The Aryan Path to Enduring Intellectual Glory Lies through the Honest Pursuit of Truth

P.K. Gode embarked on in-depth scholarly research in such offbeat, strange and seemingly bizarre topics like horse gram, nose-ring, bullock carts, paper, perfumery, jalebi, dietics, fig and archery. What made him seek obscure and forgotten poets, hymn-composers, military generals, ministers, clerks, musicians and unknown pupils of great Gurus? But for P.K. Gode, we’d never know that all these even existed.
The Aryan Path to Enduring Intellectual Glory Lies through the Honest Pursuit of Truth
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The Aryan Path to Enduring Intellectual Glory Lies through the Honest Pursuit of Truth

WHEN WE SURVEY all the titles of P.K. Gode’s 475 research papers, our immediate experience is to be pleasantly dumbstruck. And immediately, this question strikes our mind: what made Gode embark on in-depth scholarly research in such offbeat, strange and seemingly bizarre topics like horsegram, nose-ring, bullock carts, paper, perfumery, jalebi, dietics, fig and archery? What made him seek obscure and forgotten poets, hymn-composers, military generals, ministers, clerks, musicians and unknown pupils of great Gurus? 

But for P.K. Gode, we’d never know that all these even existed.  

Here we detect a slight parallel with the Jñāpakacitraśāle (Art Gallery of Memories) volumes of D.V. Gundappa, another luminary of the New Indian Renaissance. Out there, D.V. Gundappa has lovingly chronicled the lives of obscure, unnoticed and unsung folk as well as celebrated, famous and eminent people drawn from all walks of life. A Kannada writer had made this perceptive observation about these remarkable volumes: “several obscure people that Mr. Gundappa has chronicled here were known almost to everybody in the circles he travelled. Yet, it was only Mr. Gundappa who thought that it was worthwhile to write about them.” 

D.V. Gundappa was senior to P.K. Gode by just four years.       

Like his other illustrious contemporaries, P.K. Gode could have travelled on the familiar path — of exacavating one or several sites Bharatavarsha’s past and producing multiple volumes on one subject and then taking up another topic. He could have written definitive works on Aurangzeb and Shivaji like Jadunath Sarkar or authored a multi-volume history of Indian Philosophy like Surendranath Dasgupta or given us a corpus similar to P.V. Kane’s History of the Dharmasastra. However, he deliberately, consciously chose the road not taken. As it occurs to me, the reason he chose this path, is twofold. 

The first was his deep attachment to his Sanatana cultural roots. In this, he was again, similar to his contemporaries who were both the progenitors and children of the New Indian Renaissance. Studying and reviving the ancient genius that had built the Sanatana spiritual civilisation and culture was what they regarded as their life’s calling. A close reading of the prefaces and introductions to his volumes of collected papers reveals this aspect unambiguously. In the final sentence of his Thirty Years of Historical Research, Gode declares this calling in so many words: 

At a time when many attempts are being made for the revival of our ancient Aryan heritage and culture on modern lines we may well remember the following definition of an Arya as recorded in the Mahabharata: “vṛttena hi bhavatyāryo na dhanena na vidyayā.” Verily the Aryan Path to enduring intellectual glory lies through the honest pursuit of truth and not through the acquisition of mere wealth or learning.

The second reason was rooted in his temperament. That temperament received abundant and perennial nourishment the day Gode was entrusted with the aforementioned 20,000 manuscripts. While his contemporaries chose to write about the whole of the Himalayas, Gode wrote about just one crevice, one leaf in its sprawling foliage, one headwater. But it would be the final word on the topic. 

Thus, what is merely a primary-source citation in P.V. Kane’s work on the Dharmasastras transmutes into a full-blown research paper in P.K. Gode’s hands. His extraordinary paper on an apparently insignificant topic like the history of the nose-ring in India is a brilliant representative of this kind of fine-grained scholarship. The sheer mass and diversity of sources — both Indian and foreign — that Gode marshals is overpowering in an almost physical sense. In just this nose-ring essay, Gode effortlessly travels all the way to ancient Egypt, pre-Islamic Arabia and returns to 20th century India. And then, he embarks on a thousand-year voyage within India — from Gandhara to Madurapuri. Throughout the journey, he ransacks the annals of oral and recorded history, myths, folklore, war chronicles, accounts of social customs in diverse cultures and Sanskrit devotional literature. It is a full-course feast of delicious scholarship. 

To be continued

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