Kashinath Trimbak Telang CIE was an Indologist and Indian judge at Bombay High Court. He and his fellow Bombay lawyers, Pherozshah Mehta and Badruddin Tyabji were the founders of the Bombay Presidency Association.
Early Life and Education
Telang was born on 20 August 1850 in Bombay. He was from a Gaud Saraswat Brahmin family. At the age of five, Telang was sent to the Amarchaud Wadi vernacular school. In 1859, he entered the high school in Bombay which bears the name of Mountstuart Elphinstone.
Here he came under the leadership of Narayan Mahadev Purmanand, a teacher of fine intellect and force of character. Afterward, he became one of Telang’s most trusted friends.
As a student, he had won the Bhugwandas scholarship in Sanskrit, and in this language his later studies were profound. From this school, he passed to the Elphinstone College, of which he became a member.
After taking the degree of M.A. and LL.B., he chose to follow the example of Bal Mangesh Wagle, the first Indian admitted by the judges to practice on the original site of the high court, a position more like the status of a barrister than a vakil or pleader. He passed the examination and was enrolled in 1872.
Kashinath Trimbak Telang was a professional advocate of the high court, he also took an active share in literary, social, municipal, and political work, as well as in the affairs of the University of Bombay, over which he led as vice-chancellor from 1892 until his death.
His learning soon brought him extensive practice. He had complete command of the English language, and his familiarity with Sanskrit enabled him to study and quote the Hindu law books with ease not readily attained by European counsel.
Trimbak was one the counsel for the defendant, Rukhmabai, in the famous restoration of marital rights taken by her husband. Telang, finding his career confirmed, declined an offer of official employment.
In 1889, he took a seat on the high court bench, where his judgments are recognized as authoritative, especially on the Hindu law.
He was syndic of the university from 1881, and vice-chancellor from 1892 until his death. In that year also he was elected President of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. These two offices had never been held by a native of India before.
The award of C.I.E. was bestowed on him in the 1884 Birthday Honours. It was for the recognition of his services as a member of the Hunter Commission designated by the colonial government to deal with the educational system of India.
Telang was engaged in politics from 1872 to 1889. He was nominated to the Bombay legislative council in 1884 but rejected a similar position on the viceroy’s council.
He was the secretary of the reception committee for the inaugural meeting of the Indian National Congress in 1885.
His translation of the Bhagavad Gita into English prose and verse is a standard work, and available in Max Müller‘s monumental compilation, the Sacred Books of the East, vol. 8, as the Bhagavadgita With the Sanatsugâtiya and the Anugitâ (published 1882).
Also notable is his publication, in 1884, of the historical Sanskrit play, Mudrarakshasa of Vishakhadatta under the auspices of the Education Department and the Government Central Book Depot, Bombay.
He criticized Albrecht Weber‘s hypothesis that the story of the Ramayana was inspired by the Homeric epics. While devoted to the sacred classics of the Hindus, Telang did not forget his own vernacular, Marathi literature being improved by his translation of Lessing’s Nathan the Wise, and an essay on Social Compromise.