This Orientalist reconstructed the political history of deccan, history of viashnavism and other sects and pledge social reforms
Posted July 5th, 2014
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Ramakrishna Gopal Bhandarkar (July 6, 1837 – August 24, 1925) was an Indian scholar, orientalist, and social reformer. Bhandarkar was born in Malvan in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. After his early schooling in Ratnagiri, he studied at Elphinstone College in Bombay. Along with Mahadev Govind Ranade, Bhandarkar was among the first graduates in 1862 from Bombay University. He obtained his Master’s degree the following year, and was awarded a Ph.D. from University of Göttingen in 1885.


Bhandarkar taught at Elphinstone College and Deccan College during his distinguished teaching career. He was involved in research and writing throughout his life. He retired in 1894 as the Vice Chancellor of Bombay University. Historian R. S. Sharma wrote of him: "He reconstructed the political history of the Deccan of the Satavahanas and the history of Vaishnavism and other sects. A great social reformer, through his researches he advocated widow marriages and castigated the evils of the caste system and child marriage." As an educationist, he was elected to the Council of India in 1903 as a non-official member. Gopal Krishna Gokhale was another member to the Council. In 1911 Ramakrishna Gopal Bhandarkar was knighted C.I.E.(Companion) and became "Sir" literally!


Professor Bhandarkar was very well known figure in European Academic world and the British government sent him as its delegate to congress of Orientalists held at Vienna in 1886. His scholarly paper on Sanskrit manuscripts was highly appreciated by German scholars. Germany was leading in Indology in those days. Gottingen University conferred honorary Ph.D. and Bombay University a L.L.D on him.


In 1853, while a student, Bhandarkar became a member of the Paramhansa Sabha, an association for furthering liberal ideas which was then secret to avoid the wrath of the powerful and orthodox elements of contemporary society. Visits from Keshub Chunder Sen during 1864 had inspired the members of the Sabha. 


In 1866, some of the members held a meeting at the home of Atmaram Pandurang and publicly pledged to certain reforms, including (1) denunciation of the caste system, (2) encouragement of widow remarriage, (3) encouragement of female education, and (4) abolition of child marriage.


The members concluded that religious reforms were required as a basis for social reforms. They held their first prayer meeting on 31 March 1867, which eventually led to the formation of the Prarthana Samaj. Another visit by Keshub Chunder Sen and visits of Protap Chunder Mozoomdar and Navina Chandra Rai, founder of Punjab Brahmo Samaj, boosted their efforts.



The world-renowned Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune is named after Ramakrishna Gopal Bhandarkar.

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