GRIFFITH, Ralph Th. H.

GRIFFITH, Ralph Thomas Hotchkin. Corsley, Wiltshire 25.5.1826 — Kotagiri, Tamil Nadu 7.11.1906. British Teacher and Translator of Sanskrit Literature. More than fifty years in India, 1853-1906. Son of R. C. Gr., a clergyman, educated in Westminster (or Warminster?) and Uppingham, then from 1843 at Queen’s College, Oxford (B.A. 1846, M.A. 1849), where he was introduced to Sanskrit by H. H. Wilson. In 1850-53 Assistant Master (teacher) at Marlborough. In 1853 joined Indian Educational Service, started as Professor of English Literature at Benares Government College, in 1854 Headmaster of the same college. From 1856 Inspector of Schools in Benares Circle. He was also responsible of the English medium teaching of Sanskrit and became friend with the Sanskrit Professor, Pandit Ram Jason. In 1861 succeeded Ballantyne as Principal of Benares Sanskrit College, until 1878 (succeeded by Thibaut). In 1866 founded the Pandit (monthly journal of the Benares College) and edited it 8 years. In 1878-85 Director of Public Instruction in the North-Western Provinces and Oudh. Retired in 1885 and as a bachelor settled down with his brother Frank, who was an engineer in Bombay Presidency, in Kotagiri (Nilgiri), where he lived the rest of his life. C.I.E. 1885.

In his first years in India Griffith was also interested in Hindi, later only in Sanskrit. He admired Sanskrit literature and was not interested in linguistics. The bulk of his scholarly work consisted of translations, i. al. the good rendering of the Rāmāyaṇa. In his Veda translations he used an eclectic method. The result was beautiful, but often inexact and unreliable. Nevertheless, his Rigveda was more than 100 years the only complete English translation of the work (after Wilson’s wholly unsatisfactory rendering of Sāyaṇa’s interpretation). Also translated from Persian.

Publications: Translated: Specimens of Old Indian Poetry. 15+128 p. L. 1852 (from Mahābhārata, Rāmāyana and Kālidāsa)

– Translated: The Birth of the War-God, a Poem by Kālidāsa. 89 p. L. 1853, 2nd ed. L. 1879; Idylls from the Sanskrit. 151 p. L. 1866.

Scenes from the Ramayan. 196 p. L. 1868, 2nd ed. L. 1870.

Transl. Rámáyan of Válmíki. 1-5. Benares & L. 1870-75.

Transl. Hymns of the Rigveda, with a popular commentary. 1-4. Benares 1889-92, 2nd ed. 1-2. Benares 1896-97, 3rd 1916, etc.

Transl. Hymns of the Sámaveda. Benares 1893, new ed. 6+338+37 p, Benares 1926; Hymns of the Atharvaveda. 1-2. 539+500 p. Benares 1895-96; The texts of the White Yajurveda. 20+344 p. Benares 1899, 2nd 1927.

Transl. from Persian: Yúsuf and Zulaikha; a poem by Jámí. 303 p. L. 1882.

Sources: A.A.M[acdonell], D.N.B. Suppl. 1912, 169f., *rev. by J.B. Katz, Oxford D.N.B.; Buckland, Dictionary; briefly Wikipedia; photo in Sardesai.

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