with him containing the rarest of finds, antiques, and manuscripts bearing on the deep cultural contacts between China and India.

In conclusion, Prof. Raghu Vira was a great linguist, scholar, and cultural ambassador who contributed significantly to Indian culture and its development. His contributions to the understanding of Asian culture and his linguistic work have left an indelible mark. His visit to China was a crucial moment in his life and helped bridge the cultural gap between India and China. Prof

Left: Raghu Vira, Members Of His Delegation And Members Of The Dunhuang Institute Outside The Entrance To The Dunhuang Mogao Caves (165). Middle: Raghu Vira With His Daughter, Sudarshana Devi, The Director Of The Dunhuang Institute, Chang Shuhong And A Colleague (170). Right: Raghu Vira And His Daughter, Sudarshana Devi, Watching One The Artists Of The Dunhuang Institute Copying A Painting In One Of The Dunhuang Mogao Caves (167).
Left: Raghu Vira, members of his delegation and members of the Dunhuang Institute outside the entrance to the Dunhuang Mogao caves (165). Middle: Raghu Vira with his daughter, Sudarshana Devi, the Director of the Dunhuang Institute, Chang Shuhong and a colleague (170). Right: Raghu Vira and his daughter, Sudarshana Devi, watching one the artists of the Dunhuang Institute copying a painting in one of the Dunhuang Mogao caves (167).


  • http://idp.bl.uk/archives/news42/idpnews_42.a4d#section5
  • https://cga.shanghai.nyu.edu/database/china-india/china-india-bibliography/

 by Dr. Bikash Kali Das

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