Purnendu Narayan Sinha

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Dewan Bahadur Purnendu Narayan Sinha (his first name being variously spelled as Purmendu, Purnedu, Purnanda, or Purnendra) was a member of the Theosophical Society and an educator in India. He held the BL (Bachelor of Laws) and MA (Master of Arts) degrees. He was a graduate of Patna University.[1] In 1924 Mr. Sinha was awarded with the Subba Row Medal by the Society for his contributions to Theosophical literature. He died in 1923.

Work in law and education

For 21 years, Purnendu Narayan Sinha worked as a government pleader (an attorney representing the government in civil suits). He was also active in civic matters such as the Patna Industrial Improvement Society, and he founded many schools in Bankipore and Patna from 1895 to 1902. He was especially concerned with the education of girls:

Unfortunately, there were many social prejudices against female education in Bihar. Realising these prejudices, Purnendu Narayan Sinha, a prominent public figure and Government pleader at Patna said that the question of female education should be dealt with cautiously in Bihar. He wanted to proceed on the lines of least resistance by finding out the existing materials and improving them. The Government, therefore, tried to encourage female education through Parda-schools, and the Director of Public Instructions tried to get Parda-nashin girls and Hindu lady teachers...

But even this moderate scheme did not cut much ice because of the conservatism prevailing in the society.[2]

"Parda," often spelled "purdah," refers to the practice of keeping girls in seclusion from males and strangers. Finding teachers for the girls was a significant problem. Brahmo Samaj and Christian teachers were available, but orthodox Hindu and Muslim families would place their daughters only in the hands of teachers who shared their orthodoxy. After years of patient effort, education gradually became available for girls of all ages, and teacher training colleges were developed.

In 1909, Purnendu Narayan Sinha spoke on the subject "Education in India" at the Benares conference on "Education and the Theosophical Society."[3]

Activities in the Theosophical Society

Babu Purnendu Narayana Sinha was an early member of the Theosophical Society in India, admitted on December 14, 1882.[4] He was the leader of the branch at Bankipore, Patna, called the Behar Theosophical Society, located on the Ganges River in northeast India. Later he served as General Secretary of the Indian Section of the Theosophical Society from 1919 to 1923.

On April 22, 1883, Sinha was one of a group who witnessed a mesmeric healing by Colonel Olcott and signed a statement attesting to its success:

The undersigned certifies that he has just been restored to speech by Col. Olcott, after a mesmeric treatment of not more than five minutes; and also had strength restored to his right arm, which, until then, was so powerless that he could not lift a pound's weight. He lost the power of articulating words in the month of March 1882.[5]

The colonel also wrote of him in 1898:

In the case of Bankipore, for many years we have had at the head of the Branch one of the most intelligent, best educated and devoted men of India, Babu Purnendu Narayana Sinha, the Government Pleader, whose contributions to literature are well known throughout India. Hence the Branch is always active, always prosperous and at no station do our travelling lecturers, like Mrs. Besant. Miss Edger, Mr. Leadbeater and myself, receive a warmer or more ungrudging aid.[6]

Annie Besant mentioned his work as a lecturer:

Interesting items of news come in from time to time, bearing on the question of the coming of the supreme Teacher. Rai Bahadur Purnendu Narayana Sinha, one of our oldest and best-read members, made a deep impression on his Hindu hearers at the Behar Federaton, by showing them that in the Puranas the home of the Bodhisattva was called Badarikashrama, and that the masters are therein spoken of as the Rishis of Badarikashrama, among them being mentioned Vyasa and Maitreya Rishi.[7]



Babu Sinha wrote in English, Hindi and Bengali, quoting Sanskrit passages.

  • The System of Government in Ancient India. Calcutta: Printed by B.B. Mozumdar, 1888.
  • A Study of the Bhâgavata Purâna or Esoteric Hinduism. Benares: Freeman & Co., 1901. The dedicated reads "To Annie Besant, The Bhagavata of Bhagavata these pages are respectfully dedicated by her most devoted brother." Available at Project Gutenberg and Internet Archive.
  • Theosophy in the Light of Hinduism. Adyar, Bombay, India: Theosophical Pub. House, 1921.
  • The Chandi Or Great Plan. Translated by P. N. Sinha. Adyar, Bombay, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1922.
  • God through Nature. Adyar, Bombay, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1923.
  • Religious Thought in the East.

These two works may have been written by a later writer with a similar name:

  • Population Growth and Global Stability. See India Club web page.
  • Population Education and Family Planning.


He was a frequent contributor to The Theosophist, writing the following articles:

  • March 1883 (supplement) v4 p4 - The Behar Theosophical Society - Rules & Bye-Laws
  • June 1883 (supplement) v4 p5 - Colonel Olcott at Bankipore
  • June 1891 v12 p540 - Linga Purana
  • December 1891 v13 p141 - Some Mythologies in relation to the Vedas
  • March 1893 v14 p352 - Yellow, Blue & Violet
  • June 1893 v14 p548 - Colours
  • July 1893 v14 p592 - Colours (1)
  • September 1893 v14 p749 - Esoteric Hinduism
  • November 1893 v15 p110 - Colours (2)
  • July 1894 v15 p639 - Avataras, or the Guardians of the Universe
  • April 1895 v16 p434 - The Vedic Pranayama
  • May 1895 v16 p510 - Some Thoughts on Vedic Pranayama
  • July 1895 v16 p644 - Some Thoughts on Vedic Pranayama (2)
  • November 1895 v17 p86 - Thoughts on Vedic Sandhya (1)
  • December 1895 v17 p155 - Thoughts on Vedic Sandhya (2)
  • April 1912 v33 p79 - Chaitanya, The Prophet of Bengal

He also wrote for Theosophy in India, and his article "The Influence of Lord Maitreya on the Bhagavata Purana" was reprinted in the July 1915 issue of The Messenger.

In February 1891 he wrote the article "The Religious Ideas & Practices of India & Their Growth" in the periodical Branch Work published at Adyar, Madras, India.

"The Religion of the Future, an Aspect of Vaishnavism" was printed in the Transactions of the First Congress of the Federation of European Sections of the Theosophical Society Held in Amsterdam June 19th, 20th and 21st, 1904.

Awards and honors

In 1924 Mr. Sinha was awarded with the Subba Row Medal by the Society for his contributions to Theosophical literature.

The British Raj granted him the high honor of the title "Dewan Bahadur". In 1906 he received the gold "Kaisar-i-Hind Medal for Public Service in India", a medal awarded by the British monarch between 1900 and 1947 to civilians of any nationality who rendered distinguished service in the advancement of the interests of the British colonial government. The Gold Medal honored his work in education.

The Dr. Purnendu Narayan Sinha Memorial Foundation was founded in his honor, but does not seem to be active.[8]


  1. http://www.patnauniversity.ac.in/hist6.html Patna University web page.
  2. Shreedhar Narayan Pandey, Education and social changes in Bihar, 1900-1921 (Motilal Banarsidass Publishing House, 1975). This book refers to a letter from Sinha to the Private Secretary to Lt. Governor of Bengal, 24 July 1905.
  3. Ernest Binfield Havell, The Basis for Artistic and Industrial Revival in India (Adyar, Madras, India: Theosophist Office, 1912), 190.
  4. "Sinha, Dewan Bahadur Purnendu Narayan" Theosophical Year Book, 1937 (Adyar, Bombay, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1937), 236.
  5. Old Diary Leaves, Second Series (1878-83), 431-432. See online version.
  6. Old Diary Leaves, Sixth Series (1896-98), 277. See online version.
  7. Annie Besant, "The Coming World-Teacher," The Theosophist 33.10 (July 1912), 510.
  8. Dr. Purnendu Narayan Sinha Memorial Foundation. Last reported activity in 2009.