First Indian Wrangler : Raghunath Purushottam Paranjape from Dapoli

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Not only did he always score first place in the University exams in India, but also topped the mathematical tripos exams at the University of Cambridge, after which, he became the first Indian to receive the honor of ‘Senior Wrangler’. He was none other than Raghunath Purushottam Paranjape; or more commonly known as, R. P. Paranjape.

‘Wrangler’ – What does this honor mean?

Previously, at the Cambridge University of England, a student who gains first-class honors in the third year of the University’s undergraduate exam was honored by the title of ‘Wrangler’. The highest scoring student was called ‘Senior Wrangler’. R. P. Paranjape became a Senior Wrangler in the year 1899 by excelling in these exams. In those days, the exams were conducted only orally. Later in time they switched to exams in written format. The students appearing for exams would sit on a three legged stool; hence, the exams were named ‘Tripos’. The examiners would sit on a chair facing the student and intimidate them with the most difficult questions to test their true knowledge of the subject. The student, who would become senior wrangler, would further receive many awards and liberties. A senior wrangler would get many facilities for his further education; including a fellowship, a good position in the university and an invitation to write a book.

R. P. Paranjape was born in a village named Murdi near Anjarle in the district of Ratanagiri on 16th February 1876. His father Purushottam Pant was a Dashgranthi Brahman (A priest well versed in the recitation of the 10 holy texts of Hindu religion). R. P. Paranjape took after his father when it came to intelligence. He was the 7th son among 12 other siblings. As a matter of fact, Bharatratna Maharshri Karve and Wrangler Paranjape were paternal cousins. Maharshri Karve always helped Paranjape a great deal when it came to education. R. P. Paranjape finished his primary education at Anjarle, Murud, Dapoli, and his higher education at Mumbai & Pune. He even passed his B.Sc. with all the rewards. He received a scholarship from the Indian government for his excellent academic performance, thus further proceeding to England. In 1899, he was honored by the British government as the first Indian Wrangler. After returning from England in 1902, he was offered the post of a Principal at Fergusson College. In 1913 he was appointed as the member of Mumbai’s Legal Association. In 1914 he won the Municipal elections. For 3 years (1916 – 1920) he got membership to represent Mumbai University in the Assembly. In 1921, the government appointed him as the health and education minister (till 1923). From 1927 he worked as Forest, Agriculture and Co-operative minister for the next 6 months. From 1927 to 1032 he served as the member of the Indian Representative Association in England. In 1932, he became the Vice chancellor of Lucknow University and served there for 6 years. While from 1944 to 1947 he was the Indian high commissioner in Australia. In the year 1949 he founded the Indian Intellectualist Organization in Chennai and also became its President. He also became as the vice chancellor of Pune University in 1958 and served there for 3 years.

His reputation preceded him as a rationalist and a social reformer. He respected Gopal Krushna Gokhale a lot and considered him as his guru. His cursive handwriting was very impressive and beautiful. In 1938, he opened a school at his birth place and named it ‘Gopal Krushna Gokhale School’ after his guru and gave the school library the name of his father Purushottam.

R. P. Paranjape, the small boy who solved difficult math problems while walking on the road, went on to become a well-known Mathematician and a respected Academician and became the first Indian ever to receive the honor of ‘Senior Wrangler’.

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