BORI Beckons P.K.Gode

This episode traces the start of P.K. Gode's professional career that began with a lecturership at Karve Indian Women’s University. Within a year, he moved to the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona and remained there for the rest of his life. It is also where he found his life's calling.
BORI Beckons P.K.Gode
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BORI Beckons P.K.Gode

AFTER HIS M.A., GODE EASILY landed a job in 1918 as a Professor of English and Sanskrit in the Women’s College, Poona. This college was part of the Karve Indian Women’s University (now, SNDT Women's University) founded by Maharshi Dr. Dhondo Keshav Karve in 1916. 

Gode lasted about a year in the college. Not that he didn’t love teaching there. He left the job because he received a command from his guru, Dr. Gune who “asked me to abandon my post at the Indian Women’s University.” The reason for the command: On September 10, 1918, Dr. Gune had been elected as the first Honorary Secretary of the fledgling Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI). He needed solid and promising scholars to assist him in building the Institute. P.K. Gode was the man. Dr. Gune’s command was supplemented by Prof R.D. Ranade’s persuasive insistence. 

On April 26, 1919, Gode was appointed as Assistant Curator of BORI. In January 1921, Gode was promoted as Curator, a position he held till retirement. From one perspective, the distinguished history of BORI is also the august professional biography of P.K. Gode.

Unfortunately, Dr. Gune did not live long enough to see how splendidly his protege flowered. He was just 39 when he passed away in 1922. 

Parashuram Krishna Gode was a born researcher and BORI was the boundless ocean that allowed him unhindered exploration. In a sense, both were born and made for each other. In another sense, BORI was where Gode rediscovered his innate passion for research. 

This passion had briefly made itself felt when as a B.A. Student, he had authored a scholarly paper titled, Art, Style and Versification of the Mahabhãrata. It was first published in 1916 in the Sanskrit Research Journal published by Sanskrit Academy, Bangalore. Impressed with the essay, the Editor of the journal, Dr. Kurtakoti awarded a generous ₹ 50 to Gode. Dr. Kurtakoti eventually became the Sankaracharya of the Karavīrapīṭha, Nasik.

Dr. Gune’s sudden death had created a yawning void in Gode’s nascent career, now in desperate need for guidance. The guidance arrived three years later. And not in human form. It was the result of a resolution passed by the Regulating Council of BORI. The Council had picked P.K. Gode as the most competent scholar to steer a mammoth undertaking. He was entrusted the charge of the Government Manuscripts Library which had 20,000 Sanskrit manuscripts in its possession. His task was to classify them subject-wise. 

Parashuram Krishna Gode had found his life’s calling. 

This is how he describes it: 

But for my sustained interest in these manucripts my life would have become dreary and aimless as the constant company of twenty-thousand old and decaying manuscripts for over twenty- five years would have chilled the genial current of any soul, aiming at research only in terms of emoluments.

P.K. Gode made full use of this large exchequer of knowledge at his disposal. For the next four decades, he unstoppably published hundreds of learned research papers on an impossibly vast range of obscure topics. He published multiple follow-up papers on the same topic. The manuscripts spoke to him and he loudly broadcast their message. We notice a childlike zeal and celebratory tone in all these essays. Each new discovery was akin to a personal triumph for him and as readers, it is hard to resist joining his celebration. In fact, it is infectious. 

By 1939, Gode had published a record 163 research papers.

In 1941 — he had turned 50 — the number had gone up to 202. He published a Bibliography of all these papers and dedicated it to his Guru, Dr. Gune. 

By 1946, that number had further grown to 336. The Bibilography was updated. 

By 1959, it stood at a massive 475. That is also the total number of papers he has published in his lifetime.

In this corpus, 150 essays are dedicated to both well-known and little-known topics pertaining to Indian history. After 1941, P.K. Gode shifted his focus from studying Sanskrit manuscripts to examining various topics related to Indian history, which he approached from the perspective of Indian literature and culture. 

It is notable that P.K. Gode did not author a full-length book on any subject. However, his substantial corpus of research papers have enough raw material for producing scores of books on the gamut of topics that he has investigated. In fact, Gode has himself provided precious guidance to both students and aspiring researchers on the incalculable value of manuscript research. 

"Post-graduate students of Sanskrit Literature, if they care to study and exploit the Manuscript material in the numerous Manuscript libraries in India and outside, the History of Sanskrit Literature will have to be rewritten every ten years. Every old MS is a historical document; and it is the business of a scholar not only to acquaint himself with its contents but to explore the possibilities of its bearing on the several problems connected with the history of culture and thought, not to say political and dynastic history of different Indian provinces.

"Sanskrit scholars have so far studied only a few major texts but the vast mass of the commentaries on the varied published and unpublished Sanskrit texts practically lies untouched by scholars. The choronology of these texts and commentaries should be a matter of paramount concern to every student of the chronology of Sanskrit Literature. There is so much material in the manuscripts of these commentaries and texts awaiting investigation by competent scholars that without devoted labour of disinterested researchers no substantial research could be carried out. If we are unable to give exact chronology for events and authors of the mediaeval times, our attempts to determine the chronology of events and authors of earlier times are necessarily doomed to failure.

"In the first instance, we must exploit the wealth of unpublished sources for the mediaeval period and then gradually dig deeper into ancient strata of literary and dynastic history. At any rate no student of Sanskrit Literature can afford to neglect the relics of ancient culture and civilization now available in manuscript form in our private and public libraries." (Emphasis added)

This is distilled wisdom flowing from the experiential authority of a Master who has trodden the tough path. While Gode’s foregoing advice largely addresses Sanskrit researchers, its essence has universal applicability. 

Given his prolific and capacious output lasting nearly half a century, it might be a pleasant surprise to learn that publishing such research papers was not his primary job description. Let’s read his own words: 

Though research work is no part of my duties at the Institute, I have consistently looked upon it as the be-all and end-all of my life and have tried my best to carry on scholarly pursuits expected of an officer in charge of an all-India Oriental Research Institute founded in honour of the late Sir R. G. Bhandarkar of revered memory.

To be continued

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