Ram Karan Sharma Biography

Dr. Ram Karan Sharma (March 20, 1927 – December 18, 2018), was a noted Sanskrit scholar and poet. He held prestigious positions in government and academic institutions. Apart from his own literary works he also translated and edited books on Indian medicine, epics, and purāṇas.

Ram Karan Sharma (photo taken 2005)

Dr. Ram Karan Sharma was born March 20, 1927 at Shivapur in Saran District in Bihar. He received an M.A. (Sanskrit and Hindi) from Patna University. He received degrees in Sāhityācārya, Vedānta, and Navya-Vyākaraṇa from Bihar Sanskrit Association. As a Fulbright scholar he received his Ph.D. in Sanskrit from the University of California where he worked with Professor M. B. Emeneau. An esteemed international scholar, Dr. Sharma held visiting professorships at Columbia, Chicago, and the University of California. As of 2006, Dr. Sharma resided in Delhi and taught in the United States for several months of each year.

Dr. Sharma wrote in both Sanskrit and English. His literary works include the poetry collections SandhyaPatheyasatakamVina, and Kavita and the novels, Rayisah and Sima. Apart from his literary works he also translated and edited books on Indian medicine, epics, and the purāṇas. He published about one hundred research papers in various seminars, journals and books in the field of Indology.

His Elements of Poetry in the Mahabharata is a systematic analysis of similies, metaphors, and figures of speech in the context of oral poetry. Other major works include the Anthology of Mediaeval Sanskrit Literature (included in volume one of Paniker’s Anthology of Medieval Indian Literature), ŚivasahasranāmāṣṭakamSivasukiyamGaganavaniCaraka SamhitaRejuvenative Healthcare in AyurvedaKavitaSarvamangalaSumanomalaDipika, and editing the 1993 reprint edition of the Gaṇeśa Purāṇa. His contributions to the subject of the development of Buddhist thought in India include editing Researches in Indian and Buddhist Philosophy.

Book cover for Mahābhārata by Ram Karan Sharmav
Elements of Poetry in the Mahābhārata

Dr. Sharma was known for actively organizing Oriental conferences and seminars promoting the international exchange of ideas. He was President of the International Association of Sanskrit Studies (IASS) from 1994–2006 and one of the Vice Presidents of the IASS from 2006 till his passing away on 18 December 2018. He was the Organizing Secretary for the First and Fifth World Sanskrit Conferences.

Under the auspices of the IASS, beginning in 2023 the “Professor Ram Karan Sharma Award” will be granted at IASS world conferences to a “promising emerging scholar” from around the world.

For his varied contributions to Sanskrit literature he received many awards including the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1989, the Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad Award in 1989, the Delhi Sanskrit Academy Award, and one of India’s most prestigious awards, the Presidential Award. He received the 2005 Krishna Kanta Handique Memorial Award, presented in 2006 by the Honorable Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh. Dr. Sharma was the second person to receive this high honor, given in recognition of his contributions to promote the cause of Sanskrit language and literature. He was a fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society (London) and Member of the American Oriental Society.

He was a government servant under Bihar Civil Service, Government of Bihar. As an educator he held many prestigious positions in government and academic institutions, including:

  • 1961-1970, Special Officer (Sanskrit), Government of India
  • 1970-1974 and 1980-1983, Founder Director, Rastriya Sanskrit Sansthan
  • 1974-1980, Vice-Chancellor of Kameshwar Singh Darbhanga University, Darbhanga
  • 1983-1984, Joint Educational Advisor, Government of India
  • 1984-1985, Sampurnananda Sanskrit University, Varanasi
Ram Karan Sharma (photo taken 2005)

“Sanskrit is one of the oldest surviving members of the Indo-European family of languages, characterized by its uninterrupted continuity for at least the last six thousand years. It is not confined to any region, any religion, any one philosophical school or race or caste. It has served as a vehicle for all kinds of literary, cultural, spiritual, intellectual, philosophical and scientific expressions of humankind throughout the ages. It continues to serve as a medium of expression including day-to-day conversation and modern aesthetic creations. It has also served as a most effective medium for a dialogue of cordial understanding between the East and the West for at least the last two centuries. Sanskrit represents not merely a language, but a distinct tradition that brings us closer to one another linguistically, philosophically, culturally as well as spiritually.” — R. K. Sharma

Keywords: Ram Karan Sharma, Rama Karana Sharma, R. K. Sharma, RK Sarma, Sanskrit audio recordings, Śivasahasranāmāṣṭakam, Sivasahasranamastakam, Siva sahasranama, Shiva sahasranama, Gaṇeśa Purāṇa, Ganesa Purana, Elements of Poetry in the Mahabharata, Mahābhārata