P.K. Gode: The Ajātaśatru and his Scholarly Brotherhood

P.K. Gode was an Ajātaśatru — a person who had no enemies. Throughout his career, he had amassed a wealth of mentors and had forged close friendships and lasting relationships within the scholarly community. He regarded his scholarly community as a brotherhood that was honestly, devotedly working towards the invaluable ideal of reclaiming the cultural and spiritual soul of Bharatavarsha.
P.K. Gode: The Ajātaśatru  and his Scholarly Brotherhood
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IN EVERY SENSE, P.K. GODE was an Ajātaśatru — a person who had no enemies. Throughout his career, he had amassed a wealth of mentors and had forged close friendships and lasting relationships within the scholarly community. Not much is known about his personal friendships outside this circle. Cutting across age, every scholar and researcher who came in his contact has offered nothing but effusive praise and sincere respect. While this in itself is a great testimony to his personality and spotless conduct, it is not the full story. 

A sublime Sanskrit word describes the striking trait that earned him such widespread and enduring esteem and goodwill: Dīkṣā. An exact English translation is difficult but it generally means, “dedication,” “pledge,” and “sense of purpose.” A common theme that we notice in all writings by and about P.K. Gode is his penance-like immersion in Sanskrit studies. 

It might sound incredible today, but Gode never stepped out of Poona except on extremely rare occasions. It was his Karmabhumi and he lived there engaged in incessant scholarly tapas for thirty-five years. The world flocked to him. Scholars across the globe regularly sought his advice, guidance and opinion and he was only glad to help. He kept himself aloof from the seminar and lecture jamborees. We get a salutary insight into the sort of ideals that energised and moved P.K. Gode in this quote by the American naturalist, William Healey Dall. Gode cites it as an ideal for every “seeker of the truth.” 

Naturalists are born and not made; that the sacred fire cannot be extinguished by poverty nor lighted from a college taper. That the men whose work is now classical and whose devotion it is our privilege to honour owed less to education…than they did to self-denial, steadfastness, energy, a passion for seeking out the truth, and an innate love of nature. These are the qualities which enabled them to gather fruit of the tree of knowledge. 

Gode could well be speaking about himself. Much later in his life, he described his own work in these poignant lines: 

I have squeezed out much historical sense and essence from only a few manuscripts in the Govt. Manuscripts Library in my charge and bottled it up in my papers for the use of brother scholars... There is no finality in human affairs, much less in research. I have kept all my cards on the table of time for the use of the research workers of all generations. I look upon them as the best judges of my research effort and meagre achievements.

Brotherhood is the other marked refrain in his body of work. He regarded his scholarly community as a brotherhood that was honestly, devoutly working towards the invisible but invaluable ideal of reclaiming the cultural and spiritual soul of Bharatavarsha. Here are some excerpts that testify to this inner attitude of P.K. Gode.

1. During the last twenty-eight years of my service at the B.O.R. Institute, the entire staff of the Institute has worked in a spirit of brotherhood. I have fully enjoyed all the benefits of this brotherhood in all my work….

2. While heartily thanking all the members of this brotherhood…I cannot but mourn the loss of some of its members with whom I “lived, moved and had my being.”   

3. It is very rarely that scholars who are engrossed in their own work, remember inquiries from brother-scholars for a long time and send helpful replies to such inquiries.

4. [This work]…has borne abundant fruit owing to the good will and co-operation of brother-scholars…

5. To go backwards from A. D. 500 is now a difficult task and I earnestly invite brother-scholars to point out from early sources…

And the brotherhood reciprocated with joy by giving Gode its unqualified respect, support and various forms of assistance. And Gode in turn, would thank them profusely. In person, definitely, but also in his prefaces and introductions. At other times, this gratitude would take the form of giving a dedication. There are any number of instances where Gode has actively sought the guidance of experts in a particular field and has acknowledged them with genuine warmth and affection. 

The list of stalwarts with whom P.K. Gode had forged lifelong friendship reads like a lexicon of eminence. Here is a partial list mentioned in the same order as Gode has given: P.V. Kane, H. D. Velankar, Muni Shri Jinavijayaji, Dr. A. D. Pusalkar, Dr. A. P. Karmarkar, Diwan Bahadur K. M. Jhaveri, Mr. A. K. Priyolkar, Dr. R. N. Dandekar, Dr. P. L. Vaidya, R. D. Karmarkar, S.M. Katre and Prof. N. A. Gore. These apart, Gode was also closely associated with his senior stalwarts like S.K. Belvalkar and Vishnu Sitaram Sukthankar. In one of his prefaces, Gode mentions an expressive anecdote that reveals the depth of his feeling for Sukthankar: 

I cannot but mourn the irreparable loss to me personally and to the Indian scholarship caused by the demise of Dr. V. S. Sukthankar…He was my friend and colleague for no less than 17 years and during this period there was no tea-time at which we did not discuss a research problem, arising out of his study of the Mahabharata or out of my historical studies. I remember how he noted in his diary occasionally some new points from my multifarious inquiries and reported subsequently without fail whatever facts came to his notice pertaining to these inquiries. 

This reveals the climate of scholarship in Indian Cultural Studies prevailing in  that era. Its salient features included a healthy and active cooperation among scholars who were aware that they were serving an ideal greater than themselves. Disagreements were rarely taken as personal affronts. From one perspective, the biography of P.K. Gode is also the history of Indological scholarship in Maharashtra in particular. In a revealing observation, P.K. Gode issues a dire prediction that has horribly rung true today: 

Indology needs at present no dilettante and slip-shod research but devoted and sustained work by genuine lovers of research in the fields selected by them. The taper of research temporarily lighted in the Post-graduate classes of our Universities but extinguished with the acquisition of a degree cannot illumine the path of Indology. Prize-winners of our Universities appear and disappear every year. Very few of them follow the academic traditions of reputed scholars of the previous generations or create any traditions by their own work of acknowledged merit. In my own work I have followed the traditions of scholars in our province like Sir R.G. Bhandarkar, Dr. V.S. Sukthankar, Dr. P.V. Kane…who in their respective fields of study have done monumental and exemplary work worthy of our reverence and admiration. 

P.K. Gode’s closest friend for life was the redoubtable Jain scholar, Acharya Muni Jinavijaya. Their first meeting occurred in 1919 when Gode had just joined BORI as an Assistant Curator. Muni Jinavijaya was engaged in intense research in Jain manuscripts, a large chunk of which was housed in the BORI building. It was Gode’s revered Guru, Dr. P.D. Gune who introduced the two to one another. 

That marked the beginning of an abiding bond that endured till Gode passed away. A few years later, Muni Jinavijaya migrated to Bombay and became the General Editor of the distinguished Singhi Jain Series, the Honorary Director of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and the Rajasthan Puratattva Mandir, Jaipur. His sustained interest in and unfailing encouragement to Gode’s scholarly pursuits is a heartwarming illustration of an ideal —  of a perfect intellectual friendship. A precious gift to the world of scholarship that emanated from this friendship was the publication of the two volumes of Studies in Indian Literary History. Gode himself describes the story of its genesis: 

In the rainy season of 1946 I had the good fortune of meeting after many years my old friend Acarya Muni Jinavijaya ji, when he stayed for a few days in the Nizam Guest House of the B.O.R. Institute… I had occasion to ascertain Muniji’s deep interest in all my writings pertaining to Indian literary history and the history of Indian culture… he expressed his great appreciation of all my writings published… since 1919 and desired that I should publish them in a book-form. 

Gode was pleased by the offer, but the endeavour would prove expensive. He estimated that it would take ₹ 25,000 to publish 2500 printed pages — the total of his body of work till 1946. This is what happened next: “Without getting perturbed at the estimated cost…Muniji spontaneously offered in a spirit of brotherhood to publish two volumes of my studies in literary history, each volume consisting of about 500 pages.” (Emphasis added) And then Gode offers ebullient gratitude to this selfless Jain savant. Every word is richly deserved:

I cannot adequately express my sense of gratitude to Muniji for this act of brotherhood prompted solely by his disinterested love of learning and catholicity of his literary interests, characteristic of all true devotees of Sarasvati…worshipped alike in this Bharatavarsha from remote antiquity up to the present day by all our countrymen, Brahmanical, Jain and Buddhist. 

Happily, the two volumes were published in 1953 and 54 respectively. On numerous occasions, P.K. Gode has called Muni Jinavijaya his “affectionate friend and benefactor” and has movingly dedicated both volumes of Studies in Indian Literary History to him.     

To be continued  

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