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Sampurnanand Sanskrit University
The contribution of Varanasi towards keeping Sanskrit - one of the world's oldest languages - alive, has been considerable. Sanskrit, which was a spoken language in India around 2000 B.C., when the Rig Veda - the first of the four Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva) - was written, began to decline in importance around the 12th century A. O. The steady deterioration of the language was arrested in the early 16th century through the efforts of some scholarly families of Maharashtra who migrated to Varanasi, where, they believed, they could be more effective.
A second wave of Sanskrit scholars from South India reached Banaras in the 18th century and helped to keep the language alive. But the most concrete step towards promoting the study of Sanskrit and preserving rare manuscripts in the language was taken by Jonathan Duncan, the British Resident at Varanasi, who started Sanskrit Patasala (school) there in 1792 with the object of 'endearing our Government to the native Hindus', created by ousting Chet Singh, the popular, revolutionary Raja of Banaras.
The institution which Duncan began is now approaching its 200th year of existence, and from a Sanskrit-teaching school it has grown into a full-fledged university - the Sampurnanand Sanskrit University. Its library has an invaluable collection of more than 150,000 rare and ancient manuscripts besides possessing one of the world's best and largest collection of Sanskrit literature.
The library is of immense help to those doing research in Sanskrit, Pali and Prakrit literature and in other fields of Oriental learning.
There are more than 1000 Sanskrit patasalas in the state affiliated to the Sanskrit University.
Mahatama Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth
In the 1920s, the nationalists led by Mahatma Gandhi called for a boycott of British-run educational institutions. They held that the system of education in these institutions was antagonistic to national development and unity. To help the students who left these colleges in answer to his call, Gandhiji inaugurated the Kashi Vidyapeeth, a university which would impart technical and vocational education in Hindi and inculcate a spirit of nationalism and love for their motherland in its students. The university was financed by 8abu Shiv Prasad Gupta and built on a portion of his land.
Shiv Prasad was a great nationalist, a landlord and philanthropist. The college which he helped establish was inaugurated in February 1921. It was the first purely swadeshi educational venture on modern lines. Many stalwarts of the Freedom Struggle - Lal Bahadur Shastri, Acharya Narendra Dev, Dr. Sampurnanand and a number of other Satyagrahis - were from this institution.