He spoke Gods’ language, lived God’s spirit

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 10 Sep 2017 09:46:27

By Vijay Phanshikar,

When he read the German version of Abhidnyan Shakuntalam by Kalidas, German poet-philosopher Ludwig von Goethe was so ecstatic that he rose from his chair and danced around the room. He had never come across such a fine expression of a human story in his illustrious lifetime.

When Sanskrit scholar Dr. Shridhar Bhaskar Warnekar taught Shakuntalam in his class of Sanskrit literature, every student almost become a Goethe with sheer bliss of having heard an originally fine story in a finer explanation and interpretation. Such was the prowess of the scholarship of Dr. Warnekar, rich in knowledge and richer in emotion. Whenever Dr. Warnekar taught, not his own students in the class but also others thronged around to hear what he had to say on a subject that he made immensely interesting, thanks to his innate and earned ability to communicate the deep meaning of the point at hand and elevate the students’ comprehension to levels that almost seemed otherwise impossible.

As the city initiates on Sunday the centenary celebrations of the late Dr. Shridhar Bhaskar Warnekar, the thought of his greatness as a teacher, as a scholar of Sanskrit, as an exponent of Yog, as an interpreter of India’s ancient wisdom enshrined in Sanskrit throngs the mind.
Head bows in reverence of his greatness and eyes become misty in his memory.

So credible has his contribution been to the process of learning and teaching of Sanskrit language that those who knew him -- from close or far -- have never liked to write the words ‘the late’ before Dr. Warnekar’s name. In their view, he has attained immortality. So, when one dark moment when a rashly driven vehicle rammed into Dr. Warnekar’s car and took away his life, nobody believed that such a mishap had really taken place. Everybody kept praying that the accident had never taken place and that Dr. Warnekar would emerge from the shadows of that unfortunate evening and flash his childlike smile.

Dr. S.B. Warnekar, Dada to his family and Dadasaheb to all others, always was one person whose manner and method endeared himself to anybody and everybody who came in contact with him. As the globally renowned scholar of Sanskrit, as the most beloved teacher of the Deva Wani (the language of the Gods), as the man who was chosen by the iconic Janardan Swami, the founder of Yogabhyasi Mandal, to head the organisation, as the man who transcribed many ancient books in simple language for the benefit of the common people, everybody loved the man beyond words.

Then came that moment when Dr. Warnekar was anointed with the honorific epithet Pradnyabharati by Jagadguru Shankaracharya. Everybody was extremely pleased with that honour, as if it was bestowed upon all the people through Dadasaheb.

Simplicity was Dr. Warnekar’s virtue -- simplicity of dress and address, simplicity of expression, simplicity of behaviour without any airs ...! His soft and melodious voice, his easy countenance, his constant hint of a smile lingering on his slightly parted lips all the time, his eagerness to extend courtesy to everybody who came in his contact, his eternal readiness to counsel people young and old ...! -- all these became Dr. Warnekar’s combined signature of personality.

That such a great scholar could be so easily approachable always surprised those who did not know him. But to the average Nagpurians, he was their Dadasaheb Warnekar, their very own elder, their very own intellectual mentor, their very own interpreter of spiritual secrets hidden in ancient texts, their own communicator of Gods’ language -- Sanskrit. Everybody knew that he was one of the greatest Sanskrit scholars of his times. Yet, his was not a persona that common people found daunting.

Much to the contrary, Pradnyabharati Dr. Shridhar Bhaskar Warnekar was a household name in Nagpur’s community, cutting across all social seams like caste or creed or religion or ideology. For the common people, he was no longer a personage that could be entrapped in small considerations. Very few scholars can claim such an eminence in public esteem!

Dr. Warnekar’s writings in Sanskrit, Marathi and also occasionally in Hindi became milestones of his literary, intellectual and spiritual journey. Most of his writings became integral parts of a global referral archive, thanks to the scholarship so deeply embedded in those. That he was a living encyclopedia on Sanskrit literature, was a smaller virtue. More important was his tremendous ability to be a Guru in the ancient tradition -- all the time giving, all the time willing to enhance the disciple’s knowledge, all the time committed to helping his students, and others, bask in the sunshine of India’s cultural ethos and historical tradition.

Dr. Warnekar’s scholarship attained a new peak when he wrote the epic Shri Shivrajyodayam, a story of the great moment of Indian history -- the life and work of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. This epic of 68 cantos won Dr. Warnekar the Sahitya Akadami Award in 1974. Besides that honour, Dr. Warnekar also was decorated with President’s Award, Kalidasa Puraskar, Birla Foundation Saraswati Sammaan. Also, he was invited by the State University of New York at New Paltz, USA, to address a Sanskrit Seminar.

But this man -- Pradnyabharati Dr. Shridhar Bhaskar Warnekar -- was made of an altogether different material. No honour afflicted his simplicity or his self-esteem. He continued to walk the streets of the city like any other man, cared for his family of many illustrious people like any other head of the family, taught generations of students like any other teacher did, promoted the science of yog like an ordinary volunteer -- in the most simple and soft manner.

Of course, under his soft exterior, there lived a man of firm belief -- in Indian wisdom, in Indian way of life, and also in Sanskrit, India’s gift to the world, the language the Gods spoke.
For the common people, Pradnyabharati Warnekar was Gods’ representative among them. For, he spoke and lived Gods’ language -- not just its words, but its spirit!