Lakshman Shastri Joshi

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Lakshman Shastri Joshi[1] (1901 – 1994) was an Indian scholar, a distinguished Sanskrit and Hindu Dharma expert, a Marathi literary critic, and supporter of Indian independence. Mahatma Gandhi chose him to be his principal advisor in his campaign against untouchability.


Born in 1901 into an orthodox Brahmin family, Joshi left home at age 14 after studying to be a priest. Finally settling in Wai, a temple town on the banks of the Krishna river, he became a Sanskrit, Hindu dharma and Indian philosophy pundit, earning the degree “Tarkateertha”, or literally, "Master of logic". Around the time India gained independence, he came under the influence of many reformist intellectuals including M. N. Roy and quickly assimilated and embraced western philosophical systems. He questioned whether those that had the knowledge had wisdom to lead, and recognized those that followed had inadequate knowledge, and he wrote Vaidik Sankriti-cha Vikas in 1951. This treatise was based on six lectures he delivered at the University of Pune, where he traced the evolution of "Vedic" culture and its influence on modern India. He wrote a critique arguing that modern Indians became conflicted between meeting material needs and attaining spiritual enlightenment, thus fostering a collective weakness, disharmony and allowing caste differences to prevail.[2] For his outstanding contribution, he received the Sahitya Akademi award from India's National Academy of Letters in 1955. This and other critical inquiries into India’s Hindu religious traditions drew the ire of the contemporary Hindu orthodoxy.

Contact with Mahatma Gandhi[edit]

English language| Joshi, although a Brahmin priest by training, spent his life going against tradition. In 1932, at the age of 29, he was jailed by the British for his role in the freedom movement.[3] However while in prison, he quickly gained a reputation as a Hindu dharma scholar. Under the tutelage of Vinobha Bhave, he learned English when Vinoba-ji came to Wai to study under Kewalananda Saraswati. It was during one of those internments that Mahatma Gandhi, troubled by respectable Brahmin priests shying away from officiating at the intercaste marriage of his son Devdas, a Bania, or merchant class boy, to Lakshmi, the daughter of C. Rajagopalachari, a Brahmin and the second Governor General of independent India approached the young shastri, with his thorough knowledge of the shastras, whether such a marriage was against Hindu dharma. It took fortitude for Joshi to not only render a contrary opinion, but to perform the wedding ceremony,.[4][5]

Recognition and death[edit]

In 1960 he spearheaded the creation of a Marathi language, Vishwakosha, an encyclopedia, and Dharmakosha, a Marathi transliteration of the ancient Vedic/Hindu sanskritic hymns. For his distinguished service, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1976,[6] India’s third highest civilian medal. In 1992 he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan,[7] India’s second highest civilian honor, in recognition of a lifetime of exceptional and distinguished service to India. For all his scholarship, Joshi was equally a pragmatist, endorsing Nehru’s investments in higher education and heavy industry. He died at the age of 94, near the birth spring of the Krishna river.


His first book, Shuddhisarvasvam, is a treatise in Sanskrit on the philosophical basis of religious conversion, published in 1934. In that same year, he edited the Dharmakosha, which encopassed twenty-six volumes and 18,000 pages, encoding the basic texts and commentaries on the varied aspects of dharma and dharma-shastras from 1500 BC to the 18th century. in 1938, he wrote Anand-Mimamsa, a critical commentary on the theory or Ras and aesthetics in Marathi literature. Later in 1973, he wrote Adhunik Marathi Sahityachi Samiksha, a study of the tenets of modern Marathi literary criticism. He also wrote Hindu Dharmachi Samiksha, in 1940, critically examining the concepts and foundation of Hinduism, and Jadawad, in 1941, a survey of the history and development of materialism in Indian and Western philosophical traditions. He wrote Vaidik Sanskriticha Vikas in 1958 to much acclaim. Amongst other works are Upanishadanche Marathi Bhashantar, a translation of the 18 principal Upanishads into Marathi.

References and Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Due to the conversion from Devanagri to phonetic romanized spellings, he is also alternately referred to as "Laxman Shahstri Joshi". In Marathi articles he is most commonly referred to as "Tarkateertha Laxman Shahstri Joshi".
  2. ^ See a recent English translation of this book, “Development of Indian Culture –Vedas to Gandhi”, Published by Lokvangmaya Griha, 2001; and
  3. ^ The call for determined, but passive resistance that signified the certitude that Gandhi foresaw for the movement is best described by his call to Do or Die, issued on 8 August at the Gowalia Tank Maidan in Bombay, since re-named August Kranti Maidan (August Revolution Ground).
  4. ^ Marathi Vishwakosha, Vol.14, p. 698, 1989, ed. L.S.Joshi
  5. ^ Bombay Chronicle, June 1933; see also “Tarkateertha- Ek Pradnyapravaha”, a biography in Marathi, SriVidya Prakashan, 1995
  6. ^ In 1975, he was awarded an honorary L.L.D. degree from Bombay University. See also
  7. ^ See also