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Epigraphy up against odds,only 2 colleges in city

There are just 30-35 well-versed epigraphists in India and it gives you a fair idea of the state of epigraphy,the study of inscriptions on pillars,rocks,copper plates,temple walls and other material from the ancient times,in the country.

Written by Garima Mishra | Pune |
August 12, 2010 4:33:47 am

City anchor :No takers for PhD,only a handful take it as optional subject for PG course,expert sees urgent need to revive study

There are just 30-35 well-versed epigraphists in India and it gives you a fair idea of the state of epigraphy,the study of inscriptions on pillars,rocks,copper plates,temple walls and other material from the ancient times,in the country. And Pune is no better,with only one known epigraphist and two colleges teaching the subject.

Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth had introduced PhD in epigraphy five years ago,but it hasn’t recorded a single enrollment so far. Deccan College has epigraphy as an optional subject for MA in Ancient History,Culture and Archeology. As many as eight students had opted for the subject last year while it has seven students this year.

Having worked in the field for 28 years,Shobhana Gokhale — the city’s only well-versed epigraphist — feels the subject needs an urgent revival. “The basic requirement to study inscriptions is to have knowledge of Sanskrit and Prakrit. People do not have the patience to learn these languages. And even if they learn,they don’t want to put the hard work in decoding and deciphering.”

Gokhale is known for her research work in Kanheri in 1990s,when her findings revealed that Kanheri was an education centre in the ancient times. She says the other sections in the study of ancient history like archeology and numismatics have gained popularity over the past few years.

Epigraphy is a compulsory subject in the MA course in Indology at Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth and around 40 students pursue this course now. “But,people who want to take up epigraphy as a career are required to do a PhD. Unfortunately,we have none at our institute,” says Manjiri Bhalerao,lecturer in Indology,Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth.

However,the figures of those learning Sanskrit and pursuing Visharad (BA) and Parangat (MA) at the institute are impressive. For instance,there were around 500 who enrolled for courses in Sanskrit last year. “The admissions are on now,” said Shripad Bhat,head of the department.

But is pursuing a degree or diploma course in epigraphy sufficient to be an epigraphist ? “It is a highly specialised study. In order to reconstruct history and relate it with the correct period,it requires thorough knowledge of ancient languages like Sanskrit,Prakrit and Pali,” said Abhijeet Dandekar,research associate in epigraphy,paleography and numismatics at department of archeology,Deccan College.

As far as Prakrit is concerned,the city has just two avenues. Besides University of Pune,one can also study the ancient language at Sanmati Teerth Institute for Research in Prakrit and Jainology,BMCC Road.

On measures needed to revive study of epigraphy,Gokhale says,“A combination of Sanskrit and Prakrit should be taught. Also,it should be made a compulsory subject in ancient history courses.”

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