Dr. Pandurang Vaman Kane

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The rise of the British Empire and the fall of the Peshwa rule brought a radical change in the social and cultural life of Maharashtra. The British laid down the foundation of modern education here, considering the hold of religious superstitions on the minds of the average Indian citizen.  They also gave second class designations in administrative hierarchy like Deputy Collector, Mamledar, Patil, Kulkarni, etc., to the Indians who were lost in need of ecommerce and production after the decline of Peshwa rule. They did this to create a sense of trust among Indian people, for the British. By virtue of law, they even stopped many undesirable practices like Sati, Child Marriage, Untouchability, etc., with a valuable contribution from Indian reformists. It was during this British Era when Universities were established; circulation of newspapers & journals commenced too. Progressing forward, Manufacturing came to India and so did the Railways and Postal services and so, began the Industrial era of the country. The British started interfering in people’s personal choices too. With the help of missionaries, they started convincing people to accept Christianity as their religion, by pointing out mistakes in Hinduism and the social structure under its influence.

When the revolution of 1857 went unsuccessful, the leaders and thinkers of India started a movement to enlighten the society. They even made efforts to retaliate to the insults made by the missionaries. Many of them, who had received formal education in English language, moved to doing a detailed study of ancient literature to prove the importance of Indian religions and cultures. While doing this study, they found many good and bad qualities of Indian culture and with that knowledge, they moved in the direction of social reform and freedom. On these grounds, the National Assembly was born in 1885 leading to the day when India got freedom, i.e., 15th August 1947.

Bharatratna MahaMahopadhya (an honor given to Indian scholars since ancient times) Dr. Pandurang Vaman Kane has the same background to his work. His native place was Murde (Ratanagiri District & Khed Taluka) and his great grandfather was none other than Sadashiv Kane. His great grandfather had 3 sons named Shankar, Laxman and Raghunath, Shankar Kane being his grandfather. Shankar Kane was a Vedic pandit (scholar) and met ends being a Brahmin priest. Apart from this, he was an excellent Jyotshi (Astrologist) and an ace ayurvedic scholar. Like his father, he too has 3 sons, Bhaskar, Kedar & Vaman. Vaman Kane was Pandurang Kane’s Father. Mr. Vaman received his heritage of Sanskrit from his father. He knew the Rigved by heart. He even studied the Upanishads and Bhagvad Geeta in detail. Along with it, he also received training of being a Brahmin priest from his dad, as means to earn livelihood. But he did not like being a priest; so he moved to Pune at the age of 18 and by 23 he became a matric. Later he went on to finish his law studies and served as a district lawyer in the court of Dapoli from the year 1878. He was the first in that court to work with English as the official language, as before him all the lawyers used to operate in Marathi. Vaman Kane had 9 kids which included 3 daughters and 6 sons. His second son was none other than Pandurang Vaman Kane. As per hindu calendar he was born on tryodashi (third day) the month of chaitra vaidya in the year 1802, which according to English calendar is 7th May, 1880. He was born at a village called Pedhe Parshuram, in Chiplun taluka, at his maternal grandfather’s house. His maternal grandfather, Mr. Chitale, was a Vedic pandit and an ayurvedic doctor too. So it’s safe to assume that he received the legacy of Sanskrit knowledge from both, the maternal and fraternal sides of his family.

For his primary education, he was homeschooled by his father. Pandurang kane had a very strong memory since he was a kid. He could memorize anything he read just once. At a very young age he had memorized all 400 Shloks (poetic verses) of an old Sanskrit manuscript called Amarkosh. At the age of 11 in, in the year 1891, he took admission at A.G School (S.P.G Mission School then) for secondary education and scored first place in Bombay University exams. He had a tremendous appetite for reading. His handwritten notes can still be found at A. G high school. Later he went to Mumbai for higher education. In 1901, he passed B.A exams with first place from Wilson College, Mumbai. For post-graduation education in the subject of Sanskrit, he received the famous Bhau Daaji Scholarship. He became a B. A. LLB in the year 10902 and in 1903 he received the Vedanta award along with becoming a M.A. Later, he served as a teacher in a government school for 3 years. After that, he became a Sanskrit teacher at Elphistone High School, Mumbai in 1907. From 1909 to 1911 he served as a Sanskrit professor at Elphistone College, Mumbai. It was within these years that he wrote two books in Sanskrit for school and college students. To support his financial needs, he wrote few more educational books. Along with being a professor, he continued practicing law on the sidelines. On 5th July, 1911, at the age of 32, he received a grant to become a lawyer at the Bombay high court. In 1912, he achieved L.L.M degree in the subjects of Hindu and Muslim law. From 1911 to 1918 he edited and published one Sanskrit book per year. 6 more of his other books were published too, including 3 editions of a novel, 2 editions of Harshacharita & one Uttamramcharitra. He also took private tuitions for law students during this period. From 1917 to 1923 he served as a Law professor in a government law college. From 1924 to 1926, with the help of 3 printed copies and handwritten notes, he prepared a precise edition of Vyavaharmayukh which was published by Bhandarkar Research Institute.

While studying and gathering information for the edition of Vyavaharmayukh, his contemplation of the topic widened day by day. He realized that, summarizing all the information of this topic in a short prolusion won’t do justice to the richness of values, portrayed by the subject, like ancient social structure, its comparative judicature and the importance of the ‘History of Theology’ according to other faculties of knowledge. Hence, he decided to publish the ‘History of Theology’ in an independent manner. This great quest of knowledge that began in 1924, continued till the last breath of his life in 1972. His work stopped after 51 years in 1975, after the publication of 2nd edition of the 5th book of the ‘History of Theology’. Pandurang Kane was a victim of ulcer ailment since he was kid. Even after consulting many doctors, the ailment persisted. Later, he put himself on a dietary regimen and came up with few cure options. But alas, the ailment continued to trouble him even after the age of 45. It troubled him so much that he started developing suicidal thoughts. But even this did not stop him from completing his work on the ‘History of Theology’.

There was one more harrowing reason behind this great work. There were many western poets, who looked down upon Indian literature and culture, like Macaulay, who thought that even one English poem was far superior than all the Sanskrit poems combined; and Lord Curzon, who said that Indian are ignorant of the truth. Pandurang Kane wanted to give a scathing reply to all of them. Hence, even though he was a Sanskrit pandit and a Marathi scholar, he wrote the ‘History of Theology’ in English.

The time when ‘History of Theology’ was written, saw two types of ideologies prevailing in the Indian society. According to one set of ideology, our ancient customs have become absolute and they must be ended, thus paving a path for social reforms; while the other ideology considered that the teachings of religion are still proper and should be followed with dedication. Mr. Pandurang Kane was neither; he was a generalist. He was of the opinion that, what is old is not always gold, but, at the same time, you cannot ignore it too. In his writings, he always included the importance of the present while talking about the past and spoke about the future with foresight. His book clearly mentioned the problems arising in the post-independence era, the effective ways to tackle those problems and the necessary changes needed for the development of Indian society in the near future. Western and Indian scholars both consider the word of this book as proof of anything that arises in debates about theology. This shows as to how scholarly the book was written. The government understood the importance of this book in Indian social system and honored Pandurang Kane with Bharatratna in 1963. Many religious disputes were solved with the help of this book.

History of Poetics’ was one of his other great books. Apart from Theology and Poetry, he wrote a great deal on other topics too, which included Astrology, Cultural and Geographical history of India-Maharashtra-Konkan- Vidarbha, Marathi language, its grammar, language & handwriting, economics of Kautilya (Chanakya), Mathematics, Dramatics, etc. There are in all 198 publications by his name. They include 39 texts, 115 articles, 44 books, introductions and reviews.

In 1942, the British government honored him with the title of ‘Mahamahopadhyaya’, which was a title given in ancient India to a Sanskrit scholar. From 1947 to 1949 he served as the dean of Mumbai University. In the year 1958 he received an honor from the president of India. He played a major role in the foundation of Kurukshetra University. He was elected two times in Rajya Sabha and served the society through many mediums and platforms. He was one of the first members of the educational institute founded in Dapoli in 1922 and he was the president of the same foundation from 1938 to 1946.

His house at Dapoli was opposite the present day hotel Residency of Family Mall; house no.46. This house was demolished in the November, 2016. During holidays, he used to come to Dapoli with his family for vacations. He would enjoy the vacations like a common man playing with young lads, leaving his intellect away at a distance.

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