Professor Ananta Ramachandra Kulkarni (April 19, 1925, Daddi, Dt. Belgaum,Bombay Province (now part of Karnataka) – May 24, 2009, Pune)
Ed. note: Dr. Manjiri Kamat of the Mumbai University History Department has sent word of the passing of Professor A. R. Kulkarni, the distinguished historian of the Marathas, Professor-emeritus of the University of Poona and some-time Chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research. My editorial colleague Professor Sumit Guha as sent me a note assessing Kulkarni’s contributions and characterisitic work, which I append to a brief obituary which I have composed, aided by a memoir of ARK by Dr. Teotonio R. de Souza. A partial bibliography is appended at the end of the post. FFC
Professor Ananta Ramachandra Kulkarni passed away in Pune on May 24, 2009,succumbing to the effects of throat cancer. His 84 year life was marked with many challenges and hardships which he overcame through a personal character which was marked by integrity and dedication to his own view of the significance of an academic life. In an era when some ‘historians’ preferred the tale to the toil, Kulkarni was remarkable for his dedicated commitment to research in original documents and his ability to offer disinterested interpretations of the past, uncolored by contemporary winds of fashion. From my first meeting with him in 1971 until my last time in Pune several years ago,he remained a valued friend and advisor.
A. R. Kulkarni was born to a Deshastha Rgvedi Brahman family in a village of Belgaum district on what is now the frontier of Maharashtra and Karnataka where his ancestors held the watan or hereditary rights as village accountants (kulkarnis). His father was a non-matriculate, his mother’s family had a long tradition of education. Kulkarni once described his own educational beginnings to his student T. R. de Souza, as being not an “extraordinary career, but perhaps somewhat above average.” He attended the Municipal High School at Nipani, matriculating at Bombay University in 1942, then entering Rajaram
College at Kolhapur. His education was interrupted by the Quit India Movement when the college was closed in late 1942; he considered taking up some other line, but his mother prevailed upon him to continue. He earned a BA degree (Bombay) from Rajaram, then worked as an investigator of industries for an economic analysis project on Kolhapur state planned by the Gokhale Institute.
After some frustrating and unsatisfying work in the Kolhapur state service, he began as a part-time teacher at the new Kolhapur High School, and then as a tutor (@ Rs. 25/month) at Rajaram. He was preparing for post-graduate study when the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi provoked the now sometimes forgotten firestorm of violence against Brahmans in southern Maharashtra.
Kulkarni’s parents’ family home was destroyed along with their possessions—he dropped out of study for a year to help them. Eventually earning exam marks in 1949 to qualify as a college lecturer.
Wanting a lecturership in Economics, Kulkarni found no vacancy but could take a post in history (never his major subject) at the Rani Parvati Devi College in Belgaum, where he worked for three years. After a temporary appointment at the American Marathi Mission’s College in Ahmednagar, Kulkarni joined a college in Sholapur. He presented his first paper to the Indian History Congress in 1960 and began publishing pieces in Marathi for use of college students. He submitted a doctoral thesis to Poona University, but its would-be evaluator failed to file a report; after four years’ waiting, Kulkarni submitted the thesis to Marathwada University. His work on the social and economic life of the Shivaji period in Maharashtra marked a major new historiographical initiative.
Kulkarni had joined the Deccan College in 1965 and began building a research programme in Maratha history. In 1968 the late Kenneth Ballhatchet offered him a fellowship at SOAS giving him time to work on a book on the first major historian of the Marathas, James Cunninghame Grant Duff. Kulkarni’s study was first published in Marathi and subsequently in an English version.
At the encouraging of the late Professor P. M. Joshi, Kulkarni applied for a new post in a new department of History at the University of Poona and was appointed in 1969 where he served until retirement in 1985. He built up an extensive post-graduate research program with concentration on the history of Maharashtra and the Marathas. He emphasized the significance of study of Modi script and knowledge of both published and unpublished documents. His student Teotonio de Souza wrote that “(h)is insistence on the need of looking for and utilization of fresh source-material made his students conscious of what could provide a sound and long-lasting importance to historical research they would undertake. He expected his students to explore and interpret sources with caution with ideologies and conceptual constructs.” [Teotonio R. de Souza, “The Make-up of a Guru” in Studies of the Deccan: Medieval and Modern: Professor A.R. Kulkarni Felicitation Volume, Edited by M. A. Nayeem, Aniruddha Ray and K. S. Mathew. p. 20
Professor Kulkarni was a warm and welcoming figure to visiting scholars, both Indian and foreign. He assisted researchers in access to resources and institutions, and was a major supporter of a series of conferences in Canada,the United States, France, Germany, Russia and India on Maharashtra Studies.
Considering the uncertainties and interruptions of his younger years and his education, his accomplishments are all the more admirable and a source of both wonder and respect. I join with my colleague Professor Sumit Guha in honoring this remarkable person.
(a partial bibliography follows Professor Guha’s appreciation of A. R.
Kulkarni’s contributions to history.)
Frank F. Conlon
Professor Emeritus of History, South Asian Studies & Comparative Religion
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195-3560 USA
Managing Director, Bibliography of Asian Studies Online
Professor A. R. Kulkarni Remembered – by Sumit Guha
The passing of Professor Ananta Ramachandra Kulkarni is a grave loss to the field of Indian history. In an active career lasting more than fifty years he made major contributions to the study of the history of India and more especially that of Maharashtra, both through his own numerous books and articles and as an institution builder in the University of Pune. He published so extensively in both Marathi and English that I can only mention a few of his major works.
His research career began soon after India’s independence. As he tells the story, he enrolled in a Ph.d. program under the guidance of Dr Shriram Sharma – an expert on the Mughal period and Hasmukh D. Sankalia – a famous figure in Indian archaeology. The former suggested he study the “Working of Dyarchy in Bombay Province under the Act of 1919” while the latter proposed that he study “Social life as exemplified in the [Sanskrit] Agni-purana”. It is fortunate that neither of these themes appealed to him and he instead decided to study the social and economic life of Maharashtra in the Shivaji
period or 1630-1680 – a file that he made uniquely his own. Soon after
embarking on this research, he became a junior lecturer in the Sholapur government college at 200 rupees a month. Overcoming early discouragement by T.S. Shejwalkar, he began research on this topic and contacted Govind S. Sardesai, (1865-1959) the leading scholar of pre-modern Maharashtra (and editor of the extremely valuable 45 volume set of *Selections from the Peshwa Daftar*.
He arrived at Sardesai’s Kamshet house to find the nonagenarian scholar at his daily exercise of chopping wood. That concluded, Sardesai encouraged him to persist with his project and gifted him several source-books as well as allowing him the run of his library. Kulkarni was also assisted by scholars associated with the still active Bharata Itihasa Samshodak Mandala of Pune including G.H. Khare, specialist in medieval western India and editor (inter alia) of a valuable set of Persian sources of Maratha history.
This thesis was revised into a pioneering study of social and economic life in 17th century Maharashtra, _Shivkalina Maharashtra_ (in Marathi) and _Maharashtra in the Age of Shivaji_ (1969; revised edition 2002) in English. Both these versions are still in print, the Marathi having gone through two editions so far. This book offers a lucid and careful exposition of the social and economic life of pre-colonial Maharashtra using the vast new resources made available by the opening of the Peshwa Daftar records in Pune and the huge mass
of sources published by the efforts of the Bharata Itihasa Samshodhak Mandala, as well as many other organizations and individuals. It was the first synthesis on the subject after the much older work of Surendranath Sen _Administrative System of the Marathas _ (1925) and of course, completely superseded it.
Immediately after this he embarked on a new research project: a study of the early British official James C. Grant, (later Grant Duff) who is best remembered for his two volume _History of the Mahrattas_ (London 1830) which has since been reprinted several times. Grant Duff’s work had been extensively criticized by Maratha historians from the late 19th century onward. Indeed, some major scholars like V.K. Rajwade embarked on the search for primary sources in order to refute Duff’s work and anyone who reads Rajwade will note that he never failed to point out errors of fact or argument, however minor,
that he could locate in Duff. Raising money from various sources, he was able to go to Britain in order to research the subject in the India Office records.
Prof. Kulkarni had the courage to swim against the stream of Marathi-language historiography and to develop a more balanced and historically contextualized assessment of Duff’s academic and administrative work. The book *James Cunninghame Grant Duff* (Marathyanca Itihaskar-Prashasak)_ (Historian-administrator of the Marathas_) appeared in 1971 and was reprinted in 2006. Soon after his return from London, he was appointed Professor in the newly established History Department of Pune University. Dr Kulkarni also used his visit to secure photocopies of many of the private paper collections held in the India Office and placed these copies in the library of the Department of History in Pune University. They later proved an invaluable resource for graduate students in the Department.
In addition to these and other academic works, Professor Kulkarni also published magazine articles and popular books in Marathi. An essay on the Chatrapati Shivaji’s regime written for the Maharashtra Times for example, grew _Ashi Hoti Shivshahi_ 1999 (Such was Shivaji’s rule). Written in a simple,clear style this small book thoroughly undermines the representation of Shivaji as a Hindu nationalist assiduously propagated by Hindu Right politicians,
especially in Maharashtra. Professor Kulkarni also sought to encourage the study the Modi script in which most official and many private archival documents were written by publishing beautiful facsimile editions with Devanagari transcripts and a full critical apparatus. Two important seventeenth century sources – the _Jedhe Shakavali_ (Jedhe Chronicle) and the _Jedhe Karina_ (Jedhe family narrative) were published in this format.
In recent years, Professor Kulkarni also began to collect his numerous papers and book chapters into more accessible volumes. I have at hand _Maharashtra: Society and Culture_, _Exploration in the Deccan History_ and _Maratha Historiography_. These volumes contain essays on many diverse themes,ranging from a comparison of Marathi and Portuguese accounts of a naval battle in harbor of Malwan, to an analysis of the position the hereditary village accountant from the twelfth to the twentieth century to a history of the struggle over government archives in Maharashtra from 1818 to 1947. The first
of these includes a 62 page essay on the Baluta (village servant) system that is practically a monograph in itself.
Professor Kulkarni was active in academic life for over fifty years. This brought him into contact with many leading intellectuals of Maharashtra. In 2006, he published a set of frank, penetrating yet warm and sympathetic sketches of twelve of these under the title _Gele te din_ (_Gone are those days_). I trust that recollections of this great but modest historian will soon be added to the historical record so that (as Herodotus said) his actions too may receive their due mead of glory.
1. Shivkalina Maharashtra – Samajik Arthik Jivanacha Abhyasa_ first publication date not shown; revised reprint Pune: Rajhans Prakshan 1993;reprinted 1997
2. Maharashtra in the Age of Shivaji (A Study of Economic History)_ first published 1969; revised edition Pune: Prabha Prakashan 2002
3. James Cunninghame Grant Duff (Marathyancha Itihasakar-prashasak)_ 1971; reprinted Pune: Rajhans Prakashan 2006
4. Marathyancha Itihasa_ 3 volumes, ed. A.R. Kulkarni and G.H. Khare Pune:Continetal Prakashan 1984
5. Ashi Hoti Shivshahi_ Pune: Rajhans Prakashan first published 1999;reprinted 2000
6. Punyache Peshve. Pune: Rajhans Prakashan first published 1999; reprinted 2000
7. Maharashtra: Society and Culture. Delhi: Books and Books 2000
8. Maratha Historiography. Delhi: Manohar 2006
9. Explorations in the Deccan History. Delhi: Pragati Publications for the Indian Council of Historical Research 2006
10. Gele Te Din. Pune: Diamond Publications 2006
I am unable at this time to provide complete references for the _Jedhe
Shakavali_ and _Karina_ [see below, FFC]
Partial bibliography of A. R. Kulkarni (nb. the U. S. Library of Congress authority catalogue notes him as Kulakarni, A. R. FFC
Explorations in the Deccan history by A.R. Kulkarni.
New Delhi : Pragati Publications in association with Indian
Council of Historical Research, 2006.
Series Monograph series (Indian Council of Historical Research) ; 9.
Bibliography Includes bibliographical references and index.
History in practice : Historians and sources of medieval
Deccan-Marathas / editor, A.R. Kulkarni
New Delhi : Books & Books, 1993
History of modern Deccan, 1720/1724-1948 / editors, A.R. Kulkarni,
M.A. Nayeem. Hyderabad, [India] : Abul Kalam Azad Oriental Research Institute,2000
Contents v. 1. Political and administrative aspects
Jedhe, sakavali-karina = Jedhe, sakavali-karina = Jedhe,
shakavali-karina / sampadaka A. Ra. Kulakarni
Pune : Manasanmana Prakasana, 1999
Language In Marathi; includes part in English (Marathi in Modi and
Summary Chronicles, in original Modi script with transliteration in
Devanagari and translation in English, of formative period of the Marathas
(1618-1697), preserved by the Jedhes, Deshmukhs of Kari, near Bhor in
Jemsa Kaningaha Granta Dapha / A. Ra. Kulakarni
Pune : Pune Vidyapitha, [1971?]
Kampani Sarakara = Ista Indiya Kampani / A. Ra. Kulakarni
Info Pune : Rajaha Prakasana, 2000.
Summary History of East India Company in Maharashtra
Maharashtra in the age of Shivaji, by A. R. Kulkarni
Poona, Deshmukh, 1969.
LCCN 70927929 /SA/r862
Maharashtra : society and culture by A.R. Kulkarni
New Delhi : Books & Books, 2000
Maratha historiography : based on Heras memorial lectures / A.R. Kulkarni
New Delhi : Manohar Publishers & Distributors, 2006.
Marathas and the Marathas country / [A.R. Kulkarni]
New Delhi : Books & Books, 1996
Contents v. 1. Medieval Maharashtra — v. 2. Medieval Maratha country —
v. 3. The Marathas
ISBN 8185016488 (v. 1)
8185016496 (v. 2)
8185016506 (v. 3)
Marathyaa itihasa / sampadaka A. Ra. Kulakarni ani Ga. Ha. Khare
Pune : Maharashtra Vidyapitha Granthanirmiti Mandalasathhi Kontinentala
Contents 1. Sivaji ani sivakala, 1600-1707
LCCN 86900486 /SA
ISBN Rs75.00 (v. 1)
Mediaeval Deccan history : commemoration volume in honour of
Purshottam Mahadeo Joshi / edited by A.R. Kulkarni, M.A. Nayeem, T.R. de Souza
Bombay : Popular Prakashan, 1996
Medieval India, problems and possibilities : essays in honour of
professor A.R. Kulkarni / edited by Radhika Seshan.
Jaipur : Rawat Publications, c2006.
Title Punyace Pesave / A. Ra. Kulakarni
Pune : Rajaha Prakasana, 1999
Region, nationality, and religion / editors, A.R. Kulkarni and N.K. Wagle
Mumbai : Popular Prakashan, 1999
Studies in history of the Deccan : Medieval and Modern : Professor
A.R. Kulkarni felicitation volume / editors, M.A. Nayeem, Aniruddha Ray,K.S. Mathew
Delhi : Pragati Publications, 2002