H-ASIA: Sumitra Mangesh Katre (1906-1998)

Frank Conlon conlon at U.WASHINGTON.EDU
Mon Nov 2 20:36:08 UTC 1998

                           November 2, 1998

Sumitra Mangesh Katre (1906-1998)
Ed. note:  As noted earlier on H-ASIA, S. M. Katre died October 21.  I am
very grateful to Robert Goldman of the University of California, Berkeley
for preparing this obituary notice.                     F.F.C.
From: Robert Goldman <sseas at socrates.berkeley.edu>

Sumitra Mangesh Katre 1906-1998

The community of Indological scholars and Indo-Aryan linguistics will
note with tremendous sadness the loss of Professor Sumitra Mangesh Katre
who died on October 21, 1998 at the Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose,
California. He was 92 years old.

Dr. Katre was born on April 11, 1906 in Honavar, North Kanara District
of what was then the Bombay Presidency (today Karnataka State). He
completed his schooling at the Ganapathy High School in Mangalore where
he obtained his S. S. L. C. in 1923.  He then studied at Government
College in that city completing his Intermediate degree in Arts and
Science in 1925 before going on to Presidency College, Madras  where he
earned his B. A with Honors in Mathematics in 1928, a degree deemed
equivalent to the M. A. in 1930.

After graduation Dr. Katre turned to what would probe to be the consuming
intellectual passion of his life, the study of Indo-Aryan languages and
linguistics.  He attended the School of Oriental and African Studies of
the University of London where he received his Ph. D. in 1931 for his
dissertation entitled "Early Buddhist Ballads and their Relation to the
Older Upanishads," a work that inspired a number of scholarly essays on
Pali and Middle Indic which he published during the '30s and 40's.

Two years after receiving his doctorate, Dr. Katre was appointed
Professor of Sanskrit at Wadia College in Poona.  Subsequently he served
as Professor of Sanskrit at Sir Parashuram College in Poona from 1937-39
before being appointed in 1939 as Professor of Indo-European Philology at
the Deccan College, an institution with which he would remain deeply
involved until his retirement in 1971.  During the course of his long and
distinguished career at the Deccan College he served as its Director from
1942-1971, the Director and General Editor of the Sanskrit Dictionary
Department (1951-1971), Director of the Language Project (1954-1960), and
Director of the Centre of Advanced Study in Linguistics (1964-69.)

After his retirement Dr. Katre's reputation as an outstanding scholar and
teacher assured that he would be in great demand.  Accordingly, he served
as a Professor in the Department of Oriental and African languages and
Literatures at the University of Texas at Austin, where he had earlier
served twice as a Visiting Professor (in 1966 and 1970) from 1971 to 1976
and as a Distinguished Visiting Lecturer at the California State
University at Fullerton in 1978-79.

He was an active  member of numerous scholarly societies and institutes
including the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain, the Societe
Linguistique, the Linguistic Society of American, the American Oriental
Society, the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, and the Kuppuswami
Sastri Research Institute.  He was a member, also, of the Linguistic
Society of India an organization in whose reorganization he was the
prime mover and which he served at various times in the capacities
Treasurer and President.

Dr. Katre was the recipient of many scholarly awards and distinctions
noteworthy among which are his appointments as the Wilson Philological
Lecturer at the University of Bombay (1941-42), the Pratibha Devi
Memorial Lecturer at the University of Gauhati (1957) and Special Officer
of the American Institute of Indian Studies.

During the course of his long and productive scholarly career Dr. Katre
authored hundreds of scholarly articles and monographs which have,
collectively, vastly enriched our understanding of the languages and
linguistics of North India.  In addition to his contributions to the
study of Pali and other Middle Indic languages, and the comparative and
historical linguistics of Indo-Aryan, he turned his scholarly attention
to the study of his native language, Konkani, producing several
noteworthy articles and a major treatment published both as articles
and in book form on the Formation of Konkani.

Later on in his career Dr. Katre turned his scholarly attention
increasingly to the study of the great ancient grammarian, Panini and his
immortal grammar, the Ashtadhyayi.  In 1967 he published his Paninian
Studies including an alphabetical index of Panini's sutras, the Dhatupatha
and an alphabetical listing of its verbal roots.  In the following year he
published his useful Dictionary of Panini in three parts.  His fascination
with this seminal work culminated in the 1987 publication of his complete
translation and indexing of the Ashtadhyayi itself, an immensely useful
work that runs to more than 1300 pages.

Dr. Katre was also an editor of a Festschrift, a volume of Indological
studies presented to Professor P. V. Kane on the occasion of the latter's
sixty-first birthday and was himself similarly honored by his friends,
colleagues, and disciples with a two part Katre Felicitation Volume
representing volumes 29 and 30 of the journal Indian Linguistics and
presented to him on his sixty-fifth birthday in 1971.  He also served as
and editor of several important scholarly periodicals including The New
Indian Antiquary, the Oriental Literary Digest, the Bulletin of the Deccan
College Research Institute and Indian Linguistics.

Of all of his numerous contributions to the study of Indian languages
and linguistics, perhaps none will, in the end be as enduring as his
visionary work in the conception and organization of the massive
Dictionary of Sanskrit on Historical Principles.  Without his prodigious
intellectual, organizational, and administrative skills, this immense
project, which he first envisaged in the 1940's and over whose
development he presided for two decades as Director and General Editor
would never have seen the light of day.

Dr. Katre will perhaps be most warmly remembered by American Indianists
in his role as the longtime Director of the Deccan College during the
period when the American Institute of Indian Studies was, through his
generous spirit of institutional and scholarly cooperation, headquartered
on its campus.  In that capacity he frequently served as a sponsor and
mentor for young American Sanskritists and linguists and many of us fondly
remember his warmth, his gentleness and his generosity with his time and
his extraordinary learning.  He was respected and loved by his faculty,
staff and students so that even now, more than a quarter of a century
since he retired, older scholars at the Deccan College still speak fondly
of the era of his Directorship almost as a kind of Krita Yuga.  His loss
will be keenly felt by many of us around the world.

Dr. Katre is survived by his two daughters, Mrs. Padma Savur of San Jose,
California and Ms. Lalita Katre of Pittsburg, California as well as his
beloved grandchildren, Sameer and Sheela and a great-grandson, Rishi.
Funeral services were held on Saturday, October 24, 1998 at Oak Hills
Cemetery in San Jose.

R. P. Goldman

Sarah Kailath Professor in India Studies
Chairman, Center for  South Asia Studies
7303 Dwinelle Hall MC #2540
University of California at Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720-2540
email: sseas at socrates.berkeley.edu
Phone: (510) 642-4089
Fax:     (510) 643-2959

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