A Historical Perspective of Science in Urdu Literature

In Pakistan and India, different languages are spoken. For the last four centuries, Urdu has played a vital and healthy role in the co-ordination of thoughts. Its impact on the regional languages made it superior which is a major factor. On the other hand, Urdu has itself been influenced by other languages. In a very short span of time, it became the language of masses. After 350 years, it gradually became a literary language.

The pioneer of Urdu language had started to introduce different branches of knowledge, skills and crafts, about four centuries ago. This has enriched the language. The translation of books of science was started in the year 1591 and continued till 1832 without any break. We can, therefore, say that this work had already started in the 16th century and reached the peak by the end of the 19th century. The writers of scientific books and others who were proficient and had scientific knowledge, devoted their entire energy to the compilation and translation of Western books, specially the books of sciences. The works of that period reflect the greatness and gradual progress of Urdu language.

The kings of Oudh, Delhi College, the scientific society, Ali Garh, Anjuman-e-Punjab and Roorkee College of Engineering, have brought great revolution in the history of Urdu language. Under the patronage of lover of Urdu from Hyderabad Deccan, and the wealthy prince Mohammad Fakhruddin Khan, a large number of books of Mathematics, Chemistry, Medicine and western system of medicine, totaling about 30 were published between 1832 and 1860. Under the patronage of kings of Oudh, a second attempt on the translation of books of western branch of knowledge was made. Between the period 1833 to 1853, the books of scientific knowledge were compiled. In the same way, a third organised attempt was made in Delhi College between 1841 and 1851. This college was really a junction of East and West. Its salient and distinctive features were that the medium of instruction for teaching the western branches of knowledge was Urdu. The department of compilation and translation of Delhi College published many scientific books in different sizes. Thus it can be said that this college played a vital and distinctive role in making Urdu the medium of education. Many scientific books of the West were translated between 1873 and 1877.

The Roorkee College of Engineering published a large number of text books in Urdu, between the period 1856 to 1888. In this connection Anjuman-e-Punjab also played a dignified role in the translation of scientific books in Urdu.

Due to shortage of time, I am finishing this article in which I have focused briefly on the compilation and translation done from the year 1591 to the 19th century. This reflects the importance of transferring scientific knowledge in Urdu through translation. This objective can be achieved by translations and compilation as had been done in the past. This is a matter of great importance and of urgent nature. Its implementation is urgently required so that Urdu language may be enriched by scientific knowledge in such a way that maximum benefits may be obtained. In this connection the example of Jamia Usmania can be cited. There arrangements were made to teach all the branches of knowledge through the medium of Urdu.

Father of Urdu language, Maulvi Abdul Haq and his companions took the leading role in this connection in our dear country Pakistan. They made every possible effort to achieve their objective. It is heartening to note that after a long time, Urdu College has been given the status of Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology by our government. It is really a great occasion and a milestone as it shall go a long way in achieving our aim and object of national importance. In addition, for the purpose of compilation and translation, a comprehensive programme should be carried out so that reasonable arrangements are made for education at all levels. There should also be arrangements to acquaint the common man with western education, specially the awareness for the knowledge of science.

I would like to add that in undivided India, translation of books pertaining to science, technology and other subjects was carried out in Osmania University, Hyderabad (Deccan). Many Osmanians are engaged in various fields in our country. Their role is vital.