Pandit Suna Bhatta Shastri : His Life and Work
Pandit Suna Bhatta Shastri was born at Zaindar Mohalla in Srinagar (Kashmir) in a Kashmiri Pandit family on 12th May, 1891 A. D. His father, Madhava Bhatta, and his mother, Sunamali, were saintly persons. Madhava Bhatta was well-versed in Saivist lore and Karmakanda.
The family was well-known for its long lineage of savants in Shaivagama and Karmakanda, and Suna Bhatta had eminently inherited the intellectual attainments of his forefathers. From the Rajakiya Pathashala, Srinagar, where he studied, he passed with distinction the Prajna, Visharada and Shastri examinations of the Panjab University in 1903, 1905 and 1907 respectively. He was barely sixteen years of age by the time he passed the Shastri examination, securing the ninth position in order of merit in the University.
After completing his education, Pt. Suna Bhatta commenced his career in 1911 as a teacher in Sanskrit. He taught at several government schools in the Valley, followed by quite a long stint at the Sri Pratap High School, Srinagar; as Head Sanskrit Teacher, and finally retired in October, 1946.at the Rajakiya Pathashala, Srinagar.
A versatile scholar in Sanskrit language and literature, with profound erudition in Shaivagama and the Nyaya system of Indian philosophy, Pt. Suna Bhatta was one of the most celebrated Sanskrit scholars in the Valley in the last century. The other luminaries with whom he off and on associated for literary and philosophical discussions and exchange of views were Pt. Harabhatta Shastri, Pt. Natharama Kalla Shastri, Pt Madhusudana Kaul Shastri and others. Wit and humour strikingly marked his discussions with these great scholars of the time.
Pt. Suna Bhatta took up, around 1930, his cherished project of writing a commentary in Sanskrit on Shri Sankarabhagavatpadacharya’s “SAUNDARYA-LAHARl” (Ocean of Beauty), and this illustrious work was completed by him during end-1937. At this stage, he was urged by some of his distinguished friends to append to his work a Hindi rendering of the verses of the “SAUNDARYA-LAHARI” for the benefit of non-Sanskrit-knowing seekers. Reluctantly though, he acquiesced in complying with their wishes. He has accordingly provided, in addition, a Hindi rendering of the text, named “Amarapriya”, for the benefit of those seekers who are unable to go through the Sanskrit commentary but could follow a Hindi rendering of the verses, which was taken up and completed by him during the last few months of 1938.
The year 1938, however, happened to be the most turbulent period in Pt. Suna Bhatta’s life with the passing away early in that year, in February, of his elder son (my elder brother), Amar Nath, a brilliant young intellectual aged twenty-four, who was then about to proceed for Post-Graduate studies in Sanskrit. This saddest of happenings in his life left him disconsolate for a long time to come and thus impeded his plans to publish his work until he ultimately passed it on to the Research & Publications Department of the Jammu & Kashmir Government, Srinagar in 1946 for publication by them. Unfortunately, however, he passed away quite soon thereafter, on 5th September, 1947. The political unrest in the State following Partition of the country, particularly in the wake of the Tribal Raids on the state in the autum of 1947, cast a shadow on the prospects of an early publication of this work. It was with great difficulty that I could somehow retrieve the manuscript from the Research & Publications Department in early 1948 - solely with the help and assistance kindly extended to me by Prof. P. N. Pushp, the then Director of the said Department - before it could possibly get misplaced or lost from their shelves. Nor could I myself thereafter, through five long decades and more, organize the publication of this illustirious work for reasons beyond my control.
In June 1980, on one of my pilgrimages to Ishwar Ashram, Srinagar, I submitted the manuscript of my father’s work to Bhagavatsvarup Swami Lakshman Joo, “the doyen of Saivagama” (as Dr. Jaideva Singh puts it), for his kind perusal and the favour of a Foreword to the work. After a forthnight, the most-revered Swamiji returned the manuscript to me at the Ashram, with words of appreciation and blessings, along with his Foreword to the work, entitled “ASHIRVADA”, dated 1st July, 1980 (published in this book).
Despite the excellence that thus admittedly marks the late Pandit Suna Bhatta Shastri’s commentary on the “SAUNDARYA-LAHARI” for “his masterly treatment of the subject”, which should prove of great interest and benefit to scholars, researches and seekers, an inordinate delay has overtaken the publication of this illustrious work, much to my anguish, for reasons beyond my control.
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