How Pune was at the centre of Indian Sociopolitical Evolution

Aashish Chandorkar has a nice piece on (link corrected now. thanks to Manasi for the pointer) how certain thinkers were at the centre of Indian sociopolitical changes. Even more interesting how they came from Pune. Pune was the centre of all this thinking and it is a tragedy that all this history is lost:

For a period of over 300 years starting in 620 BCE with the birth of Thales of Miletus to the death of Aristotle in 322 BCE, Greece enjoyed the movement from a mythology driven society to a fact and reasoning based modernity. A host of admired philosophers wrote and debated on issues concerning day to day life, blending abstract with science, religion, and math. Their work formed the basis for evolution of modern city state of Athens and later the first wave of European political dominance across continents.

At a much smaller scale, and more sociopolitical rather than metaphysical in nature, Pune saw a similar aggregation of a galaxy of thinkers who shaped the country’s politics and influenced future leaders. Between 1873 and 1920, Pune was the ancient Greece of India – guiding a political awakening, creating institutions for lasting social change, and swaying great minds who in future would lead India’s battles for independence from the British.

The quartet of Mahadev Govind Ranade, Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, (Maharishi) Dhondo Keshav Karve, and Gopal Krishna Gokhale did some of their stellar work independently and some in overlapping areas. From 1873, when Ranade moved to Pune as a magistrate, their ideas and impact frequently came together to develop a political and social consciousness, defined various hues of nationalism, guided the freedom movement, and brought about a social renaissance in the country. This continued until 1920 when Tilak died. While Maharashi Karve continued his social reform work long after, the period between 1873 to 1920 was Pune’s real philosophical golden age.

….

Pune, which once was the de facto capital of India, and was formally considered a potential capital by the British when they started contemplating a move out of Kolkata, had a late second burst at driving the destiny of modern India. Pune’s venerable galaxy of reformers and thinkers left behind a vast body of theories, ideas, and institutions, all reflected in today’s discourse. They left an indelible impression on the independence movement as well as contemporary and future politics.

Untimely deaths of several of these stalwarts led to their legacies moving out of Pune, still thriving and growing. Most national political ideologies – including the simplified, often unrepresentative binaries of Left and Right – and many Delhi careers owe their legitimacy to the Pune of 1873 – 1920. Very few Indians however know it, let alone acknowledge the contribution of the city.

And that is the supreme Greek tragedy of Pune.

Cities/places are much more central to all kinds of developments. In  history we are taught about individuals, events etc but locations are missing from the discourse. If this location bit is added, many more dots are filled..

2 Responses to “How Pune was at the centre of Indian Sociopolitical Evolution”

  1. manasiecon Says:

    Hi Amol, Liked the piece and read it with interest, given that I stay in Pune and studied at Gokhale Institute. But the article that he has written and the post you’ve created here are different, are they? In his article, there’s only the historical backdrop to Pune whereas you’ve written about the social reforms movement…

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