Monday, June 10, 2019

Death of Mesrob Taghiadian (June 10, 1858)

Mesrob Taghiadian was a writer and traveller who led a colorful life in the first half of the nineteenth century, bringing a mixture of progressive and conservative ideas to Eastern Armenian culture, particularly in India and Iran.

He was born on January 2, 1803, in the neighborhood of Tsoragiugh, in Yerevan. He studied at the monastery of Holy Echmiadzin, at the time when Eastern Armenia was still under Persian domination and educational methods were not very enlightened. However, he had the good fortune to study for a couple of years (1818-1819) with a good teacher, the archimandrite Poghos Gharadaghtsi (ca. 1790-ca. 1860). He collected popular songs and legends in the villages of the area. He became a deacon, but did not take the habits.

Taghiadian’s inquisitive mind and adventurous spirit led him to Calcutta (nowadays Kolkatta), where he studied at Bishop’s College from 1826-1830. While studying, he published a number of translations from English and Latin into Armenian, with an eclectic choice of authors (William Shakespeare, John Milton, John Locke, and Alexander Pope, among others). On the year of his graduation, he published his first book, Mythology (1830). Leaving Calcutta, he went first to New Julfa, where he founded a school, and then to Echmiadzin, where he worked for a year as director of the print shop and the library, as well as secretary of Catholicos Nerses V. Afterwards he went back and forth between New Julfa and Echmiadzin, later to Constantinople, and then, after many adventures, he settled in Calcutta around 1840.

He first took a job at Bishop’s College as director of the Armenian section of the print shop. He published two textbooks in 1840. In addition to other textbooks published later, he also published some books of scholarship: History of Ancient India from Immemorial Times to the Invasion of the Mohammedans (1841), Humorous Persian Fables (1846), History of the Persians (1846), and The Martyrdom of St. Sandukht (1847). In 1847 he wrote an extensive travelogue of his trips through India, Persia, and Armenia. He also tried his hand at fiction, with two novels, The Story of Vardgues (1846) and The Story of Varsenik (1847), which figure among the earliest examples of modern Armenian fiction. In 1847 he published a collection of his poetry, entitled The Taghiadian’s Parrot, and a love poem based on an Indian tale, Sos and Sontipi. All his works were written in Classical Armenian, which was still the standard language of writing at the time.

In 1845 he published the periodical Azgaser, renamed Azgaser Araratian in 1848, where he wrote about many current issues (religious, economic, social, cultural, educational, and literal), making his own share of criticisms and offerings his viewpoints. The paper ceased publication in 1852.

Meanwhile, in 1846 he had opened a co-ed school named after St. Sandukht, with educational methods based on modern European methods and not on the old scholastic system. He extolled those methods in a book, Discourse on the Education of Girls (1847). He maintained that education provide moral characteristics, rather than innate traits.

In 1858 Taghiadian decided to return to Armenia and spend the rest of his life there. However, he fell ill in Shiraz (Persia) and passed away on June 10, 1858.

It is interesting to note that Archbishop Mesrob Ashjian of blessed memory was prelate of Ispahan from 1973 to 1977, before coming to the Eastern Prelacy and at the time, he collected extensive unpublished material on Mesrop Taghiadian, which he published in a thick volume of more than 600 pages, entitled Archive of Mesrop Taghiadian, in 1979.