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Laxmanshastri Balaji Joshi (Devanagari: लक्ष्मणशास्त्री बाळाजी जोशी) (January 27, 1901 – May 27, 1994) was a Sanskritist, Vedic scholar, thinker and Marathi writer from Maharashtra, India.

He was born in the town of Pimpalner in Dhule District on January 27, 1901. He, along with others fought for socio-religious reforms, without which he felt, India would not achieve her goals of swaraj. As a supporter of Indian independence, he joined Mahatma Gandhi. In Yerawada prison he helped Gandhi, who had chosen him to be his principal advisor in his campaign against untouchability, with analysis and arguments from the smritis and other dharmashastras to support Gandhi’s campaign for untouchability. Around the time India gained independence, he came under the influence of many reformist intellectuals including M. N. Roy and quickly assimilated and embraced western philosophical systems. He questioned whether those that had the knowledge had wisdom to lead, and recognized those that followed had inadequate knowledge, and he wrote Vaidik Sankriti-cha Vikas in 1951. This treatise was based on six lectures he delivered at the University of Pune, where he traced the evolution of “Vedic” culture and its influence on modern India. He wrote a critique arguing that modern Indians became conflicted between meeting material needs and attaining spiritual enlightenment, thus fostering a collective weakness, disharmony and allowing caste differences to prevail. For his outstanding contribution, he received the Sahitya Akademi award from India’s National Academy of Letters in 1955. This and other critical inquiries into India’s Hindu religious traditions drew the ire of the contemporary Hindu orthodoxy.

He had been granted the title Tarkatirtha (तर्कतीर्थ) (or literally, (“Master of Logic”).

In 1954, he presided over Marathi Sahitya Sammelan, which was held in New Delhi. In 1955, he received a Sahitya Akademi Award for his work Waidik Sanskruticha Wikas (वैदिक संस्कृतीचा विकास).

He served as the first president of Maharashtra State Board of Literature and Culture when it was established in 1960, and starting from that year, served for a large number of years as the president of the project of compiling Vishwakosha, a 20-volume Marathi encyclopedia under the sponsorship of the above Board. He also spearheaded compilation of Dharmakosha, a Marathi transliteration of the ancient Vedic/Hindu sanskritic hymns.

In 1973, he received the National Sanskrit Pandit Award, and in 1976, the government of India conferred on him the Padma Bhushan title for excellence in Literature and Education.For his continued contributions, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1992.

In 1989, Joshi received a Sahitya Akademi Fellowship, the highest award for lifetime achievement given by the Akademi, which is India’s National Academy of Letters.

Joshi was equally a pragmatist, endorsing Nehru’s investments in higher education and heavy industry. He died at the age of 94, near the birth spring of the Krishna river.

The following is a list of Joshi’s major works:

  • Waidik Sanskruticha Wikas
  • Dharmakosh (in 16 volumes) (editor)
  • Wichara-Shilpa
  • Adhunik Marathi Sahitya
  • Samiksha Ani Rasa-Siddhant
  • Critique of Hinduism and other Religions
  • Descriptive Catalogue of Sanskrit Manuscripts