ORIENTAL STUDIES AND HISTORIOGRAPHY             

                                             ( 7th May 1880 – 18th April 1972 )

                                                                                                   Dr. (Mrs.) Parineeta Deshpande

It is really a matter of proud privilege for me to write about the contribution of the late Prof. MM. Dr.P.V. kane, the great National Professor of Indology. I am not at all competent to pass any judgment upon his contribution to the varied domains of Indology such as Sanskrit Poetics, Dharmasastra, Indian Jurisprudence and Purva-Mimamsa. I consider this as an opportunity to pay my respectful homage to this doyen of Sanskrit Scholars as the humble head of an institution established in his name. Needless to say, while doing so, I am quite aware of my limitations.

 It is very interesting to note that this profound scholar, who is well known not only in India but even abroad, for his gigantic work on the hard and abstruse subject of Dharmasastra, began his literary career with the delicate topic of Sahityasastra. It was like his ‘first love’ of his youthful age. In 1910 CE he published an edition of Vishwanatha’s  Sahityadarpana ( paricchedas I,II & X ) As all the copies of the Sahityadarpana were sold in the next twelve  years, he brought out the second edition of that book in 1923. To this was prefixed an exhaustive introduction of 177 pages, in which Dr Kane dealt with “The History of Alamkara Literature”.[1] Within the next 28 years Dr Kane’s edition of Sahityadarpana went out of stock again and the third edition was brought out in 1951. This fully revised and enlarged edition with 423 pages, was published separately, being the second edition of the history. This book became the source of inspiration for many scholars to study the numerous works on Alamkara, to produce papers dealing with its several aspects and to publish several important texts.

Towards the conclusion of the preface Dr. Kane remarks- “Now that I am over 71 years of age and have yet to complete my ‘ History of  Dharmasastra’ I am afraid that I shall hardly have the time or energy to revert to this subject again and therefore I bid farewell to these studies of my youth.”  And yet the Sanskrit readers would not allow the aged Mahamahopadhyaya to bid farewell to his first love even then. Again in the next nine years all copies of this edition were sold and in 1961 Motilal Banarasi Dass of Delhi brought out the third edition of Dr. Kane’s ‘The History of Sanskrit Poetics’. In this revised edition comprising of 446 pages, Dr Kane who had completed eighty years of his age, says, “During the last nine years a good deal has been written on the subject of this work. I tried to read as much as I could and have made substantial additions and changes in this edition. But I am unable to say that I read everything that has been written during the last nine years on Sanskrit Poetics. I hope, however, that I have not missed much of valuable matter.” Dr. Kane has also expressed his satisfaction that the book which he wrote over fifty years ago, still continued to be popular with the students of Sanskrit. The great scholar fortunately lived to see that even this edition of his history went out of stock within the next ten years only.  Motilal Banarasi Dass had to publish the fourth edition in 1971. For want of space it is not possible to give entire findings of poetics of Dr. Kane. However, the following short summary of the conclusions[2] arrived at by Dr. Kane in this regard, will give us a glimpse into his important contribution to this field of Indology.

Agnipurana, only because it is a purana, was wrongly considered to be the original source of all the later treatises of Alamkarasastra. Dr. Kane proved that it belongs to a much later date and that the sections on poetics in that work were probably composed after 1050 CE. A comparison of different versions of Agnipurana led him to say, “The old Agnipurana was recast and then it assumed its present form”[3]

About the much-discussed problem of the original kernel and the recensions of the Natyasastra Dr Kane opines, “It appears that the first chapter of  the Natyasastra, and probably the next four were added some centuries before the 5th century C.E…… The most of the chapters now found were in existence from at least the 3rd or the 4th century C.E.”

About the problem of the date of this important text of Natyasastra of Bharatamuni, Dr. Kane observes, “ At least sometimes before the 3rd or 4th century C.E. there was a recast made by one man in which was included prose passages in sutra-bhasya style, ancient Arya verses and slokas,  composed by the recaster. Then in different places and at different times some verses came to be added here and there by the people learned in the sastra.” He, however feels that the question cannot be settled till dramatic works of earlier commentators like Kohala and Nandikeshwar are discovered.[4]

About the commentators of Bharata Dr. Kane feels that Udbhata (about 800 C.E.), Lollata (800-840 C.E.) and Sankuka( end of 9th century ) must have commented upon whole of the Natyasastra. But these texts are not available for us. Kohala is one such commentator about whom Dr. Kane has given a lot of valuable information in his paper, “ Fragment of Kohala” published in the Proceedings of the sixth session of AIOC, Patana, 1930.

After studying Bhamaha and Dandin, he proclaims that Dandin was earlier to Bhamaha, against the view of the majority of the scholars. In his view, Dandin has higher poetic excellence, while Bhamaha is superior in point of logical acumen. While answering the problem whether Bhamaha was a Buddhist, he refuted the arguments of other scholars and opined that Bhamaha was probably a Hindu, steeped in the ancient culture, but with an admiration for Buddha’s noble life. He incidentally refers to the problem whether Dandin of Kavyadarsa is identical with the Dandin of the Dasakumaracarita and accepts the identity.

After critical study Dr. Kane has settled satisfactorily the problem whether Rudrabhatta, the author of Srngaratilaka is the same as Rudrat on which the scholars were divided. According to him Rudrabhatta  is later than Rudrat, elaborates the dicta of Rudrata with illustrations, bases his   Srngaratilaka on the Kavyalamkara and flourished between 950-1000 C.E.

The Authorship-problem of the Dhvanyaloka by Anandavardhana, the epoch-making work in the history of Alamkarasastra, is known to the students of  Alamkarasastra. Dr. Kane has devoted almost thirty seven pages to discuss it. He collected all important external evidence for the first time and proved that the authors of the Karikas and the Vrtti are different. He takes a survey of all important topics dealt with i.e. the treatment of dhvani from all points view, its nature, its divisions, its relation to the Rasavad alamkara, the Pratibha of a poet and so on.

He records his observation that Bhattenduraja, the teacher of Abhinavagupta, is different than Pratihareduraja, the commentator of Udbhata. He takes notice of the original thinking of Kuntaka and expressed that the work Vakrokti-jivita should be rescued from the oblivion into which it has fallen. He introduces the readers to Saraswatikanthabharana and Srngaraprakasa of Bhoja,  Aucitya-vicara-carca and Kavi-kanthabharana of the voluminous writer Ksemendra.

About the joint authorship of Mammata’s Kavyaprakasa, Dr. Kane informs us that Mammata’s incomplete Kavvyaprakasa was completed by the Kashmirian rhetorician Alaka. Coming to  Ruyyaka’s Alamkara-sarvasva, he discards the tradition prevalent in Kashmir that the vrtti was composed by Mankha.

Wherever there are debatable problems about the poetics, Dr. Kane has dealt with them with precision. He deeply delves in this vast literature and  introduces the readers to the various texts of Alamkarasastra such as the Kavyalamkara of Vagbhata I, the kavyanusasana of  Hemacandra, the Candraloka of Jayadeva, the Ekavali of Vidyadhara, the Prataparudra-yaso-bhusana of Vidyanatha, the Kavyanusasana of Vagbhata II, and then only he turns to the Sahitya-darpana of Viswanath, the text he has edited. Then after mentioning the Rasamanjari and Rasatarangini of Bhanudatta, Rupa –goswamin and Kesavamisra, he passes to the prolific writer Appayya Diksita and finally Jagannatha’s Rasagangadhara. He opines that the anecdote about Jagannatha’s falling in love with a Yavana damsel is a myth spread by those who were offended by his biting tongue.

In the second part of this book the great Mahamahapadhyaya discusses the name of the Sastra, the purposes of Poetry, the equipment of the Poet, the Definition of Poetry, the Five schools of poetry and towards the end The Divisions of Poetry and The Poetic Defects. He explains how poetics has influenced other branches of Sanskrit learning. 

This one memorable book has served tremendously to the scholars. At the end of this book, there is a very useful ‘Index of Authors and Works on Sanskrit poetics’, which runs over 50 pages. It is extremely useful for finding ready references to the various topics in Sanskrit Poetics. Even today, after further fifty years, this book is still referred to by the Sanskritists. There are, indeed, very few books, which enjoy such enviable popularity. This book has been translated in Marathi, Hindi and also in Kannada. It is  a noteworthy feature of Dr. Kane’s research that he was always keen on revising, modifying, confirming, or supplementing his earlier writing in the light of the new material that became available in the course of time.

Dr. Kane wrote at a time when the chronology of Sanskrit works was all in a jumble. Very little was known with certainty about most of the texts of Alamkarasastra. Many were lying in the form of corrupt manuscript. Therefore the value of the research work done under such circumstances is far more. With his sharp intellect, deep insight, industrious habits and perseverance Dr Kane surmounted all the difficulties and established important conclusions by way of land marks in the history of Sanskrit Poetics.

In addition to this valuable book MM. Kane has also contributed the following learned articles to the subject of Sanskrit Poetics –

  1. Bhamaha and Dandin –JRAS   Vol. XXIII, 1908 
  2. The Joint Authorship of the Kavyaprakasa, Indian Antiquary, Vol. 40, 1911.
  3. Outline of the History of Alamkarasastra, Indian  Antiquary, Vol. 40, 41, 46, 1908-12.
  4. Fragment of Kohala—Proceedings of the sixth session of AIOC, Patana, 1930.
  5. Gleanings from the Abhinavabharati, Journal of the BORI, Prof. K.B. Pathak Commemoration volume, Poona,1934.
  6. Bharatiya Natyasastra, Sarasvati Mandira, 1907.
  7. Sahityasastra, Vividhajnanavistara Silver Jubilee Volume. 

The studies of Sanskrit Poetics are referred by this great scholar as the studies of youth, to which he bid farewell in order to complete his History of Dharmasastra. Dr G.D. Davane aptly comments that “ He had to bid farewell to  this ‘ first love’ of his youthful age very early and then throughout his life he remained faithful to his ‘ second love’, the Dharmasastra, in which he has done magnificent work ”[5].

 Contribution to Dharmasastra

There is hardly any need to say about Dr. Kane’s seminal work in the field of Dharmasastra which has earned for him the height and the most prestigious award of Bharata - Ratna. His  The History of Dharmasastra is the history of Hindu Culture and Civilization. No Indologist before Dr. Kane ever attempted such a task. Thus it is unique in every sense of the term. This ‘Magnum Opus’ runs into 5 volumes, two of which have been published in 2 parts each, which together cover nearly 6500 pages. This quantitative expanse constitutes an authoritative and encyclopedic treatment of the religious and civil law of ancient and medieval India and is standing testimony to his profundity of thought, depth of scholarship and sustained hard labour. It is difficult to conceive an aspect of Dharmasastra which Kane did not touch and cover thoroughly and objectively. The number of original works, books, commentaries in Sanskrit and in modern languages which he referred for this history is really breathtaking. In fact the well-known lines,   “ whatever is contained in this work can and may be found elsewhere, but what is not discussed in this work can be found nowhere else ” is truly applicable to this great work.

The first volume (760 pages) of this work is really the most important as in this volume Dr. Kane has discussed the problems of the chronological dates of all the works on the Dharmasastra and also the authorship in the light of the evidences from the nook and corner of the world. In Vol.II Dr. Kane has dealt with the topics of Varna, Asrama, Untouchability,  Slavery, Samsakras, Ahnika and acara, Dana, Somayagas, Puja and ten Avataras[6]. In the third volume he has dealt with the topics like Rajadharma, taxation, army, partnership, adoption, partition of wealth, Stridhana etc. This volume is very important to the students of political science and law. In the context of Rajadharma, it is interesting to note a reference made by Dr. Kane to the view of the Dharmasastra-karas, to the effect that if the king cannot restore the stolen property to the owner, he should compensate the sufferer from his own treasury. To what extent this principle can be accepted by modern government?  

As a lawyer, Dr Kane’s discussion on family law is most useful to all modern lawyers of Hindu law. Dr. Kane has pointed out the decisions in the courts of the modern judges and referred to the historical records for the codification of the Hindu law. According to him there were compelling reasons for codifying the law as soon as possible. The discussion on Varna system and marriage institute is useful to sociologists, while the discussion on joint family, stridhana, partition etc. is also useful to the modern jurists. He has devoted one full chapter on stridhana. He has analyzed the entire literature on the subject and expressed his views which were practically accepted by Parliament when the Hindu Succession Act was placed on the Statute Book.

 In the discussion, Dr. Kane for the first time brought to the light certain passages from Dharmasastra and pointed out that how their authors were progressive in their outlook. His discussion on Dayabhaga[7] is a remarkable contribution to the literature on partition. He has for the first time pointed out many of the inaccuracies in the statements made by earlier authors on twelve kinds of sons. Dr. Kane’s discussion on law of adoption has been enriched by his references to the decisions of various High Courts and the Privy Councils as in the case of joint family. In his discussion, we see Dr. Kane both as an author of Dharmasastra and a lawyer who has analyzed the judicial pronouncements from the jurists point of view. Similarly, Dr. Kane’s discussion on the order of succession, the right of the widow etc, is an original contribution to the subject   

In the fourth volume Dr. Kane impresses the readers as an anthropologist and has dealt with the customs and beliefs of people in respect of Karma theory, funeral rites, atonement, Sraddha ceremony and places of holy pilgrimage. This volume is really ‘ a veritable mine of information relating to the religious history of Hindus, the Geography of ancient and Medieval India, the relative chronology of Sanskrit works and other allied subjects’ as pointed by Dr.R.N.Dandekar.[8]

Volume V, with its two parts, deals with the Vratas and Utsavas, Puranas and Tantra works. Here Dr. Kane has also pointed out the relation between the six systems of philosophy and also the relation between Vyakarana and the Dharmasastra. He has devoted one chapter on ( No 35) to the discussion on the doctrine of  Karma and Punarjanma. He has criticized the theory put forth by Deussen and supported by Bhandarkar that the cherishers of the Vedanta thoughts were originally the Ksatriyas and not the Brahmanas. This volume is of special interest to the general public because it gives a broad survey of the development of Ancient Hindu Culture and civilization through the ages and peep into the future. Dr. Kane discusses the exact connotation of the expression Sanatana Dharma. In this discussion we meet Dr. Kane as the social reformer and his philosophy of  life is well reflected in this fifth chapter. He discusses the topics of our ancient culture with depth, impartiality and justifiable pride where it is deserved. He also argues here for the introduction of some new concepts like Democracy, Nationalism etc. for the healthy progress of our ethos.

The significant aspect of the contribution of Dr Kane is revealed in his attempt to show the comparison between Indian Jurisprudence and Western Jurisprudence. In him there was a supreme blending of a Sanskrit Scholar and a lawyer. He was, therefore, recognized as an authority on Hindu Law both by the bar and the Bench and his interpretations of the original texts were particularly respected by the judiciary. He brings to light the ignorance of the judges in the knowledge of Sanskrit and their dependence upon the Sanskrit dictionaries of Wilson and others for understanding the meaning of the word ‘ Dharma’[9]. When modern judges without critically examining follow their views, it leads to confusion and disorder. Dr. Kane has taken great pains to point out how the decisions of Vijnanesvara in his commentary Mitaksara as regards the rights of the concubines to have any share in the property of a person is over-ruled by the modern judges. This indicates his dispassionate mind and his ardent desire for truth[10]. He has shown the superiority of the Justinian law over the Indian Jurisprudence in the matter of wills and close similarities in respect of the law of retaliation between  the Manusmrti (VIII.260) and the Yajnavalkya smrti (  II. 215) on one hand and sections 196-200 of the code of Hammurabi[11].

He has further shown the humane treatment given to the criminals in India as compared with the harsh, horrible and revolting punishments imposed on the criminals in England and other countries. This comparative study of both the types of Jurisprudence is really a significant contribution of Dr. Kane.

It was Dr. Kane’s deep study of Dharmasastra which commanded highest respect in Rajyasabha when he spoke on Hindu Code Bill. His stand of Dharmasastra convinced him that neither society nor law can ever remain static. Change is inevitable. A legal system though a product of social system is in its turn responsible for changing social structure. Dr. Kane pointed out that the ancient law-makers brought about changes in legal system and advocated the system of changing social norm from the point of view of ‘social engineering’, a concept accepted in modern jurisprudence.

Dr. Kane’s criticism of the views of the western scholars is also an illuminating contribution to the studies of Dharmasastra. He frankly criticizes Dr. Winternitz for his view that Niyoga is due to poverty and paucity of women[12]. He also criticizes Max Muller for his view that the art of writing was unknown to India ( p.347-48) and also Weber for his view on Krsnastami.[13] He opines that the conclusions of the western scholars are unwarranted and one-sided. These criticisms are free from bias and based on his close study of the works of these western scholars. Dr. Kane’s criticism helps to understand the History of Dharmasastra in the right perspective.

Besides this, there are some more learned papers on Dharmasastra of Dr. Kane which are not included in the History of Dharmasastra. He took deep interest in ancient Indian astronomy and astrology, and has contributed several original papers on the different aspects of that subject.[14] Dr. Kane also impresses the readers as a philologist and an etymologist. He raises a question regarding derivation of the word ‘puja’ from the Dravidian word ‘ pu’ meaning flower. According to him there is no reason for assuming that ‘puja’ was derived from ‘pu” and not from ‘Puspa’ (flower ) which was known to Rgveda.[15] Dr.Kane has also touched upon the branch of epigraphy involving the study of  inscriptions and coins. In the third volume, he gives an exhaustive list of the names of high functionaries and other officers occurring in the several inscriptions. There are ample references to this branch in all his volumes of Dharmasastra.

As restrictions on the number of pages for this paper is to be honoured, I cannot go into much details.[16]

Contribution to  Purva-Mimamsa  

Purva-Mimamsa is another branch of study of Indology which bore the fruit of Dr. Kane’s erudition.  The system of Purva-Mimamsa is of interest to us to-day because of the rules of interpretation of the Vedic texts laid down by it. Dr. Kane pointed out the utility of Mimamsa works from different angles of linguistics, geography, social beliefs and medicines, even for the modern scholars. He looks at Kumarila, the commentator of Jaimini’s Purva-Mimamsa Sutras, as a modern philologist. He further invites our attention to the comments of Kumarila who refers to the Lata (country about Surat and Broach) and the mode of their speech in Gujarat in those days. Sabara recommends milk for a person suffering from dropsy and the eating of boiled mudga for a person suffering from the eye-sores.

 A very common phenomenon about the Sanskrit texts is that we can hardly say something with certainty about their period. Dr. Kane fixed the chronological dates of the prominent authors like Sabara, Kumarila and others with conclusive evidence. This information is really useful to understand the history of Purva-mimamsa. Dr. Kane invites our attention to a verse from the extant text of Manusmrti (XII.10) which has been considered by the scholars as an interpolation, is in fact a genuine part of the text and is quoted by Kumarila in his Tantra-vartika.[17] By this study Dr. Kane showed that the texts of Purva-Mimamsa can be useful in determining the genuine and spurious parts of the texts of Dharmasastra.

Dr. Kane also showed how the texts  of Purva-Mimamsa exerted  great influence on the Alamkarasastra in respect of the Abhihitanvayavada of Kumarila, Parisamkhya and Arthapatti.[18] He also pointed out how the discussions in the Mahabhasya of Patanjali and the Vartikas thirty five to thirty nine on Panini I.2.64, are based on the Purva-Mimamsa technical points. According to him the knowledge of   Purva-Mimamsa is absolutely necessary for judges in deciding the cases of Hindu law. He also admits the utility of the Purva-Mimamsa rules of interpretation even for the codification of the Hindu law.  

Dr. Kane brings to light the attitude of the Mimamsakas towards the use and the meaning of the words of the foreign language particularly the Mleccha language adopted in the Sanskrit Literature. Relying on the Purva-Mimamsa Sutra I.3.10, which says that the words of the foreign language that are vogue in the Sanskrit Language are to be understood in the sense which they have in the foreign language and one should not think of an attempt to derive these words with the help of  Yaska’s Nirukta and the rules of Paninian grammar. In this connection he gives three examples – pika (cuckoo), tamarasa ( lotus) and  sata ( circular wooden vessel) as pointed out by Sabara and thus states the accommodative attitude of the Mimamsakas as far as foreign words are concerned[19]

By studying the various rules of  Purva-Mimamsa, Dr. Kane brings to our attention their bearing on the moral principles, that are to be adopted by the society[20].

It is indeed a matter of commendation that in all his writing, Dr. Kane has faithfully observed the dictum, “nothing should be stated which is not well-founded.” ( na  ’mulam likhyate kincit). Naturally whatever he has written is well- documented and marked by objectivity and fidelity to facts. Hence, anybody who has any kind of doubt in the matter of Purva-Mimamsa, will have to take into account the vast fund of knowledge stored in his works. A lot can be written about Dr. Kane’s contribution to the domain of Purva-Mimamsa.[21]But due to the want of time I have to conclude my paper.                                                                                                                                                                            


When one considers Dr. Kane’s writings on Indological subjects, one is struck by the extensive sweep of his research. He has left hardly any branch of Indology untouched and whatever he has touched, he has enriched and adorned. It is really inadequate to write a paper on Dr. Kane’s vast and varied scholarship. I tried to present before you a brief and short sketch, not necessarily in a chronological order, of his scholarly works which abundantly proves that the career of this modern sage was a saga of single minded dedication and sustained pursuit of learning. He was blessed with a long life which is an eloquent testimony to what industry, tenacity of purpose and devotion can achieve in the field of learning. The crowning glory of all the various honours that were conferred on him, was the award of the title of ‘ Bharat Ratna’ which came to him unsought and is the country’s tribute to Dr. Kane’s scholarship. His writings would serve as a perennial source of inspiration and guidance to all workers in the field.




[1]Around this time only “The History of Sanskrit PoeticsPart I of Dr S.K. De was also brought to light from Kolkata and in 1925 the second part of the same book came   out. Thus these two scholars did the pioneering work in the field of Indian Poetics.

[2]  History of Sanskrit Poetics, 3rd Edition,1961.

[3]  Ibid p.5.

[4]  Ibid p.23

[5] Vide her article “ MM. Dr. P.V. Kane’s Contribution to Sanskrit Poetics” in MM. Dr. P.V. Kane Commemoration Monograph , (ed) S.N. Gajendragadkar, University Press, Mumbai, 1974, p. 64.

[6]  2 parts, 1400 pages

[7]  History of Dharmasastra, Vol. III, chapter 26.

[8]  ABORI Vol. III, 1972,- Obituary notice pp.311-14.

[9]  History of Dharmasastra Vol. III,p.379.

[10] Ibid, Vol. II. part I. p 639.

[11] Ibid, vol. III.p. 389.                                                                                                                                                                                                              

[12]  History of Dharmasastra, vol. II,  part I, p.607 .

[13]  Ibid, vol.V, part I, p.41.

[14]  ABORI Vol. III.pp.67- 72; ABORI Vol. XXVII.pp.136-137 ; Kevalananda Sarasvati  vol. pp12-23; JBBRAS vol.    13, pp147-149

[15]  Ibid, vol. V, part II, p.141

[16]  Vide for details, Dr. S.G. Moghe’s  article “ MM. Dr. P.V. Kane’s Contribution to the Domain of Dharmasatra”   in MM. Dr.   P.V. Kane Commemoration Monograph , (ed) S.N. Gajendragadkar, University Press, Mumbai, 1974, pp. 65-81.

[17] The Tantravartika and Dharmasastra Literature”, in JBBRAS, New series, 1925. pp 95-102

[18]   History of Sanskrit Poetics, pp.375-76 .

[19]   History of Dharmasastra, vol. V part ii, p. 1294.

[20]   Ibid vol. V part ii, p. 1217).   

[21]   Vide for details, Dr. S.G. Moghe’s  article “ MM. Dr. P.V. Kane’s Contribution to the Domain of  Purva-     Mimamsa”   in MM. Dr.   P.V. Kane Commemoration Monograph , (ed) S.N. Gajendragadkar, University Press, Mumbai, 1974, pp. 83-93.