Prof. Dr. Madhukar Ananta Mehendale

  • Madhavi Kolhatkar

Prof. Dr. Madhukar Ananta Mehendale, the second centenarian indological scholar in Maharashtra, (the first being Pt. S.D. Satwalekar) was born in Harsud, Madhya Pradesh, on 14th February, 1918. Having his school education there, he finished his graduation in Baroda College, Baroda in 1937 and obtained master’s degree from Wilson College, Bombay (now Mumbai). After getting the Ph.D. degree for the work ‘Historical Grammar of Inscriptional Prakrits’, he first worked as lecturer in Basaveshvar College, Bagalkot (Karmnatak) (1944-45) and then as Professor in S.B.Garda College, Navasari (Gujrat) (1945-51). After working there for six years, he joined Deccan College, Post-graduate and Research Institute, Pune  as Reader and worked there till 1983 as Professor of Sanskrit (esp. Vedic) (1958-78), and retired in 1983 as Joint General Editor, Sanskrit Dictionary Project (1973-83) and also Joint Director, Deccan College, Pune. However, it does not mean that he stopped working. After retiring thus from Deccan College, he joined Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune in the capacity of Editor of the Cultural Index of the Mahabharata.

 As a teacher in Graduate College, he must have worked in all the branches of Sanskrit learning. However, his major fields of interest have always remained Vedic and classical Sanskrit language and literature, Avestan language, Historical Linguistics, Pali and Prakrit and also Epics. Together with teaching the M.A. students, he has also guided 12 students for the degree of Ph.D. in Pune University and one for M.Phil. in Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth.

He always had a very bright educational career and was awarded Bhagwandas Purushottamdas Sanskrit Scholarship(1939), V.N.Mandlik Prize(1942) and also Bhagwanlal Indraji Gold Medal and prize for the essay on ‘Ashokan Inscriptions In India’ (1943). He was invited as a Visiting Lecturer in Goettingen University in Germany for two years (1952-54) and also as Senior Rockefeller Foundation Fellow in Yale University, U.S. A. (1957-58). He also had an honour of having been awarded the prestigious MM. Dr. P.V. Kane Gold Medal (for 1992-1995) together with various other awards. Recently, he was felicitated with the fellowship of Asiatic Society Mumbai and Bhasha Sanman Puraskar of Sahitya Akadami.

Being engaged in teaching did not stop him from not only being interested but also being prolific in research writings. He has twelve books to his credit and has published more than hundred research articles and fifty-three book reviews in English; and twenty-four articles in Marathi. All his English articles, reviews and also obituary notices are published by L. D. Institute of Indology, Ahmedabad in his Felicitation Volume in 2001. Similarly, his twenty-four Marathi articles are collected and published in book form by Pradnyapathashala Mandal, Vai in the same year (2001).

Mention should be made here that he is a staunch believer in Gandhian philosophy to the extent that for long he was spinning cotton regularly every day and always is in khadi. Of course, he believes in nonviolence also but gets very irritated when sees insincerity.  

The characteristics of his writings: His collected articles are divided in six main subjects, viz. Vedic (35), Iranian (12), Pali and Prakrit (14), Linguistics (14), Mahābhārata (MBh.) (14) and miscellaneous (8).

His way of dealing with a problem is: to take into consideration every detail of the problem, take into account all the previous research done on it, go to the original sources, not to accept any point stated by others without getting it tested on his own rationality and then form the conclusion. The list of articles and the topics therein point to the fact that he might have come across problems mainly while, 1) teaching some particular text, e.g. Ṛgveda, Śatapathabrāhmaṇa or Nirukta, etc. and 2) working in Sanskrit Dictionary Project, and 3) on Cultural Index of Mahābhārata.

          Recently, I had the opportunity to meet him and ask which of his articles is his favourite, to which he answered the ones on Mahābhārata and there also on Draupadī. It would be appropriate then to get to know his research methodology through an article on Draupadi. 

On 18th March 1987 he gave a talk in Bharat Itihas Samhodhak Mandal on the occasion of 12th commemoration day of Late Dr. H. R. alias Dada Divekar, which was first published in Navabharata, August, 1987. It is no wonder that he has chosen a popular topic for a public lecture, such as Draupadivastraharaṇa which has caused, according to him, wrong notions in the minds of general public. However, it is not sufficient. There is one more reason. It seems he always had the curiosity to know the original text about the much spoken episodes from the famous epic Mahābharata. Already in 1948, i.e. almost forty years before, he had published an article on the same topic in Navabharata. It shows his tendency of not accepting the popular ideas and impressions without verifying the original source/s.

Here, in the present talk, he begins his discussion right from the name of the topic itself. He explains the word haraṇa comparing it with other such word as gopīvastraharaṇa in Bhāgavatapurāṇa and Nārāyaṇīya that it means carrying the clothes from one place to another which is not the case in MBh. Duḥśāsana was dragging Draupadī’s clothes. Hence the better word would be from the verb kṛṣ, something like vastrākarsaṇa. In the original description also the verb-forms used in this connection, he states, are: ‘vyapakraṣṭuṃ pracakrame’, ‘ākṛṣyamāṇe vasane’, ‘apakṛṣyamāṇe vasane’, ‘cakarṣa’, ‘pracakarṣa’, etc., but never is there any form of the verb hṛ, and concludes that the word ambarāvakarṣaṇa as is used in the play Dūtavākya of Bhāsa is appropriate to the episode rather than the popular vastraharaṇa. (This is not rare regarding the episodes in epic. Another such expression, very famous but wrong is ‘indrāya svāhā takṣakāya svāhā’ which is wrong and is not found in the original text of the MBh. Similar is the case of sūtovāca.) According to him, the whole episode is very humiliating and disgusting and further he does not hesitate to mention that in his previous article on the same topic published forty year before, he had expressed the opinion that such an event must not have taken place.

          In the course of arguing and collecting the references, he also cites the references which can be considered contradictory to his arguments and refutes them. Thus here he cites Duḥśāsana saying, नयामि हि त्वाम् ... एकाम्बरा वाप्यथ वा विवस्त्रा (.६०.२६, २७) and argues that Duḥśāsana says so in the fit of anger and  not actually having such intention. He further conjectures that due to this reference to vivastrā, somebody might have imagined of the incident of disrobing Draupadī and of Kṛṣṇa’s help to her; and interpolated it in the text.

After dealing with the problem of haraṇa and karṣaṇa, he now proceeds to the word vastra or vāsas and remarks that this apparently very simple word had caused much misunderstanding. The Pāṇḍavas were also told to remove their vāsāṃsi. At that time they took off only their upper garments. The text reads: तच्छ्रुत्वा पाण्डवाः सर्वे स्वानि वासांसि भारत अवकीर्योत्तरीयाणि … Here the word uttarīyāṇi is an adjective of vāsāṃsi and means uttarīyāṇi vāsāṃsi meaning ‘upper garments.’ (Some scholars, however, e.g. Vaidya, Mehendale states, understand it as both upper and lower garments, ‘हे ऐकतांच सर्व पांडवांनीं आपापलीं वस्त्रें आणि उत्तरीयें फेंकून दिली आणि ते सभेमध्यें बसले,’ 2.68.39, p.377). It might be, Mehendale conjectures, that in those days it was the privilege of the free persons only to wear the upper garments. The servants were not entitled to it. Thus not understanding the word vāsas properly gave rise to very wrong notions regarding the episode.

Thus, he adds, without understanding the words properly scholars have wrongly interpreted that Draupadī was stripped off her clothes below the waist. Moropant has paraphrased it as ‘दुःशासन सोडाया झोंबे स्वकुळाहितोदया लुगड्या’ Sabhā 5.66 and ‘फेडी वस्त्र सतीचे जेव्हां उघडे करावया अंग,’ Karṇaparva 49.7. As is obvious, Mehendale is not happy with the reference in Sabhāparva only, but searches and quotes similar references from other parvas also to make his arguments strong.

Further, he also scans the secondary literature in Marathi language available to him and informs that following the great erudite poet Moropanta, Shri.Balshastri Hardas, Shrimati Durgabai Bhagvat, Shri Anand Sadhle, Shri S.K.Pendse, Shrimati Prematai Kantak, Dr. Iravati Karve, Anantrao Athavale, Shri. Narahari Vishnu alias Daji Panshikar, all have accepted the same interpretation. After tracing the history of the meaning, Mehendale expresses his view that till the time of Veṇīsaṃhāra of Bhattanarayana, i.e. the 7th century A.D., vastra was understood as ‘the upper garment’; and it is possible to state that from 11th century A.D., i.e. from the period of Kshemendra, the author of Bhāratamañjarī, it came to be understood that vāsas is the lower garment. Mehendale cites from Bhāratamañjarī: हर दुःशासनास्यास्त्वं वासः, पश्यन्तु कौरवाः एनां गामिव निर्लज्जाम् and concludes that since she is compared to a cow, it can be said that Karṇa is telling here to strip her off her lower garment.

To understand the exact purport of the word, he checks the references to vastra and vāsas in Sabhāparvan, where the event takes place. When Karṇa tells Duḥśāsana to get the vāsāṃsi of Pāṇḍavas saying पाण्डवानां वासांसि आहर, the Pāṇḍavas themselves take off their upper garments, तच्छ्रुत्वा पाण्डवाः सर्वे स्वानि वासांसि भारत अवकीर्योत्तरीयाणि सभायां समुपाविशन्, .६१.३९. Everybody here, Karṇa, Duḥśāsana and the Pāṇḍavas seems to have understood here uttarīyāṇi as an adjective of vāsas and taken the meaning as upper garments by vāsas. Then the same must be applied to women also. Similarly, when the inner garments are meant they are also specified with the use of the substantive vāsas, ततस्तानन्तरीयेण वाससा समवास्तृणोत्, 3.58.13). Further, he argues that when both the uttarīya and lower or inner garments were meant both are mentioned, as in ततस्ते पार्थिवाः सर्वे तच्छ्रुत्वा राजशासनम् आसनेभ्यो महार्हेभ्य उदतिष्ठन्नमर्षिताः ... नियच्छन्तः अन्तरीयोत्तराणि, 5.150.18, 20. The thirteenth century poet Amarachandra states that they took off and put away the upper garments only, पाण्डुपुत्राः मुक्तोत्तरीयाः सदसि व्यराजन्, 2.5.46. Thus even though it is clear in Pāṇḍavas’ case why in Draupadī’s case it was understood as lower one? To this Mehendale finds a possible answer that it might be because of the reference ekavastrā. Hence on the basis of मा मां विवस्त्रां कृधि मा विकार्षीः, 2.60.30 he conjectures and from तां कृष्यमाणाम् ... स्रस्तोत्तरीयाम्, 2.60.47 concludes that in ekavastrā also vastra refers to her upper garment.

          However, still he is not happy with the guess about vāsas meaning uttarīyavāsas and further presents references from MBh. where vāsas or vastra means undoubtedly uttarīyavāsas, बृहन्नडे आनयेथा वासांसि रुधिराणि नः पाञ्चालिकार्थं सूक्ष्माणि चित्राणि विविधानि , 4.35.22, 23 and यद्युत्तरोऽयं संग्रामे विजेष्यति महारथान् अथाहरिष्ये वासांसि दिव्यानि रुचिराणि , 4.35.25 and आचार्यशारद्वतयोः सुशुक्ले कर्णस्य पीतं रुचिरं वस्त्रम् द्रौणेश्च राज्ञश्च तथैव नीले वस्त्रे समादत्स्व नरप्रवीर, 4.61.13, वस्त्राण्युपादाय महारथानां तूर्णं पुनः स्वं रथमारुरोह, 4.61.15 and प्रददौ तानि वासांसि  विराटदुहितुः स्वयम्, 4.64.34, 35.

However, even with these he is not satisfied and expecting a possible objection from the opponent (kṛtvākākāṅṣā) about whether in battles upper garments were used, he himself refutes it by citing the relevant references, 7.18.19, 7.20.8 and also by quoting Vaidya that uttarīyas were worn even on the battlefield. Further, as if this was not sufficient he cites references from Rāmāyaṇa also, 3.258 ff. and 3.26.8,9; 3.52. 2, 3; 4.6.9.

Thus arguing on the basis: 1. It was the upper garments which were taken off by Paṇḍavas, 2. Draupadī had upper garment on her body and 3. In Sanskrit vāsas means, according to context, uttarīyavāsas, he concludes that what Duḥśāsana tried to pull or haul was Draupadī’s upper garment and not lower garment.

          Then he turns to the problem of ekavastrā. It is seen that Draupadī had the lower and also upper garment, then why does she say that I am ekavastrā? After referring to various types of costumes from Ghurye’s ‘Indian Costume’, he concludes that women had three garments: the lower garment, an upper garment tight and tied on breast and one more upper garment worn like a stole; and states that hence, it can be concluded that when Draupadī says she is ekavastrā, it means that she has only the upper loose garment, the one like a stole and not the upper, inner one tight like a ‘tunic or bodice.’ Here also, to support his view that a woman’s mention of having only one garment doesn’t mean complete absence of upper garments he cites the relevant citations at 4.8.2,7; 4.16.2; 4.23. 12; 3.26.23 and 3.63.22,23.

          Actually speaking, thus he has made his points clear here about the meaning and interpretation of the words vāsas, uttarīya and ekavastrā. But he is not satisfied with those only and proceeds to describe and then explain about the end of the episode of vastrākarṣaṇa (not vastraharaṇa).


          He states that though there is no interpolation in the first part of the episode discussed above, there is much interpolation in the description of the end of the episode and it is ended variously.

          In the critical edition, which, it is not claimed, to be a/the correct one, it is stated that when Duḥśāsana started dragging Draupadī’s garments, there came, one after another, many garments. Witnessing that miracle the members of that council were awe-struck and when those garments piled up in a heap, Duḥśāsana was totally exhausted and sat down in complete shame and exhaustion.

आकृष्यमाणे वसने द्रौपद्यास्तु विशां पते तद्रूपमपरं वस्त्रं प्रादुरासीदनेकशः

ततो हलहलाशब्दस्तत्रासीद्घोरनिस्वनः तदद्भुततमं लोके वीक्ष्य सर्वमहीक्षिताम्


यदा तु वाससां राशिः सभामध्ये समाचितः ततो दुःशासनः श्रान्तो व्रीडितः समुपाविशत्

2.61.41, 42, 48. Though the text suggests that there must have been some kind of miracle, it does not mention what it can be. However, the verse after this appearing in almost all the northern recensions is:

नानारागविरागाणि वसनान्यथ वै प्रभो प्रादुर्भवन्ति शतशो धर्मस्य परिपालनात् 2.61.553, which is considered to be an interpolation, according to the principles of the editors of the critical edition. It means that hundreds of clothes of various colours appeared O Lord, due to the observance of Dharma. What is meant by that is not stated clearly but can be guessed from similar references that it is a kind of Satyakriya which is found performed at other places also, viz. 3.60.37,38 where Damayantī performs it to be saved from the hunter and also Draupadī seeking protection from Kīcaka. It can be conjectured from the word dharmapālana that here also Draupadī must have performed satyakriyā, saying, “If I have followed the Dharma of a devoted wife, may I be saved from this calamity.” This conjecture can be supported by Kṛṣṇa’s word suduṣkaraṃ śuddhaṃ karma (an act of purity which is very difficult to perform) when he says,

कृष्णा त्वेतत्कर्म चकार शुद्धं सुदुष्करं तद्धि सभां समेत्य

येन कृच्छ्रात् पाण्डवानुज्जहार तथात्मानं नौरिव सागरौघात् 5.29.35.

Thus Mehendale refutes the opinion of Edgerton also that it was ‘cosmic justice’ and concludes that it would be proper to say that the miracle was due to Satyakriyā. On the other hand, the southern manuscripts have the verses which tell that it was Kṛṣṇa who came to her rescue after she prayed to him:

अपकृष्यमाणे वसने विललाप सुदुःखिता गोविन्देति समाभाष्य कृष्णेति पुनः पुनः

शङ्खचक्रगदापाणे द्वारकानिलयाच्युत गोविन्द पुण्डरीकाक्ष रक्ष मां शरणागतम् 2.61.547*

तस्य प्रसादाद् द्रौपद्याः कृष्यमाणेऽम्बरे तथा (तद्रूपमपरं वस्त्रं प्रादुरासीदनेकशः ) 2.61.551*

Mehendale states that the critical edition has a verse कृष्णं जिष्णुं हरिं नरं त्राणाय विक्रोश नयामि हि त्वाम् 2.60.26, which provides some basis to these verses. Not only the southern recensions but some northern recensions also have some verses wherein Draupadī prays Kṛṣṇa and seeks protection from him, and accordingly he comes to her rescue which read:

हे नाथ हे रमानाथ ...

प्रपन्नां पाहि गोविन्द कुरुमध्येऽवसीदतीम्

इत्यनुस्मृत्य कृष्णं सा हरिं त्रिभुवनेश्वरम्

प्रारुदद् दुःखिता राजन्मुखमाच्छाद्य भामिनी

याज्ञसेन्या वचः श्रुत्वा कृष्णो गव्हरितोऽभवत्

त्यक्त्वा शय्यासनं पद्भ्यां कृपालुः कृपयाभ्यगात् 2.61.543

However, it is not Kṛṣna here who provides her the clothes as is the case in the southern recensions, but the invisible Dharma: ततस्तु धर्मोऽन्तरितो महात्मा समावृणोत्तां विविधवस्त्रपूगः, 2.61.544. This Dharma is nothing else but the pativratādharma and this tradition combines the old tradition together with the prayers to Kṛṣṇa according to Mehendale. He further remarks that it is very difficult to know and say what exactly happened in the original story of the Mahābharata, but he personally thinks that the idea of Satyakriyā is closer to original MBh. Also, he does not forget to verify Kṛṣṇa’s whereabouts at the time of dice-play and confirms that he was not in Dvārakā at that time but was engaged in fight with Śālva far away from it. Thus following his usual practice, Mehendale makes his research article full-proof on every side and in every way.