On February 24, Abul Kalam Mohammad Zakaria’s first death anniversary was observed at Dhaka University Registrar Building. At the programme, Bangla Academy Director General Shamsuzzaman Khan and DU Vice Chancellor Professor AAMS Arefin Siddique, among others, discussed the unprecedented role Zakaria played in exploring the archaeological sites of Bangladesh.
Zakaria was a writer, historian, researcher, archaeologist and anthropologist. He was a former president of the editorial board for the Committee for Documentation on Architectural Sites in Dhaka. He dedicated his whole life to digging out the true history of this land, through research, archaeological exploration and writing. He died at the age of 97 and almost every day of his adult life was spent either reading or writing about the history of this land. He was working on several books at the time of his death.
Born in 1918 in the village of Dariakandi , Brahmanbaria, Zakaria completed his graduation in English literature from Dhaka University. He began his career as a teacher at Government Azizul Haque College, Bogra. Two years later, he became a civil servant but his thirst for the archaeological treasures embedded in the soil of Bangladesh only increased. He searched for places of archeological importance wherever his responsibilities as a civil servant took him to. He helmed the project of excavating the Sintakote Bihar site from the 5th century in Dinajpur.
His contribution to the translation of Persian and Nath literature into Bengali is immense. He translated quite a few Persian literary masterpieces, including Tabaqat -i-Nasiri authored by Minhaz-e–Shiraz who had accompanied Bakhtiyar Khilji to Bengal several hundred years ago
He was the first secretary of state for culture, education and sports that further fueled his interest in the cultural heritage of our country. As a result, he devoted himself in exposing the gems ingrained in ancient era. Throughout his term, he formed twenty one sports federation across the country. He aimed at enriching the sports sector and fostering new talents. He opined sports to be a crucial part of culture.
His energy and enthusiasm at work always served as a perennial source of inspiration for young people.
His contribution to the translation of Persian and Nath literature into Bengali is immense. He translated quite a few Persian literary masterpieces, including Tabaqat -i-Nasiri
authored by Minhaz-e–Shiraz who had accompanied Bakhtiyar Khilji to Bengal several hundred years ago. He edited and translated some of the most important pieces of Middle Age literature into Bengali. Gupi Chondrer Sonyas
, Gazi Kalu o Chompaboti
and Bangladesher Nritotyo
are a few to be named. Till his last breath, he was devoted to the documentation and translation of ancient scriptures. He left a goldmine of historical and archaeological material to be explored by upcoming generations.
He won the Ekushey Padak in 2015 and the Bangla Academy Award in 2006. He was also awarded with the Asiatic Society Man of the Year Gold Medal.
The speakers at the memorial programme duly noted that all his written works must be published and preserved because in them he not only analysed rare archaeological and anthropological artefacts but also established a scientific itinerary of the Bengalis’ progress from non-Aryan civilisations to the present era.
Hasnin Hassan writes for Arts & Letters.