Though we see Dogri Poetry's birth in Rama Datta Bhadwal's (popularly known as Dattu belonging to 2nd half of 18th Century) poetry so for a traced only in two couplets. He was basically a renowned poet of Braj Bhaska (language) There after, similarly Lal Ram Dhan,Ganga Ram, Mathara Dasand Kanshi Ram (known as Pahari Gandhi) also composed some Dogri couplets, but not so systematic poetary or any thing in prose. After a long interval, however, it was only during Maharaja Ranvirt Singh sign that Dogri language got a royal patronage and it was declared an official language along with Persian language. However, by the order of the Maharaja, its then prevailing script was modified and improved also. All the Government notifictions and orders used to be issued in this language alongwith Persian. It also got place in the revenue stamps, postal stamps and currency notes etc. Some important books of the other languages were also translated into this language, Lilavati being however, one of them, as it is most important book on Mathematics (in Sanskrit) which was translated by Jyotishi Visheshwar. But alas, after the sudden death of that great Dogri ruler during 1886. (AD) Dogri had vitually become orphan. No body did take care towards its declining status and the Urdu language becme dominant alongwith English.
Again it was during middle thirties that we see that Dogri reopened its eyes in Pt. Har Datta's poetry like- "Adalti da dhanda", Vishwa nath Khajuria's one act play- 'Achoot' Dinu Bhai Pant's Guttalu, B.P. Sathe's short stories, but this all was scanty and scattered approach which hardly could fulfill the conditions for the all round development of Dogri literture. It was however, with the advent of Prof. Ram Nath Shastri when Dogri's renaissance period re-started. He gathered some serious friendly personalities like D.C. Prashant, Pt. Sansar Chand, Baru, Dinu Bhai Pant and Narayan Mishra etc. and on the auspicious day of Basant Panchmi during 1944, the Dogri Sanstha was established with a solemn declaration for the development and growth of Dogri language and its literature. Just after that in an informal meeting of the Sanstha Pt. Sansar Chand Baru was nominated as-its first founder president and Prof. Shastri was nominated its first founder general secretary, who proved to be the main and leading source of inspiration for others especially for the talented younger generation. In order words it is to be pointed out here that with the inception of Dogri Sanstha a systematic movement under the inspiring, dymanic leadership and guidance of Prof. Shastri was started very vigorously. With the result several young poets and writers of Hindi and Urdu started turning towards Dogri. Amongst them however, the names of Ved Pal Deep, Kehari Singh Madhukar and Yash Sharma etc are particularly to be mentioned here, though writers lke B.P. Sathe, J.C. Sathe and Ram Kumar Abrol etc were also joining simultaneously.
Born on 15th April 1914 to a Khajuria Brahman parents at Madi village near Reasi town in Jammu division, his father Sh. Gouri Shankar Khajuria was a renowed Ayurvedic Physician in his area, but unfortunately he could not carry on his practice properly in that area. He therefore, decided to shift down to Jammu city alongwith all family members and settled in Karan nagar Mohalla of the city where his luck however, started bringing fruit, Since, his father wanted his son Ram Nath to adopt the Aurvedic Profession like his, he decided to get him admitted in a Sanskrit Pathshala being run in the premises of Ranbir High School, Jammu. After getting preliminary education in that pathshala he got admission in Sh. Raghu Nath Sanskrit maha vidyalaya, Jammu, which was a pioneering institute for the learning of Sanskrit during those days. He passed his Shastri (Hon. In Sanskrit) followed by Prabhakar (Hon in Hindi) BA & MA (Sanskrit) examination all from the Lahore, University respectively. Thereafter, he joined as teacher in Rajput High School, Jammu. He served in that School for 5 years. During that period he solemnized his 2nd marriage as his first wife had since expired. His 2nd wife Smt. Sushila Devi proved to ba a very dedicated life partner for him who always had been a source of inspiration for him.
He joined as lecturer in Sanskrit in the prince of Wales college (now known as Gandhi Memorial Science College) Jammu, the post-vacated due the retirement of a world famours linguist Dr. Siddherhwar Verma.
While serving in that College when he was asked to supervise the Hindi Section of the college magazine-Tawi and also to guide the students accordingly, a question struck in his mind that Dogri even being the mother tongue of the Dogra community why was not finding any place in the college magazine. Then and there he decided to do some thing for the development of that language and literature.
As already said in the preceding paragraph he took an initiative to establish Dogri Sanstha with the help of above mentioned five stalwarts. Though previously he used to write shortstories and essays etc in Hindi only then by switching over to his mother tongue Dogri he by and by started concentrating in Dogri writing also.
Consquently, within a short span of time his pen captured the nerve of Dogri language's sensibility, and in due course of time he became a celebrated Dogri poet, fiction writer, essayist, dramatist and translator etc. He, through his writings, in such like various generes was successful to lead Dogri movement so as to reach out to the Dogra people in order to make them under stand the importance of Dogri language and literature as their mother tongue. He retired as Professor of Sanskrit. He had been a senior fellow of Dogri in the University of Jammu from 1970 to 1975, from 1977 to 1985 he worked as a chief editor of the Dogri-Dogri dictionary project of J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages which is regarded as a monoumntal addition to the development of the Dogri language. Moreour, it was especially for the benefit of the lovers of Dogri. He was one of the members of first central committee and also that of the general council of the same academy. He was also nominated as one of the members of Academic Council of Jammu and Kashmir University (When there was only one University for both the regions.)
Prof. Shastri by giving impetus to the spirit of renaissance of Dogri language for the benefit of Dogra community he made them understand the beauty of their mother tongue. Thus, he worked tirelessly to promote this language by writing in different genres of the literature of this language as well as by propagating it in different fields. Not this much only he also presented an ideology that he believed in getting rid of out dated and old values and welcoming higher values like fairness, equality and individual self pride. His many writings have enshrined in them satire and irony as he vigorously exposes the duel character of many people in the society. He has always made emphasis on writing biographies of those Dogra heroes who always challenged the establishment and followed the path of justice and virtues. In short his basic ideology was progressive one enshrined with rich Indian tradition. Again it was due to his convincing power that he made Dr. Karan Singh agreed to donate two kanals of land in Karan Nagar for the construction of Dogri Bbawan which is now getting a big building's shape. Prof. Shastri also alongwith his friends to approach Sahitya Akademi's chairman for recognizind Dogri as a literary languate and then too with the recomendation of Dr Siddheshwar Verma, Dr. S.K. Chatterjee agreed to recognize it during 1969.
His writings :-
1) Dharti Rin - It is a collection of poems he wrote over a thirty five year's period
2) Badnami Di Chhan - A collection of Dogri short Stories 1976 AD.
3) Talkhian - A collection of Dogri Gazals
4) Kalam Kar Charan Singh - A critical study of Late Dogri poet Charan Singh
5) Duggar De Lok Nayak - An Account of three great heroes of Duggar - (1) Bawa Jitto (2) Data Rnapat and (3) Mian Dido
6) Naman Gran - Dogri play (with co-authors Dinu Bhai Pant and Ram Kumar Abrol)
7) Bawa Jitto- Dogri play based on the life and sacrifice of a legendary Dogra hero.
8) Jhankdian Kirana a- A collection of sic one act plays.
His major translation works -
He also translated array of many prominent works intoDogri from the different language such as Sanskrit, Hindi Bengali and English books to further the richness of Dogri languages literature.
1. Six Upanishads (All prominent)
2. Bharatari Hari's Niti and Vairagyashatakas
3. Shudraka's Mricchakatikam (a well known Sanskrit drama) as Mitti di gaddi
4. Bhasa's four short plays - (1) Doot Vakyam, (2) Karna Bhar (3) Madhyama vyagoga and (4) Doot Ghatotkacha
5. Ravinder Tagore's - Gitenjali and Balidan, Malini and Dakghar (all three dramas)
6. Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography - My experiments with truth.
7. Vinova Bhave's Gita Pravachan.
8. C.Rajagopalchari's Ramayana.
9. Dharma Vir Bharti's -Dharmayuga as 'Annayug'
10. Gorki's lower Depths as Patalbasi.
Editing works :-
Apart from the above Dogri- Dogri dictionary's editing works as a Chief Editor, he also edited works are considered to be of high standard during 1970. On the occasion of the Silver Jublee Celebration of Dogri Sanstha, he edited the 'Rajat Jayanti Granth' in which standard research oriented articles on Dogra culture, art, social life, literature and history were included. All the articles were written by the renowed and eminent scholars of Jammu region.
Awards and honours received by him -
1) Sahitya Akademy award for his short story - Badnami Di Chaan during 1977.
2) Sahitya Akademy's translation prize in 1989 for his translation of Sanskrit drama Mriccha Katikam as "Mitti Di Gaddi".
3) State Academy award for his Dogri prose work- Duggar De Lok Nayak, in 1981
4) State Academy award for his collection of Dogri Gazals - Talkhiyan in 1991.
5) Padma Shri Award, India's fourth highest civilian honour for literature and education in 1990.
6) D. Litt. (Honoria causa) from the University of Jammu in 1994.
7) 59th Sahitya Akademy Fellowship, the highest literary honour conferred on him by Government of India for his contribution to Dogri language and literature.
When the Central Government decided to include Dogri in the 8th schedule of Indian Constitution in December 2003, he had felt extremely happiness and said- This has ended the long struggle of the Dogri speaking people for a rightful place for their language. The Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee has fulfilled his promise to Jammuites.
Smt. Padama Sachdev, the eminent Dogri writer, has rightly said-Professor Ram Nath Shatri is the Bhartendu of Dogri language and literature. There is not a single person who is writing in Dogri now, has not been influenced by him. Not a single word is there in Dogri on which his stamp has not been registered with the help ofhis associates. He salvaged Dogri languge from the cultural debris and presented it in a very much revived and refreshed state before the Dogra people. Earlier the Dogra writers were writing in other languages, perhaps taking Dogri to the language not fit for literary composition." Am eminent Oriya poet and ex president of Sahitya Akademi Said" There are a few in India and elsewhere in the world who excel in so many areas of literature.
At last, but not the least here just two lines of his one of the gazals having the progressive ideology are being quoted here for the sake of judging his such approach towards life- Dharma de nan innakuda, (Talkhiyan) (So much rubbish in the name of religion, why don't you just forget it? good or bad, this character is at least mine.)
When this great piller of Dogri expired on 8th March 2009 all the Dogri lovers were shocked. Prof. Ram Nath now though is no more in this mortal world he will be living in his writings and works done for the advancement of Dogri for all times to come.