Krishna Kanta Handiqui: A Brief Profile
An illustrious son of Assam, Professor Krishna Handiqui is one of the greatest Sanskritists and one of the greatest Indologists of the World, and above all, an educationist with uncommon ability and vision. During his life time he became a legendary figure and even to-day the very name K.K. Handiqui Stands for all the good and great qualities of a Saintly person. A man given completely to profound study and never bothering about popularity, power and fame Handique was a strict disciplinarian in the domain of educational administration. He always thought of getting quality rather than quantity.
From 1930 to 1948 Handiqui served as the founder Principal of the Jorhat Jagannath Baruah College, which was the first non-government degree college of the entire North-East region of India. From 1948 to 1957 Prof. Handiqui served as the founder Vice-Chancellor of the University of Gauhati, the oldest University of the entire North-East region of India. Addressing the young graduates in the first convocation of the Gauhati University held in 1951 he said : ” I need not remind them of then nascent responsibilities and the great tradition they have to carry forward as worthy citizens of India. They must remember that it is not degrees but character and the purity of the heart that will entitle them to the dignity of man. In a world full of temptations they have to keep their balance and resist the forces of evil.” Inaugurating the convocation Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan rightly remarked, ” Your Vice-Chancellor is not only a Vice-Chancellor but also a great scholar” Handiqui adopted the same recruitment policy as Sir Ashutosh Mookherjee did in the Calcutta University, viz., to recruit the best qualified persons as teachers from any part of India, irrespective of cast, creed or community. This put the University not only on a sound footing but also enhanced its prestige. Under his strong leadership, this institute grew from strength to strength. In 1952 Handiqui was elected the President of the Inter-University Board of India.He presided over the Vice-Chancellors’ conference at Madras University and the annual conference of the Board at Waltair, Andhra in the same year.
Prof. Handiqui inherited in his veins the blue blood of an aristrocratic Ahom Family of traditional administrators connected with the Ahom monarchs of medieval Assam who ruled over the kingdom of Assam for six hundred years at a stretch till 1826 when the kingdom got annexed to the territory under the sway of the East India Company. His family name Handique appears to be an Anlicised form of Assamese word Sandikai pronounced in Assamese as handikai or xandikai. The word is however derived from the Ahom (Tai) language meaning a bridge (hun) to lay (dikai).
Born at Jorhat in Upper Assam in July 20, 1898 he was the eldest son of the illustrious Raibahadur Radha Kanta Handiqui, a reputed tea planter and philanthropist of Assam. His mother Narayani Aideo was a sister of another illustrious son of Assam, viz., Padmanath Gohain Baruah, a pioneering writer of modern Assamese literature. Handiqui had his early education at Jorhat Govt. High School and then at Cotton College, Guwahati. He got a First Class in B.A. Honours in Sanskrit Securing Prasanna Kummar Sarbadhikari Gold medal as a student of Calcutta Sanskrit College in 1917 at the age of nineteen. During his college days he contributed illuminating articles to Assamese magazine Banhi edited by Sahityarathi Lakshminath Bezbaruah. His English articles were published in research journals like The Modern Review and The Indian Antiquary, Bombay. All of his articles bear stamp of wide study and clear exposition. He was one of the pioneers who started Asom Chatra Sanmilan and one of the Chief aim of the organisation was to encourage the student community to study and write for the advancement of Assamese literature. In 1919 Handiqui got a First Class in M.A. Sanskrit of Calcutta University with special papers on Vedic literature. In the M.A. Class he had the privilege of studying as the only student of the Vedic group in that batch under as great a scholar as Mahamahopadhyaya Sitaram Shastri who used to teach Vedic literature in traditional way through the medium of Sanskrit. With this thoroughly classical and traditional background Handiqui proceeded to England in 1920 and did his M.A. in Oxford University with honours in Modern History in 1923. Justice S.K. Dutta, an eminent educationist and a close associate of Handiqui is quite right in saying, “Handiqui was on the one hand a Sanskrit Pandit, on the other hand an Oxford don. There was a beautiful blend of Oriental and occidental culture in him.”