Amit Paranjape’s Blog

‘वसंत व्याख्यानमाला’ (Vasant Vyakhyanmala- Spring Lecture Series) – A Great 142 Year Tradition

Posted in Current Affairs, Pune by Amit Paranjape on April 19, 2016

The 142nd edition of  the month long ‘Vasant Vyakhyanmala’ (Spring Lecture Series),starts April 21 at Tilak Smarak Mandir. This lecture series was originally started by Justice Mahadev Govind Ranade in 1875.

I had written an article about this great 142 year tradition few years back, and I am reproducing a version of that below. I have also included the schedule for this year’s lecture series (click on the images at the end of this article). Do try to attend as many lectures as you can! Do note, many of the lectures are in Marathi (a few are in English). Also, do share this schedule via social media. Please use the hash tag: #VasantVyakhyanmala or #वसंतव्याख्यानमाला in your tweets.

This year’s schedule covers a series of topics including politics, governance, history, infrastructure, music, literature, healthcare and many more. Good line up of speakers this year with a variety of different experience. These include politicians, historians, doctors, researchers, artists and others.

Some of the interesting speakers to look forward, over the month: Manohar Parrikar, Prithviraj Chavan, Prakash Javadekar, Dr. Vikas Amte, Prakash Ambedkar, Kunal Kumar (Pune Commissioner), Dr. Uday Kulkarni, Mahesh Kale and many more.

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(blog-post from 2012 about Vasant Vyakhyanmala)

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 audience.

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‘Vasant Vyakhyanmala’ – Spring Lecture Series: A great 137 year old tradition

Posted in Current Affairs, Pune by Amit Paranjape on April 24, 2011

 

Vasant Vyakhyanmala 2011

Vasant Vyakhyanmala 2011

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.

This year’s series started on Friday April 22, with an inaugural lecture by Vijay Kelkar. (Note – Vijay Kelkar was awarded the Padma Vibhushan earlier this year by the President of India). Kelkar talked about India’s Growth Story. Ajit Ranade presented a very interesting topic on Saturday on Democracy and Electoral Reforms. The 2011 Vasant Vyakhyanmala will run through May 15. Here is a link to the full schedule from Harshad Oak’s bloghttp://www.harshadoak.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Program-Guide-pg2-3.jpg .  This year Vasant Vyakhyanmala has a presence on facebook  and twitter. Do follow the links and updates on these social media websites, if you cannot attend the lectures.

While I have followed this lecture series over the years through media coverage, this was my first year attending it. As I said earlier the first two lectures were excellent. 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.

‘Lokmanya Tilak – A Biography’ by A.K. Bhagwat and G.P. Pradhan

Posted in History by Amit Paranjape on November 19, 2010
Lokmanya Tilak

Lokmanya Tilak

Just completed reading a good book ‘Lokmanya Tilak – A Biography’ by A.K. Bhagwat and G.P. Pradhan. This book was written in 1956, to commemorate the 100th birth anniversary of Tilak. The book’s foreword is written by Dr. S Radhakrishnan. This biography presents an in-depth, detailed discussion of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s life. It provides the reader with a very good insight into the life of the great man.

The book starts with Tilak’s early life and formative years in Pune, and delves into a discussion around how his ideals and thought process were getting crystallized in College. The book covers at great length his friendship and differences of opinions with Agarkar. The first few chapters of this book provide mini-biographies of Agarkar and Justice Ranade. This is followed by a description of formation of Deccan Education Society, Fergusson College and establishment of Kesari and Maratha newspapers.

The subsequent chapters get into Tilak’s political life as he became the key figure in the Indian freedom struggle for the next three decades. Tilak’s prominent role in the early days of the Indian National Congress is very well described. The difference of opinion between the moderates and nationalists, that led to the ‘split’ at the Surat session is well highlighted and discussed.

That Tilak was an excellent lawyer is well known; but it was still great reading through the details of his legal arguments, especially the famous 1908 trial in Bombay High Court. His life at Mandalay and his struggle with diabetes are also discussed. Was interesting to note how he studied German, French and Pali, while in prison…his desire for knowledge was strong as ever in his late 50s.

This book also enables the reader to get a better picture of the surroundings in Pune and in other parts of India in that period. These surroundings, along with the global situation in the late 19th century/early 20th century had an important influence on Tilak. It was quite interesting to read how Tilak closely followed the various global geo-political developments in Europe, Russia, America, China and Japan.

The book offers good insights into the thought process of Lokmanya Tilak and his personality. His conviction, his forthrightness, his courage, his intellect and his other qualities are presented with plenty of examples.   The book is very well researched with detailed references and sources provided for various points. Many extracts from Tilak’s own writings in Kesari are also presented. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Indian History.

NOTE – Another excellent source of information about Lokmanya Tilak is the Tilak Museum at Kesari Wada in Pune.