Eine Einführung

2. Autor und Entstehungszeit: die Argumentation R. P. Kangle's

EXKURS: Professor R. P. Kangle / by M. V. Rajadhyaksha

herausgegeben von Alois Payer

mailto: payer@payer.de

Zitierweise / cite as:

Payer, Alois <1944 - >: Kauţilîya-arthaśâstra : eine Einführung. -- 2. Autor und Entstehungszeit: die Argumentation R. P. Kangle's. -- EXKURS: Professor R. P. Kangle / by M. V. Rajadhyaksha. -- Fassung vom 2002-11-04. -- URL: http://www.payer.de/kautilya/kautilya02a.htm. -- [Stichwort].

Erstmals publiziert: 2002-11-04


Anlass: Lehrveranstaltung WS 2002/03

Unterrichtsmaterialien (gemäß § 46 (1) UrhG)

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Dieser Teil ist ein Kapitel von: 

Payer, Alois <1944 - >: Kauţilîya-arthaśâstra : eine Einführung. -- 1. Einleitung. -- URL: http://www.payer.de/kautilya/kautilya01.htm.

Dieser Text ist Teil der Abteilung Sanskrit  von Tüpfli's Global Village Library.

Quelle: Perceptions on Kautilîya Artha´sâstra : in commemoration of Prof. R. P. Kangle's birth cenntenary / ed. K. P. Jog. -- Mumbai : Popular Prakashan, ©1999. -- ISBN 81-7154-625-8. -- S. 207 - 216


M. V. Rajadhyaksha

There are persons to have known whom is an education. Professor R. P. Kangle was one such person. It was my great fortune that I know him well for a little less than fifty years, for about ten of them as a colleague at two colleges. How well? Somewhat less than a close friend, and much more than a good acquaintance.

I was fourteen years Kangle's junior in age, but I was always at ease with him. And so, I told myself, was he with me. The difference in age apart, we were made differently, but it made his warmth for me no less. He suffered me gladly though I was distinctly inferior to him in intellectual interests, both in their width and depth. And also though I suffered from a half-sceptical and near-frivolous way of talking about men and matters. He was generous enough to dismiss the latter as a mere idiosyncrasy. Sometimes he was generous enough to respond to this idiosyncrasy with what I persuaded myself was a smile of appreciation. More likely, it was out of his inherent politeness.

Kangle's intellectual interests are borne out by his published work, though only partially. A few of his manuscripts are yet to be published. All this work is academic in its tone and purpose. It is not entirely limited to Sanskrit literature, and ancient Indian history and philosophy. But the range of his academic interests was much wider. It included Western philosophy and some of the social sciences. A distinct memory glimmers across well over fifty years of Kangle sitting in a quiet corner of the Common Room at the Ismail Yusuf college immersed in The Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, or The Encyclopedia of Social Science, or Frazer's The Golden Bough and other such forbidding-looking works, "caviare to the general". Some colleague, without a clue to the seriousness of the reading Professor Kangle was engaged in, would draw him into small talk, but he did not seem to mind the interruption, thanks to his politeness.

Obviously, as it seemed much later, Kangle was already well into his wide-ranging research on Kautilya's Artha´sâstra that was to earn him recognition and distinction, some twenty years later, when he was well over sixty. He was a single-minded perfectionist, and not a scholar in a hurry. And he worked on his project silently. He would not make the solemn and self-complacent noises a publicity - hunting, ambitious scholar would make. I don't know how many of those who met him frequently enough, and considered themselves his friends, had an inkling of the magnitude of the work he had undertaken. He had, of course, presented papers on some aspects of his subject before learned bodies like the All India Oriental Conference. They had deeply impressed discerning scholars for whom their sterling merit stood out in the glut of the half-baked, derivative papers that crowded the business of such conferences. These scholars entered into correspondence with him on the content of his papers. Invitations arrived for further exchange of views, and for lectures, particularly from centres of oriental learning in Europe. Kangle thus visited a couple of centres in Italy and spent some time in Munich and Paris. His stay in England took up a month. It should be unnecessary to add he utilised these visits and the discussions he had with the orientalists there for further research... for research was a continuous process and a passion with him.

One of Kangle's distinguished pupils tells me that his teacher's models among European Sanskritists were Oldenberg, Lueders, Grassmann, and Renou, and that he drew much from them. A dedicated teacher, he was thorough and lucid in expounding his subject, and passed on to the better ones among his pupils some of his zest for research. These pupils also imbibed from him the quality of intellectual rigour. He was gentle and patient with his pupils, with the range of his intellectual interests, he brought to his study of Sanskrit a holistic view, and not the kind of limited and compartmentalised view the University syllabi would seem to prescribe or encourage.

Kangle had a brilliant career at the Bombay University behind, him, winning, besides a First, coveted prizes like the Dr. Bhau Daji prize at the B. A. and the Zala Vedanta prize at the M. A. These successes were to him no end in themselves. They were a spur to more intensive study. Classical Sanskrit, Vedanta, Poetics and Prakrit were his areas of specialisation in his early years as a teacher. Later, the range widened to take in Sanskrit Dramaturgy, Ancient Indian Polity, and contemporary history, among others.

Kangle's scholarship brought him many admirers besides his students. The most important of these was Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, later to grow into one of the tallest figures on the socio-political scene. He too was a profound scholar. Regarded as the father of the Indian Constitution (or, at least one of its major architects) Dr. Ambedkar carried on a life-long struggle for the uplift of the untouchables, he himself being one of them. The struggle ranged the orthodox against him and they invariably fell back on the ancient texts to sustain their position. In meeting them on their own allegedly hallowed ground and demolishing their bigoted argument Dr. Ambedkar found an able ally in Kangle. But somehow later the distance between them grew, one can only guess why. Could it be a difference of temperament?

But Dr. Ambedkar was not ungrateful. In 1946, when promotion to a full-fledged professorship (in the Government Educational Service) was due to Kangle, he was not selected on a rigid technical ground). Dr. Ambedkar called on the Chief Minister of the State, persuaded him of Kangle's high worth, and had the injustice to him prevented. It must be added though that, after Dr. Ambedkar rose to a high position in the central Government, and in the country's public life, Kangle scrupulously kept the old distance from him and would not exploit their relationship.

Kangle was educated at the Elphinstone college in Mumbai, the oldest and most renowned college in Western India. Among the glittering alumni of the institution at least three Orientalists stood out; Dr. R. G. Bhandarkar, Mr. Justice K. T. Telang and Dr. Jivanji Modi. Apart from these, such towering personalities as Mr. Justice M. G. Ranade, one of the men who contributed richly to the renaissance taking shape in the last century, were produced by the college. Another, though he was of a much later day, was Dr. B. R. Ambedkar.

Kangle started his teaching career at the Gujarat College Ahmedabad, from where he moved after a few years to Elphinstone, a home-coming as it were. Then came a transfer, some years later, to the Ismail Yusuf College, also in Mumbai. Five years there and he was back at Elphinstone, the second homecoming, and he retired from service from that college in 1954 to settle down in the same city. Mumbai has a few well-stocked libraries, and they offered excellent opportunities for research. Kangle derived the best from them - Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune, and others even in some far-flung areas like Kerala. He declined invitations to teach from local colleges in Mumbai, although he could have done with the money considering his family responsibilities!

One may say that Kangle was a great Sanskritist because his learning was not confined to Sanskrit -- to its customary and rather limited range of subjects. His study of history was not confined to ancient and mediaeval Indian History. It took in the history of Europe, and of much of the rest of the world. This gave him an excellent perspective and detachment and insight as well -- whatever branch of study he was engaged in. It also gave him a freedom from the narrowness and preconceptions so common among the tribe of Sanskritists. For uncounted centuries Sanskrit learning had been mainly a matter of memorizing: a remarkable achievement, considering that it was thus preserved with precision. But even after the arrival of printing - well more than a hundred and fifty years ago in this part of the world - it would not get off the back of Sanskrit learning, preventing it from being submitted to a free play of the intellect. Kangle could be said to have belonged to the new breed of Sanskritists who depend on the cold light of reason to guide them.

Except for a couple or books meant for University students, Kangle did not seek publication till he was nearing sixty. He could have dumped unripe books on undemanding readers much earlier. But his rigorous standards and integrity would not let him. The real flowering came during his sixties and seventies. He was not a writer in a hurry.

The Kautilîya Artha´sâstra, in three volumes, was first published by the University of Bombay in 1955. The second edition followed soon. The work sold well but the royalty Kangle received from the University was pitifully small. Motilal Banarasidass, the Delhi publishing house famous for its publication of books in the field, offered to publish the next edition. The third edition (really a reprint of the earlier edition) brought Kangle the handsome royalty of sixteen thousand rupees, a princely amount in those days. And Kangle donated the entire amount to the Library of the Asiatic Society of Bombay in grateful acknowledgment of what he had derived from the library, which had been like a second home to him, particularly after his retirement from the Educational Service. That he did this when the pension on which he had to subsist was quite meagre - and when his family responsibilities had not lessened appreciably -speaks much of his selflessness and of his unwillingness to translate his scholarship into easy money. Ms. Durga Bhagwat, herself a scholar of great repute in Indological and allied studies, has recorded these facts in her eloquent tribute to Kangle after his death. She has also mentioned how he was at ease in such European languages as French, German, Italian, and Russian, particularly in French. Her article has a meaningful title; Kangle, a blend beyond compare of vidvattâ 'learning' and saujanya 'which is an umbrella word for a whole host of qualities like gentleness, humanity, modesty and graciousness.' (And Ms. Bhagwat is not known to be a writer to indulge in high-pitched praise!)

This critical temper and intellectual honesty would not let Kangle jump on the band -wagon of the revivalists. Rampant in his formative years, revivalism was a satellite of nationalism. He would not approach all Sanskrit learning reverentially, and of course he would have nothing to do with the amusingly naive belief that Sanskrit was the language of the Gods!

I have pleasant memories of the fortnight in August 1952 which Kangle and I spent visiting the cave temples at Ellora and Ajanta, created in a few centuries on either side of the advent of the Christian era. Kangle had equipped himself with learned tomes on these hoary sculptures. My visit was that of a typical, holidaying tourist; his was that of a savant keen on furthering his knowledge. I gratefully imbibed, as best as I could, some of his perceptive comments— even more gratefully because he did not talk down to me, in spite of my rather obvious ignorance.

Kangle's interests were wide-ranging, and that not just in the domain of scholarship. I recall seeing in the hall of the Elphinstone College a photograph of a scene from Hamlet put up by the students, one of the characters in which is Kangle - most probably in the role of Hamlet. That reminds me. He must have read some Shakespeare for his undergraduate course, and fair chunk of him for his post-graduate course, as he had offered four papers in English for the latter in addition to the four in Sanskrit. He kept up his interest in English literature, and in the theatre as well. He was a keen student of Greek drama, and had made elaborate notes on it. In his late seventies he did a translation of Homer's Iliad into Marathi which is still awaiting publication. He spared no efforts to get the transliteration of Greek names right, finally approaching the Greek Consulate in the matter. Films had an attraction for him, and Indian classical music too!

Kangle had also a genuine interest in sports. In cricket most of all. He, I and some of our friends would not miss as far as possible an important match played in Mumbai in those years. We once even went to Pune to see one. It was obvious that he was knowledgeable about the game. He also played tennis sometimes with reasonable proficiency. Some other games too he must have followed. But since he was never effusive about his interests, one can only guess. All these interests must have been to him a well-earned relaxation from his scholarly pursuits.

Looking back, it strikes me as being remarkable that though he was immersed in serious study, Kangle found time for such relaxing interests, and for so many of them. They must have enabled him to unwind. I remember with much pleasure how some six or seven of us used to come together at his place on Sunday afternoons for a few years, after his retirement from service, for a hospitable tea. The afternoon often lengthened into late evening without our quite realizing it. We just chattered away on men and matters some with their irreverent jabs, others with their boisterous nothingnesses. The rest were relatively quiet, the quietest being the host. Not that he did not enjoy these lively sessions. Occasionally he too was infected by the liveliness of it all.

Most of those at such a session were aware, some clearly, some dimly, that it was not all smooth and hunky-dory for their cheerful-looking host. He had probably more than his share of stresses and tensions of different kinds. But he would not look or sound glum and be a spoil-sport. In fact he always maintained his poise, and would not let his troubles wipe off the thin smile that he wore habitually. Maybe, he expressed his distresses and frustrations to the few friends who were very close to him. But even that does not seem to be very likely to me.

Kangle belonged, by birth, to a lowly backward community known for centuries as the Tambats 'coppersmiths' in-
dicating their profession, but of late described as the Somavanshi Arya Kshatriya community. He had no need for the high sounding euphemistic label as by scholarly achievement he was a true Brahmin himself. And he was that also by his profession : a Professor of Sanskrit. But how serious a handicap the caste must have been to one who would study Sanskrit- and specialise in it -cannot be easily guaged in these more liberal times.

Non-Brahmins were discouraged from studying Sanskrit, the sacred language, even if they were not prohibited from doing it, as were the Sudras and women not much earlier. That he had his secondary education in Nasik, known as one of the most sacred places, could not have made things easier for Kangle in his early teens. S. A. Dange - who was later to become one of the most eminent labour-leaders - was Kangle's class-mate at school and a bright student like himself. Once Dange had tea at Kangle's place where they sometimes studied together. When Dange's family came to know of it, he had a hard time at home for he was a Brahmin! Almost contemporaneously with Kangle, the Non -Brahmin movement, aimed at ameliorating their condition in public life too, was growing in strength and also, unfortunately, in bitterness. The bitterness did not affect Kangle though he was in broad agreement with the objectives and policies of the movement, and had some friends among its workers. A Brahmin friend of ours, a regular member of our Sunday sessions and a radical in his views on everything including the caste system, used to joke about Kangle's caste and raise laughter. Kangle invariably joined in the laughter. It takes a genuine sense of humour to be able to do it and also, I suppose, a strong character. But Kangle would not cash in on his caste either; on the callous injustice to which it had to submit for who knows how long. He had too much self respect for it.

It also took strong character to learn to write with his left hand when during his last years palsy had disabled his right hand. But he wrote as neatly with it! His Marathi publisher told me with great admiration how his manuscripts written with the left hand were almost as neat as his earlier ones, and these latter he used to hold up before his authors as a model. The neatness and tidiness was very much a part of Kangle's way of life. At the end of a busy day in Mumbai with its much maligned muggy weather, his clothes sat as neatly on him as in the morning. The Ismail Yusuf College is situated on the top a hillock. The road winding up to it used to be dusty in dry weather and muddy in wet weather. But neither condition seemed to affect Kangle's spruce appearance. His colleagues would curse the condition of the road, but envy him. Within his limited means he dressed well, and his clothes revealed his impeccable taste. The neatness, however, was in more than his clothes and appearance.

As borne out by his books, the neatness was very much there in his mental operations too. As late as in his mid eighties he coached his grand daughter in Mathematics at the Higher Secondary level, although he had nothing to do with the subject for long, long time. But he had imbibed the discipline and precision inherent in Mathematics. And the economy of words in his writing could well be ascribed to it. And that in his speech too!

His daughter, Dr. Prabha, was in China for some time for training in acupuncture. Ever eager to learn, he learnt the science from her and, in fact, wanted to write a book on it in Marathi -and this when he was past eighty!

That Kangle wrote most of his books in Marathi is significant. That was commitment to the need for making his mother tongue the vehicle of his scholarship so that its fruit should reach the common man, although a book in English gets a far larger audience and thus a far wider recognition. There was no parochial sentiment in this though, for that would have been against his grain. His Marathi had a natural flow and has enviable clarity. It is not hindered by pretentious Sanskritised words. Motilal Banarasidass, the renowned publishers of Indological works, mentioned earlier, were keen on a new book by Kangle.
He declined their pressing invitation, for he felt that he had not the energy-physical rather than mental - to do a book at that age, and do justice to it. He gave them the same firm 'no' when they wanted to bring out a new edition of his Kautilîya Artha´sâstra as he would not publish one without revising it. He must have responded to other publishers in similar fashion, for whatever the temptation, he would not compromise his integrity as a scholar. Reference has been made earlier to the efforts he made to get the precise transliteration of Greek names for his translation of Homer's Iliad. Not every translator, or scholar, would be as finicky that is, as honest.

For some time during his last years Kangle had moved to Kulgaon, a quiet village, some miles away from Bombay, that had started bursting of its scams with an alarming growth in population. But even occasionally commuting to the city for a visit to the libraries or for personal work was getting to be an ordeal. So he moved back to the city.

Kangle was blessed with a long life, and a long active intellectual life. A few honours came his way - the last of them being the award of the Mahamahopadhyaya P. V. Kane Gold Medal for research by the Bombay Branch of the Asiatic Society which came shortly before his death. Quite late, yes, but that matters little. Learning to the likes of him, is its own reward. With the critical vision he was endowed with, he saw life - in its splendid variety- as a bystander. Had he written his autobiography it would have been a rich document. But he was too self effacing to write one.

Professor Kangle carried his vast learning unself-consciously. It sat on him as easily as his clothes. He was a pandit without being a pedant, and a rationalist without being rigid. He was a modified version of the Renaissance gentleman - with his open mind and versatile interests, but without his egoism and flourishes- and of course, his martial skills!"

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