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Dr. Pandurang Vaman Kane (pronounced Kaa-nay) (1880–1972) was a notable Indologist and Sanskrit scholar. He received India's highest civilian award Bharat Ratna in 1963 for his scholarly work that spanned more than 40 years of active academic research that resulted in 6,500 pages of History of Dharmasastra. He was born in a conservative Chitpavan Brahmin family in the Ratnagiri district in Maharashtra, India. The historian Ram Sharan Sharma says: "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 encyclopaedia 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.
Dr. Kane was rewarded as Mahamahopadhyaya (Etymology: Maha+Maha+Upadhyay = The greatest among the great teachers), usually shortened to MM as a prefix in the writings that refer to him. He served as the Vice-Chancellor of Bombay University. His services were requisitioned and enlisted for establishing Kurukshetra University in Indic studies. He was awarded the Sahitya Akademi award in 1956 for History of Dharmasastra Volume IV for his research under the Sanskrit translation category. He was also an honorary member of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.
Kane believed that the Indian constitution made a complete break with the traditional ideas prevalent in India by engendering a false notion among the people that they have rights, but no obligations.
Given the encyclopaedic and authoritative nature of his work, it is often used in debates in Polity. One such issue that cropped up during Atal Bihari Vajpayee government was whether ancient Indians ate beef and both the groups quoted extensively from Kane's work to support their viewpoint. This issue became important as the Hindus traditionally revere Cow as a mother and hence eating of Beef is prohibited. Another such issue was whether the girls in the ancient times had the right to wear the Yajnopavita (the sacred thread), restricted only to the men folk in the recent past.
To commemorate him, Asiatic Society of Bombay has established Mm. Dr. P.V. Kane Institute for Post Graduate studies and Research in 1974 to promote, encourage and facilitate research in oriental studies. Also, MM Dr. P.V. Kane Gold Medal is given once every three years to a scholar for outstanding contribution to the study of Vedic, Dharmashastra or Alankara Literature.
- A write-up on MM Dr. P.V. Kane
- Publication dates of volumes[dead link]
- Sahitya Akademi Award[dead link]
- Honorary member of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
- Evolution of MM Dr. P.V. Kane’s Magnum Opus
- Constitution making a complete break with traditional ideas of India
- Biography (Chapter 2.2) (German site, biography in English)
- Kane's chronology of Dharmasastra literature (At the bottom of the article) (German site, chronology in English)
- History of Dharmasastra
- S.G. Moghe (editor), Professor Kane's contribution to Dharmasastra literature, 1997, New Delhi: D.K. Printworld (P) Ltd. ISBN 81-246-0075-9
- Autobiographical Epilogue in History of Dharmashastra Vol 5