Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Kosambi festival from Febuary 4-8, 2014

Kosambi festival from Febuary 4-8
TNN | Jan 15, 2014, 01.46 AM IST

READ MORE National University Of Singapore|Kala Academy|Diplomat|Kosambi Festival
PANAJI: The 7th D D Kosambi Festival of Ideas will be held from February 4 to February 8 at Kala Academy, featuring noted personalities from various fields including co-founder of Infosys N R Narayana Murthy and astrophysicist Jayant Narlikar.

Others who will be delivering lectures include author Vandana Shiva (Indian); Kishore Mahbubani (Singapore), an academician and former Singaporean diplomat, currently professor in the Practice of Public Policy and Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore; and Baroness Patricia Scotland (UK), a British barrister who served in many ministerial positions within the UK government.

The Directorate of Art and Culture had initiated the D D Kosambi Festival of Ideas to commemorate the birth centenary of the legendary Damodar Dharmanand Kosambi, who contributed to genetics by introducing Kosambi's map function. He is well-known for his work in numismatics and for compiling critical editions of ancient Sanskrit texts.

D D Kosambi was also a historian specializing in ancient India who employed the approach in his work.

He is described as 'the patriarch of the Marxist school of Indian historiography'. This festival is the only one of its kind in the country.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Monk, Mathematician, Marxist

Dharmanand Kosambi may be described as
a scholar and proselytiser of Buddhism and
practicing Buddhist, a Gandhian, and a feminist

By ANANYA VAJPEYI February 1, 2012

INDIA HAS REMADE ITSELF at least twice in the past 100 years. The economic and political character of the country, which was of a colonial-nationalist nature in the early 20th century, became Nehruvian-socialist after Independence and then shifted again toward globalising neoliberalism in the last decade of the century. An effective way to track the cultural effects of these very large shifts is to compare the trajectories of successive generations of Indians. The lives of the extraordinary father-son duo of Dharmanand Kosambi (1876-1947) and Damodar Dharmanand or DD Kosambi (1907-1966), both brilliant scholars and pioneers of entire fields of study, vividly illustrate the first great transformation of modern India, effected over the course of the 1950s and early 1960s, during three administrations under Jawaharlal Nehru.

The recent translation of several of Dharmanand’s Marathi writings, including his partial autobiography Nivedan (A Narrative): 1912-1924 (Permanent Black, 2011), and a broad retrospective exercise by a number of contemporary historians occasioned by Damodar’s birth centenary in 2007, allow us to follow Kosambi père and fils in some detail, and through them to view the changing historical contexts in which they were embedded. Dharmanand’s granddaughter and DD Kosambi’s daughter, Meera Kosambi, herself a sociologist specialising in urban studies and women’s studies, and an accomplished translator between Marathi and English, has in the past two years helped bring both her eminent forbears back into focus for students of modern India.

Father and son were polymaths, and in this regard they remind us of other talented public figures in South Asia prior to Independence, like the poet Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) and the art historian Ananda K Coomaraswamy (1877-1947). Together and individually, the Kosambis also exemplify a confluence of intellectual streams that coloured the biographies of a large number of prominent Indians, men and women, in the first three quarters of the 20th century: Buddhism, Marxism, Gandhianism and Socialism. For reasons that remain culturally and sociologically under-studied and have as yet to get any sort of systematic treatment in the intellectual history of modern India, some blend of these ideological currents impacted a range of thinkers and leaders, from BR Ambedkar to Ram Manohar Lohia, Narendra Dev to Rahul Sankrityayana, Jai Prakash Narayan to Hazari Prasad Dwivedi, Vinoba Bhave to JB Kripalani.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Remembering D. D. Kosambi

Remembering D. D. Kosambi

Progressive circles in India have been late in remembering D. D. Kosambi in 2007, the centennial year. Of course Pune, where Kosambi lived and died, led the way to centenary celebrations. A committee was formed with R. P. Nene and Meera Kosambi, daughter of D. D. Kosambi, to pay homage to the savant extraordinary in a befitting manner. A number of public lectures were organized on and from 31 July 2007, with Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, Prabhat Patnaik, and others as speakers. The Birth Centenary Committee has also been successful in persuading the Government of India to issue a postal stamp and instituting a Chair in the name of Kosambi in the University of Pune. The Human Resources Development ministry has sanctioned a grant of Rs. one crore (ten million) for this post. One, however, cannot be sure whether the right man will be appointed to continue the works of Kosambi along his lines.

DD Kosambi
Memorial meetings have been held in Aurangabad, Kolkata, Goa, Manipal, and Mumbai and maybe in other places in India. A Kosambi Festival was held in Goa from 4 to 7 February 2008 to celebrate “the life and work of an extraordinarily erudite son of a legendary figure in Goan intellectual history, the Abhimanyu of an Arjun, as someone has said about Damodar Kosambi and his father Dharmanand” (Reported by Sandhya Palekar in Indian Skeptic, 21: 1, 15. 05. 2008, p. 18). Dr.Vivek Monteiro, a Harvard doctorate, who abandoned the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research to teach mathematics and science to the children of slum-dwellers of Mumbai,  and finally became a trade unionist, gave a talk on “Science as the cognition of necessity”, the definition of science proposed by Kosambi.

Such attempts, however laudable, are not sufficient to make the new generation aware of what a versatile genius Kosambi was. Of course, it is not possible for a single person even to describe in broad terms, not to speak of evaluate, the contributions made by Kosambi in such diverse fields as anthropology, archaeology, classical genetics, Indian history, mathematics, numismatics, statistics, and Sanskrit text criticism. He was equally thoroughgoing in all the disciplines he had enriched. The bibliography of his works is bound to fill anyone with awe. A man like him is rare in all ages, more particularly in our times when ‘superspecialization’ is the key to both fame and success. In what follows I shall try to give an inkling of the man Kosambi, not the prodigious scholar he was.

D. D. Kosambi and the Sociology of Literature: A Critique

D. D. Kosambi and the Sociology of Literature: A Critique

Ramkrishna Bhattacharya

D. D. Kosambi (1907-66) was trained as a mathematician and used to teach and research in mathematics till 1941. Then he wrote an ‘exasperating essay’ on the Sanskrit epigrams attributed to Bhartrihari. This essay, Kosambi says, ‘caused every godfearing Sanskritist to shudder’ and consequently ‘I fell into Indology, as it were, through the roof’.1

The essay ‘upset’, among others, V. S. Sukthankar, the celebrated general editor of the critical edition of the Mahabharata.2 He was however, not able to give a definite contradiction in any essential of Kosambi’s basic contention. There were also a few points in the essay that caused others to be puzzled. Some readers, for example, felt that there was ‘a seeming inconsistency’ in a passing reference to Shakespeare’s dramas which ‘were assigned a class basis of the rising proto-bourgeoisie’.3

Kosambi took up the matter in a short essay written in 1958. Since this piece has not been included in any collection of writings by Kosambi, it is necessary to quote long extracts from it and then critique his approach. Kosambi had also touched on the same issue in a section of his Introduction to an anthology of Sanskrit poetry which was edited for the first time by him and V.V. Gokhale.4 It will be my endeavour to show how Kosambi makes use of Marx’s formulation of the relationship between the base and the superstructure and how Kosambi demonstrates its validity in two disparate cases, namely, ancient Sanskrit literature and English literature of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Although Kosambi does not explicitly refer to Marx in this connection there can be little doubt that he drew his conclusions from Marx.

Untouchability, Gita and the Pursuit of Truth

Download the articleUntouchability, Gita, and the Pursuit of Truth

Remembering Vivekanand Jha
by Vishwa Mohan Jha

It might come as a surprise to the uninitiated that untouchability remains among the darkest aspects of India’s social history – despite Bhimrao Ambedkar, Marxist and “post-Marxist” histories, a wealth of contemporary caste studies, and the rise of dalit politics. It is to the labours of Vivekanand Jha, who passed away on 30 November 2012, that so much of our present understanding of the history of untouchability in ancient India is indebted to.

Historians had generally been evasive about the issue; or else we had apologias. Thus in the brief chapter on untouchability in the second volume of P V Kane’s masterly History of Dharma śāstra, all that he discussed was that inequities such as untouchability were not unique to India but were a fairly widespread phenomena; that it was not to be found in our glorious Vedic period; and how in numerous ways it has been  is represented, its evils exaggerated. While we need to recognise, for example, that concern with hygiene contributed to the making of untouchability, we can equally be certain (Kane contended) that it was imposed with no hard feelings towards the untouchables!1 Ambedkar sought to fill the void and provide a corrective. In his Untouchables: Who Were They? and Why They Became Untouchables? (1948), he historicised the issue in important ways, as by drawing the crucial distinction between impurity and untouchability, and located the origins of the latter in the beef -eating of the downtrodden. 

Historian’s Labour 

DD Kosambi Commemoration Volume (1974)

We now have this veritable goldmine of essays in honour of DD Kosambi, brought out in 1974. Thanks, once again to Arvind Gupta.

Download the pdf

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Marxism and Classical Sanskrit Literature: D.D. Kosambi’s Approach and Assessment

Download Marxism and Classical Sanskrit Literature: DD Kosambi's Approach and Assessment

by Ramakrishna Bhattacharya

"In this essay I examine D. D. Kosambi’s approach and assessment of classical Sanskrit literature from the Marxist point of view. In the first part, I discuss S. N. Dasgupta’s critique of the Marxist approach to art and literature, arguing that Dasgupta had an idealist (and idealized) view of Indian society that does not match historical reality. I then contrast Dasgupta’s views with those of Kosambi. The latter asserted that there was no qualitative change in the means of production and hence in the relations of production in India before the imposition of British rule. In his view, classical Sanskrit literature too reflects this ground reality. In the second part, I discuss how Kosambi’s Marxist approach to art and literature was both aesthetic and historical. Through presenting Kosambi’s appreciation of classical Sanskrit literature, I show that Daniel H. H. Ingalls misapprehended Kosambi’s views and that his criticism of Kosambi was misdirected accordingly."

Monday, October 15, 2012

UNSETTLING THE PAST Unknown Aspects and Scholarly Assessments of D.D. Kosambi

In the Permanent Black pipeline for next year (2013) are two wonderfully interesting books by two great historians of ancient India,D.D. Kosambi and Romila Thapar.

The book by Kosambi (actually, two parts of it are by him and one part is on him) is calledUNSETTLING THE PAST. 

The book by Thapar is called THE PAST BEFORE US.

Unknown Aspects and Scholarly Assessments of D.D. Kosambi 

The Kosambi book is a collection of obscure and pretty unknown writings by D.D. Kosambi alongside assessments of his contribution to various areas of scholarship -- ancient history, mathematics, Sanskrit literature, numismatics, and marxism as a method for understanding the past.

An array of the great man's unpublished letters, unearthed from the Harvard and TIFR archives by his daughter Meera Kosambi, will comprise one section of the book. Kosambi's correspondence includes an exchange with Robert Graves on comparative aspects of Indian and Greek myth.

Almost no one has ever seen this cache of incredibly interesting letters which reveal new facets of Kosambi's insights, range of interests, methods, friendships, and affections. Some wonderful photos of Kosambi, mostly unavailable, will also feature in the book. They reveal a man resembling a Greek god, 5 ft. 10 in. tall, who was humane, compassionate, and caring in unexpected ways, as for example in the photo below, showing him bathing one of his two dogs, Chatya. (The other one was called Bonzo, who too will be revealed in the book.) Some people have it all: intellect, physique, Harvard education, bungalow in Poona ... Kosambi had it all by the spadefull. It comes almost as a relief to know that in later life he suffered from arthritis -- though even about his illness Kosambi is wonderfully blunt. In the last year of his life, in one of his letters to a Japanese collaborator, he writes presciently:  "I find that my health trouble has been due to long standing and apparently incurable virus infection. The main site is the sinuses, with secondary sites in the chest and bowels. The arthritis is a result of this, and so cannot be cured except by death." 

Kosambi's famous falling out with Homi Bhabha at the TIFR (they got on fine initially) was in part because, at a time when scientists were debating the relative advantages of solar and nuclear energy, Kosambi argued for the sun whereas Bhabha preferred uranium and had the backing of Jawaharlal Nehru.
Here's an extract from the first of Kosambi's 'Three Essays on Solar Energy' (1957), an essay powered by the writer's fiery English prose, which concludes with a swipe at Bhabha and capitalist functioning more generally -- and which rings true in our time, when inflated costs in the execution of public works are the state's way of looting citizens. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Man of the Sun: A Biographical Novel

The Man of the Sun is a biographical novel written by Dharmanand Kosambi's grand daughter, Indrayani Sawkar.

Download the pdf.

Thanks to Arvind Gupta for scanning and sending the ebook.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Climate Change Skeptics, Here’s a Lesson from Harappan Extinction

Source:  Forbes
Many hypotheses have been floated after many, many years of work on what actually led to the collapse of Harappa, the largest Bronze Age Civilization and the earliest urban civilization that India has seen, some 5200 to 4500 years ago. Some said the invading Aryans destroyed it; others proposed that there were massive earthquakes which ruined the cities. Then there were some who suggested that rivers shifted course and left the cities on their banks to decay.

Now, a group of researchers, from mathematicians to geologists to archaeologists, report today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, there’s conclusive evidence that it was climate change which led to the extinction of the Harappan civilization.
“Our work shows that none of these is likely to be true. Rather, it was the shifting pattern of the monsoon, which receded towards the north and the east of the Indian continent which led to a drying up of the land in which the Harappans had made their civilisation, and this led to its collapse,” says Ronojoy Adhikari, a mathematician at The Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Chennai.

Data analysis from multiples sources show that it was the gradual decrease in flood intensity that had encouraged urbanization around 4500 BC. However, further decline in monsoon precipitation made both inundation and rain-based farming difficult. For a long while it was believed that a large glacier-fed Himalayan river, which some have identified as the “mythical Saraswati” river, watered the Harappan heartland. The new research shows that only monsoonal-fed rivers were active in those days. And as the monsoon weakened, these rivers dried or became seasonal, impacting “habitability” along their courses.

Unlike the Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations, regions which were surrounded by deserts and hence restricted people’s movement forcing them to adapt and take action, harsh climate conditions led Harappan people to find an escape route. They moved eastwards, to the moister monsoon regions of upper Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, says Liviu Giosan, a geologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.
So, does this finding offer any lesson to the climate change skeptics?

Of course it does, say both Adhikari and Giosan.

Global warming is leading to a change in the glaciers in the Himalayas. It is also conjectured that the global warming will increase the intensity of the monsoons. This will lead to much greater floods in the monsoon-fed rivers of the Indo-Gangetic plain. Our
society may have to find out innovative technological measures to deal with such a situation, and it is in this context, that we consider the findings in our paper a “lesson from the past”, they say.

This result is “instructive”. As was the case in the Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations, people today hardly have any possibility to “move”. National borders and densely populated regions don’t provide the option of finding an escape route. Giosan, who researched inKarachi (unfortunately under protection) from 2003 to 2009, says the floods of 2010 inPakistan are a warning sign. “Monsoon is the life blood of India and other countries in the region but we don’t understand how it’s going to increase or decrease due to changing climate. The entire system of irrigation in this region is under calibrated,” he cautions.

However, there’s one more reason why this study is important. This work brings in several independent sources of data – sediments, fluvial patterns and archaelogical records – to provide compelling support for the climate change hypothesis. “The great pioneer of such ‘combined methods’ was D. D. Kosambi [he wrote a popular book called ‘Combined Methods in Indology’] and I see our work as firmly embedded in that paradigm. This is the real strength of this work,” says Adhikari.

For some of the earlier work of Adhikari and researchers from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research here’s a video: