Exhibition to commemorate Russia's first Indologist



Moscow, Jan 20 (RIA Novosti) Yaroslavl is a beautiful old city, 230 km north of Moscow. Its History Museum is hosting an exhibition in memory of Gerasim Lebedev, the first Russian scholar of Indian culture and history.

Timed with the Year of Russia in India, it is a joint project of the Yaroslavl History Museum, the Orion Roerich Society and the Jawaharlal Nehru Cultural Centre, affiliated to the Indian embassy in the Russian Federation.

Gerasim Lebedev (1749-1817) was Russia's first Oriental scholar and the first to introduce India to Russian and European Orientologists as a research subject.

His life was something of a picaresque novel, so popular with readers in his lifetime - a sequence of adventures and scholarly expeditions. He lived through fat and lean years, for a moment in abject poverty and in the next moment lavishly rewarded.

With scanty education received in childhood, he was a self-made man if there ever was one, and excelled in many professions.

«Lebedev could have made a fine professional singer, cello player or virtuoso violinist. While abroad, he set up a legendary quartet that impressed sophisticated West European music lovers and don't forget his fluency in dozens of European languages», - says Vladimir Izvekov, director of the Yaroslavl History Museum.

The exhibition reveals genuine documents pertaining to Lebedev's life, his scholarly books and Russian and Indian books about him.

'Its timing to the Year of Russia in India is a symbolical tribute of Yaroslavl to one of its people, who did so much for Indian studies,' Izvekov said at the opening reception.

Many scholarly works came from Lebedev's pen. The pride of place belonged to the monograph 'An Unbiased Contemplation of Eastern India, its Holy Rites and Folk Customs'. It was an 18th century encyclopaedia of India, a country known only from hearsay and fabulous accounts before.

Lebedev laid the foundation of scientific studies of India. He deservedly regarded it as the cradle of the world civilisation. 'India was the first land to disseminate the human race all about the globe, as many ethnologists testify,' he wrote.

An excellent researcher, musician and stage performer all in one, Lebedev established the first European-style stage company in India as he lived there in 1785-97. He translated the best-known European dramas into Bengali and compiled several linguistic study books. Once back in Russia, he published a Bengali-Russian dictionary.

India cherishes the memory of the first Western researcher to study it. Calcutta, for one, has a Gerasim Lebedev Street.



©  «Malaysia Sun», Saturday 19th January, 2008 (IANS)


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