Dr. Pandurang Vaman Kane


Dr. Pandurang Vaman Kane (1880–1972) was a notable Indologist and Sanskrit scholar. He received India's highest civilian award Bharat Ratna in 1963. He was born in a conservative Chitpavan Brahmin family in the Ratnagiri district in Maharashtra, India. Eminent Historian Professor R.S. Sharma writes of him in the following words: "Pandurang Vaman Kane, a great Sanskritist wedded to social reform, continued the earlier tradition of scholarship. His monumental work entitled the "History of the Dharmasastra", published in five volumes in the twentieth century, is an encyclopedia of ancient social laws and customs. This enables us to study the social processes in ancient India.

Dr. Kane is famous for his magnum opus in English, History of Dharmasastra subtitled Ancient and Mediaeval Religions and Civil Law in India. This work researched the evolution of code of conduct in ancient and mediaeval India by looking into several texts and manuscripts compiled over the centuries. It was published in five volumes; the 1st volume was published in 1930 and the last, in 1962. It runs to a total of more than 6,500 pages. Dr. Kane used the resources available at prestigious institutes such as the Asiatic Society of Bombay and Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, among others. The work is known for its expanse and depth – ranging across diverse subjects such as the Mahabharat, Puranas and Kautilya – including references to previously obscure sources. The richness in the work is attributed to his in-depth knowledge of Sanskrit. His success is believed to be an outcome of his objective study of the texts instead of deifying them.

Kane wrote the book Vyavaharamayukha and was in the process of writing an introductory passage on the history of Dharmasastra for this book, so that the reader would get an overall idea apart from the subject of the book. One thing led to another and this project snowballed into the major work that it is. All the same, he was categorical in saying that it is difficult to find an English equivalent of the word “Dharma.” His output in the form of writings across the three languages of English, Sanskrit and Marathi spans nearly 15,000 pages.

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