Amit Paranjape’s Blog

‘Vasant Vyakhyanmala’ (Spring Lecture Series) – A Great 138 Year Tradition

Posted in Current Affairs, Marathi, Pune by Amit Paranjape on April 20, 2012

The 138th edition of ‘Vasant Vyakhyanmala’ (Spring Lecture Series) starts this Saturday April 21 and will go on for a month at Tilak Smarak Mandir, Pune. I had written an article of this great tradition last year and I am reproducing a version of that here. I have also included the schedule for this year’s lecture series, at the end of this article. Do try to attend as many lectures as you can! This year’s speakers include Air Marshal Bhushan Gokhale, Dr. Abhay Bang, Union Agri Minister Sharad Pawar, Journalist Dilip Padgaonkar, National Award Winning Singer Anand Bhate and many others. I attended nearly half of the around 30 lectures last year and they were all great.

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In recent years, TED and TEDx events are getting quite popular. They do a great job of presenting ideas from various experts and thought leaders. The first TED India event was very well received and many TEDx events have been held in various cities in India over the past year.

But did you know that an event similar in concept, but covering a broader range of topics, has been going on in Pune for 136 years! The great tradition of the ‘Vasant Vyakhyanmala’ (translation: ‘Spring Lecture Series’) was started by Justice M.G. Ranade in 1875. The idea was to present a variety of lectures, across various topics to the people. In those days, newspapers were in their infancy (Kesari had not yet started) and live lectures were the most effective medium for knowledge transfer.

Since the 18th century Peshwa era, Pune has always been a center of knowledge and education. Post the fall of the Maratha Empire in 1818, Pune city witnessed a tough period lasting for a few decades. The city’s economy was in shambles. Many scholars and learned experts left the city. Things started to improve towards the later half of the 19th century, under visionary leaders such as Justice Ranade (and later on Lokmanya Tilak).

Ranade, Tilak and other leaders of that period clearly saw the value of ‘Information’. The citizens had to be educated and informed. The Vasant Vyankhyanmala initiative was born out of the need to disseminate information and create awareness. Justice Ranade delivered the first lecture in 1875 in English. Over the years though, most lectures have been delivered in Marathi. Through its rich 137 year history, there have been very rare occasions, where the series had to be cancelled. For many years,  the Vasant Vyankhyanmala was held at Hirabag and Belbag. It has been held at its present venue – Tilak Smarak Mandir, for many decades. Today, this series covers wide ranging topics such as Culture, Arts, Economics, Science, Health, Governance, History, etc.

While I have followed this lecture series over the years through media coverage, this was my first year attending it.  The event format and the organization was very good. The only negative in my view was the number of attendees (probably less than 500). In the pre-independence era, 1000s attended these lectures. Today, there are many other media sources for getting information, but an informative and thought-provoking live lecture is still a very powerful source. If you are in Pune, you should definitely try and attend at least some of these lectures, over the next 3 weeks. The lectures are virtually free to attend (Single lecture ticket costs Rs 5 and the season ticket is Rs 100).

There is a need to get the word out regarding Vasant Vyakhyanmala. More media publicity and social media presence will definitely help. I do hope that in the next few years, this great tradition that started in 1875 will continue to thrive, and reach much bigger audiences.

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6 Responses

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  1. pradnyas said, on April 20, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    A bit narrow approach might be that TED how much ever interesting it is and a platform for fundamental ideas, It is not ours. We should definitely preserve and popularize this tradition! technology like you tube videos of the speeches or live tweeting might be one of the methods.

  2. Amit Paranjape said, on April 20, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Pradnya – Last year, the organizers had mentioned that they will plan to record at least some of the sessions. We will find out more details about their plans today or tomorrow and will update this blog post. Last year, did get an excellent response to my ‘live tweets’. Thanks.

  3. Ashish Deshpande said, on April 25, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    Amit, nice article, I particularly liked the historical perspective. Facebook page and a YouTube channel could be the next media. I think you will find a lot of enthusiastic followers, including many among the substantial Marathi NRI community.

  4. Amit Paranjape said, on May 2, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    Thanks Ashish. Yes, would be great to have the ‘Vyakhyans’ available on youtube, etc. We have requested the organizers last year itself. Waiting for some progress at their end!

  5. saloni said, on May 9, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    Great article Amit, just came across it! Although I had heard about the vyakhyanmala, comparing it with Ted series gives a completely new perspective. Definitely a wonderful tradition which deserves an exponentially greater awareness among youth in India. How has the response been this year? Wish there was better coverage on social media so we could follow it!

  6. Amit Paranjape said, on May 16, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Thanks for the comment. Vasant Vyakhyanmala is present on facebook. I try to ‘live tweet’ some of the lectures that I attend. My twitter id is @aparanjape


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