Oxford University names building after Dr. Lakshman Sarup, first to obtain DPhil degree from Oxford

Dr. Lakshman Sarup, who was a professor of Sanskrit at the Punjab University, had submitted his thesis on the subject of Yaksa’s Nirukta, the oldest Sanskrit treatise on etymology.

The Balliol College of the University of Oxford in England has named a building after Dr Lakshman Sarup, who was the first student at Oxford to submit his thesis for a Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) degree.

When Oxford University introduced the DPhil degree in 1917, Dr. Sarup was one of the two students who applied. The other was James Bronte Gatenby from New Zealand.

In a press release, Balliol College said, “Balliol’s newest buildings at the Master’s Field have been named after historic Balliol alumni and academics who reflect the diversity, values and history of the College. Block C1 has been named after Dr Lakshman Sarup (Balliol 1916).”

It further added, “Dr Lakshman Sarup (1894–1946) was the first student at Oxford to submit for a DPhil degree, which he was awarded in 1919 on the subject of Yaksa’s Nirukta, the oldest Sanskrit treatise on etymology.”

For his DPhil degree, Dr. Sarup produced an English translation of ‘Yaksa’s Nirukta’, the ancient Sanskrit text on philology, semantics and etymology. His was the first critical edition of the text which examined in great detail the contribution of ancient India and Greece to modern linguistics.

Born in Lahore in undivided India, Dr. Sarup graduated from DAV college in Lahore and obtained an MA in Sanskrit from Oriental College in Lahore.

Speaking about the work of Dr. Sarup, the University release stated “His DPhil was supervised by one of the foremost British scholars in the field, Arthur Macdonell, the Boden Professor of Sanskrit and a Fellow of Balliol. Sarup’s English translation of Nirukta was the first critical edition of the text, examining the contribution of ancient India and Greece to modern linguistics. He established that it was written sometime between 700 and 500 BCE.”

Upon his return in 1920, Dr. Sarup was appointed Professor of Sanskrit Literature at Punjab University. After two decades, in 1942, he became the first Indian scholar to be appointed Principal of the Oriental College of the University of Punjab.

After the end of the First World War, Dr. Sarup travelled to many universities in Europe. He started a French study group, the Minerva Club, and translated two of French playwright Moliere’s plays into Hindi, for which he was bestowed with Academie Francaise – the first Indian to receive this honour.

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