Shridhar Venktesh Ketkar

(2 February 1884 – 10 April 1937)

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Dr. Shridhar Venktesh Ketkar was a scholar who not only had an ambitious dream to write and publish an encyclopedia in Marathi but also had the guts to complete it singlehandedly. By preparing the Maharashtriya Dnyanakosh, Ketkar created the tradition of Vishwakosh in Marathi. His contribution to Marathi novel is praiseworthy too. His novels Brahmankanya and Gondvanaatil Priyanvadaa are still considered ideal for presentation of social ideology in fiction form.

Ketkar was obsessed with the idea of Maharatriya Dnyankosh from 1915. After consulting many scholars, he established a ‘Dnyankosh Mandal’ on 4 March 1917 which started its work by preparing a bibliography of Marathi books. Y. R. Datey and R. T. Deshmukh prepared it in 1919. By 1924, eleven volumes of Dnyankosh were printed; Volume 27got ready by 1927.
Ketkar finished the encyclopedia work with the help of minimum number of assistants. He however did not get cooperation of successful writers from main stream literature. So he had to depend at times on newcomers. Most of the work he completed single-handedly. It included jotting down notes, editing them and planning the finances of the project. All this he had to do entirely on his own.

The first five volumes of the encyclopedia, considered as introductory, are devoted to the topics: India and the World, the Vedas, the World Before and After the Buddha and the History of Science. They contain lengthy sociological and historical essays on the relevant topics giving details. Volumes 6 to 21 contain introductory notes on various topics. Volume 22 gives the list of content and volume 23 contains additional information about India. Ketkar has stated and explained his hard work and the problems involved in his book, Maze Bara Varshanche Kaam: Dnyankosh Mandalacha Itiihaas.

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Ketkar family hails from Anjanvel near Dabhol. His father Venkateshrao was in the postal department. Shridhar was born when they were at Raipur. As the boy lost his father soon enough, he came to his uncle in Amaravati. He got his education after standard two in the high school there. His work in documentation began in his school life. He published the list of songs written by Yashwant Khushal Deshpande entiled “Ganesh Padyaavali.” In 1900, Ketkar came to Mumbai for higher education.

Though he studied in Wilson College between 1901 and 1905, he could not get his degree as he failed to fit into the academic framework. Ketkar was obsessed with the idea of India’s freedom. He was keen to go to America for military education. In the meanwhile, with the help of B.S. Gadkari, he started a magazine called Maharashtra Vagvilas in 1906. Leaving it in the middle, he left for the U.S. on April 19, 1906. He was at Harvard during 1908-9. In addition he got his B.A. in 1907, M.A. in 1908 and Ph.D. in 1911 by writing a thesis on the topic “The History of Caste in India.” A book based on the thesis was acclaimed at international level. Ketkar was a voracious reader while in America. He wrote poems too in that period. On way back to India, he stayed in England between May 1911 and September 1912 and published ‘An Essay on Hinduism: Its Formation and Future.’ He came to know Ms Edith Cohn in England. Later when he married her in 1920, he changed her name to Sheelvati Ketkar.

After returning to India, Ketkar became Professor of Economics and Politics in Kolkata. However, he was asked by the Vice Chancellor to resign the job for his comments against the government in his book, “Indian Economics.” He continued to write stray articles on different subjects during 1912-14. His views expressed in them were unconventional and disturbing. He started a magazine called Vidyasevak in 1924, wherein he published a series of twelve articles called Nishastranche Rajkaran (1925), was discontinued in 1929. The articles came out in book form later in 1929. In the same magazine, he published his novels, Paraagandaa and Ashawadi. His other novels Gondavanatil Priyanvada (1926), Brahmankanya (1930) and Gavsaasu (1930) were published in book form. After a gap of seven years, he published Vichakshana and Bhatakyaa in 1938. His personal experiences while wandering extensively in the society and his contemplation on various issues were expressed in those novels. It is but natural that his novels emphasize thoughts more than narrative.

He started research in ancient history of Maharashtra after 1929. He published first eight chapters from Aadiparva in 1931. The first 500 pages of Shaatvaahan Parva came out in 1935. However, this work was not accepted by scholars. He had also undertaken the translation project of Maharatriya Dnyankosh. The last book published in his lifetime was Bhartiya Samajshastra (1936). His book Victorius India (1937) was published posthumously.

Ketkar, who was a combination of scholarship and whimsicality, was an atheist. Ketkar and Sheelwati were childless. So they adopted a girl child. His last days were spent in fighting with poverty and adversity. Finally, as he suffered from diabetes that caused gangrene, he died in Pune.

Ketkar believed that Maharatriya Dnyankosh was an attempt to establish the intellectual independence of Maharashtra. He worked hard to pave the way for such independence through his project of Dyankosh. One wonders whether people from Maharashta have succeeded in following that path.

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- Yashwantrao Pratishthan, Mumbai has made available all the content of Dr. Ketkar's Maharatriya Dnyankosh on this website- ketkardnyankosh.com

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Almost all the volumes of Maharatriya Dnyankosh are preserved by the website of Internet Archive.

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For Further Reading:

Dr. Ketkar – D. N. Gokhale (Mauj Publication)
Meech he Sangitale Paahije – Sheelvati Ketlar (H.V.Mote Prakashan)
Dr. Ketkar: Vyakti ani Vichaar: Nivdak Lekhancha Sangrah :
Edited by Shri Ke Kshirsagar (Continental Prakashan)

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Translated by Dr. Vilas Salunke.

घुसळण कट्टा

इतर साहित्यिक दस्तावेज

मराठीतल्या ज्येष्ठ आणि श्रेष्ठ साहित्यिकांविषयी इंटरनेटच्या व्यासपीठावर फारशी माहिती उपलब्ध नाही. विशेषतः इंग्रजीमधे अशी माहिती अतिशय तुरळक स्वरूपात उपलब्ध आहे. या कमतरतेवर उपाय म्हणून 'युनिक फीचर्स'ने या ई-संमेलनात निवडक दहा साहित्यिकांच्या कार्यासंबंधी टिपणास्वरूपात दस्तावेजीकरणाचा उपक्रम राबवला आहे. या दहा साहित्यिकांसंबंधीची ही टिपणं इंग्रजीमध्येही उपलब्ध आहेत व प्रत्येक टिपणासोबत संबंधित साहित्यिकाचं छायाचित्र किंवा रेखाचित्र देण्यात आलंय. हा उपक्रम आपल्या सर्व मराठी लोकांचा व्हावा, अशी आमची भावना आहे. त्यामुळे आपल्याकडे एखाद्या साहित्यिकाची माहिती, त्याच्या साहित्याविषयीची समीक्षात्मक नोंद, किंवा एखादं दुर्मिळ छायाचित्र, अशी माहिती उपलब्ध असेल तर ती uniquefeatures1@gmail.com या ई-मेल पत्त्यावर पाठवावी, असं आवाहन तिसऱ्या ई-साहित्य संमेलनाच्या निमित्ताने आम्ही करत आहोत. या संमेलनामधे ज्या दहा साहित्यिकांसंबंधीची टिपणं प्रसिद्ध केली आहेत, त्यांच्या संदर्भातही अशी माहिती वा अधिकची छायाचित्रं असल्यास पाठवावीत. हा दस्तावेजीकरणाचा सतत सुरू असलेला आणि सर्वांच्या सहभागातून घडणारा प्रकल्प ठरण्यासाठी आपल्या सर्वांचा सहभाग यात स्वागतार्ह आहे.

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