Ramchandra Chintaman Dhere: Renowned Marathi litterateur and Folk Scholar passes away

In a literary career spread over four decades, Dr. Dhere penned more than a hundred scholarly works

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Ramchandra Chintaman Dhere. Image source: loksatta.com
  • Dr Dhere is  the winner of prestigious Sahitya Akademi award in 1987
  • His book on Lord Vitthal is still considered to be one of the most influential chronicles on the lives and the impact of deities and saints in Maharashtra
  • He became the first person to receive the D.Lit. from the University of Pune

Renowned Marathi scholar Ramachandra Chintaman Dhere passed away at the age of 86 on Friday, July 1, after succumbing to a prolonged illness.

Dr Dhere, the winner of prestigious Sahitya Akademi award in 1987, was known for his path-breaking work on Maharashtra’s religious traditions.

His most prominent book on Lord Vitthal titled ‘Shri Vitthal: Ek Mahasamanvaya’, which was published in 1984, is still considered to be one of the most influential chronicles on the lives and the impact of deities and saints in Maharashtra.

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Translated into English by American scholar Anne Feldhaus and titled as ‘The Rise of a Folk God: Vitthal of Pandharpur’, his award-winning book on Lord Vitthal is also a part of the scholarly curriculum on South Asia in Oxford University.

In the preface to the book Feldhaus wrote that Dr Dhere contested Lord Vithoba was “originally a pastoralists’ deity” i.e. the deity of rustic. However, because he ended up uniting both the rural and the elite forms of Hindu worship, so the title ‘ek Mahasamanvay’ or ‘a grand converger’ or ‘synthesiser’, quoted The Hindu.

The Rise of a Folk God by Dhere, Image Source: Flipkart.com
The Rise of a Folk God by Dhere, Image Source: Flipkart.com

The text, which makes an immense contribution to the study of the history of Vaishnavite tradition, does so by  tracing the source of Vithoba culture and its  connections with Buddhism and Jainism It is also the most influential work written in any language made to understand the deity.

In a literary career that is spread over four decades, Dr Dhere penned more than a hundred scholarly works. With a religious undertone, he asked significant questions on what was the origin of a secular populace in the state.

Through his authoritative and scholarly works, he analysed the importance of religious life in the state and etched wonderful and unconventional narratives of the origin of religious milieu in Maharashtra and the Deccan Plateau.

Apart from Shri Vitthal, Dr Dhere’s other notable works include Chakrapani (1976). The book studies the cultural background of Marathi literature during the time of the Yadava dynasty.

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His other important prominent works include the Marathi Loksanskrutiche Upasak (1964). The book, which is a complete work on the introduction to folk institutions, is also translated into English as ‘Performers, custodians and practitioners of Folk Culture.’ Dr Dhere has also authored an interesting brief biography on Chanakya.

He also became the first person to receive the D.Lit. from the University of Pune, apart from receiving state prize for his nine works.

Sripal Sabnis, president of All India Marathi Sahitya Sammelan, said: “He set high standards in literary criticism and research that would inspire generations of Marathi writers.”

Dr Dhere  is survived by his family that includes his wife and two daughters and a son. One of his daughter Aruna Dhere is a noted author-poet herself.

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