Eminent linguist and Vedic scholar Madhukar Anant Mehendale passed away in Pune on Wednesday. He was 102.
Born in 1918 in Nimar region of Madhya Pradesh, Mehendale’s major contributions were in Sanskrit and Prakrit languages, along with significant work done later on the Mahabharata, Rigveda and Avesta, the Zorastrian holy book.
After completing his Master of Arts from Wilson College, Mumbai, he pursued doctoral studies at the Deccan College and Post Graduate Institute in Pune. Mehendale was awarded a PhD for his work on ‘Historical Grammar of Inscriptional Prakrits’ in 1943.
Till date, this work, which has been reprinted several times, is considered one of the scholarly works in Prakrit.
Being a Gandhian, Mehendale had opportunities to interact closely with Acharya Vinobha Bhave.
Recipient of the ‘Bhasha Samman’ awarded by the Sahitya Academy in 2016, Mehendale was previously also awarded the President’s Certificate of Honour and the Guru Gangeshwar Ved-Vedang Award.
After his retirement in 1983, Mehendale continued to remain active and his academic life continued to take him to newer heights at the city-based Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI).
“Back then, the Mahabharata project was moving at a snail’s pace but it was he who revived it. It paved the way for several of his scholarly papers and articles. His writings in Sanskrit, Marathi and English even went on to become popular among masses. His works are still references in cultural and Vedic studies. He was among the rare personalities to have knowledge about the Mahabharata, Rigveda, Avesta, Pali, Prakrit and Sanskrit simultaneously,” recalled Shrikant Bahulkar, senior Vedic scholar at BORI.
Even at the age of 97, Mehendale had overseen the project on Mahabharata underway at the institute. In 2016, he was made an Honorary Member of BORI.
A 45-minute documentary on this doyen of the Vedas was made by Mehendale Motion Pictures and released on January 10, 2016, at Deccan College, where he had served as the joint director.
“He saw the way the education system in India underwent several changes. He was progressive and a critical thinker,” said Bahulkar.
Mehendale is survived by his sons Colonel (retd) Pradeep and Ashok, daughter-in-laws and grandchildren.
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