Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Thursday, August 25, 2016
Scholars have written copiously on the foolishness of discounting the role that myths play in understanding life and society, and the value of fiction, stories and tales passed on.
Written by Seema Chishti | New Delhi | Updated: August 18, 2016 8:38 pm
In legendary historian DD Kosambi’s excellent work on ancient India titled ‘Myth and Reality’ (1962), he writes about his essays, almost as if for 2016 India; “they are based upon the collation of field-work with literary evidence. Indian critics, whose patriotism outstrips their grasp of reality are sure to express annoyance or derision at the misplaced emphasis..”
Broadly defined as a story of the past, history has come to mean much more. In a society which is so diverse, it has often come to mean very different things to different people. History is a story that needs to be told cautiously sometimes but nevertheless must be told, taught and studied.
The bid of the Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR) to announce that it is now going down the route of collecting detailed “folklore”, “custom” and “only documenting what is heard”, about the very distant past, appears fraught with monumental issues.
Scholars have written copiously on the foolishness of discounting the role that myths play in understanding life and society, and the value of fiction, stories and tales passed on. To be unmindful of prevalent legends would leave us the poorer in comprehending much harder material truths. But problems begin, when legends, myths and history are all sought to be confused.
The function of recording, teaching or studying History, is surely to learn lessons from the past, to be familiar with compatriots, to learn and unlearn about other lives, or at least that is the purpose we hope history serves for us, when taught in schools and beyond.
Historiography is serious and contested terrain but ground rules about what constitutes evidence and what hearsay suggests that it is very important that the difference be maintained.
There is no harm therefore in knowing about myths and legends, but to be able to tell clearly what a piece of pottery, jewellery, a grave or a monument or cooking utensils tell you about people long gone before us should be a priority in a vast and old civilisation like ours.
History is more important, when governments are involved in writing (and rewriting) textbooks. Textbooks being among the most useful ammunition to control young minds. The1980s phase in our neighbouring state of Pakistan survives uptil today in dangerously altered textbooks, or how history is studied in middle-schools. A recent project by two Pakistani scholars, Qasim Aslam and Ayyaz Ahmed, studies how differently Indian and Pakistani textbooks, learn about exactly the same facts. Not that India has got it all right, but the necessity of feeding myths to Pakistan was such a dominant idea there, that History was firmly pushed out of the frame.
Myths, being privileged over history writing, have been known to serve a useful political purpose. The myth of Aryan supremacy would have been a useful account to spin support for the Nazi view of the world in its time. When the ‘superiority’ of White-skinned plunderers in Africa had to be established, myths and legends, hearsay and anecdotes over years would have been a useful tool to establish why it was the way things should be. Which of us has not heard a story whispered at a monument which says the exact opposite of what we have known to be a recorded fact about the monument/area/people?
If only to avoid history from repeating itself, either as tragedy or a farce, it may be well worth the while of institutions like ICHR, tasked with serious historical research to do exactly that. Myths have a place, but for India to have a functional present and future, they must not be confused with history.
Thursday, July 7, 2016
Source: The Hindu
The Centre for Gandhian and Peace Studies, Manipal University, in association with Centre for Vedic and Linguistic Inquiry will organise a seminar titled ‘Kosambi memory’ here on July 2 in memory of the late D.D. Kosambi, historian, mathematician, numismatist, and statistician.
A press release here on Thursday said that the seminar was being organised on the occasion of Prof. Kosambi’s 50th death anniversary.
The speakers will include K.P. Rao, founder-director, Centre for Vedic and Linguistic Inquiry, Manipal, Surendra Rao, retired professor of History, Mangalore University, and Varadesh Hiregange, Director, Centre for Gandhian and Peace Studies.
The seminar will begin at 10.30 a.m. at LH 1, first floor, Old TAPMI building.
Kosambi was not an ‘official Marxist’, says historian
K.P. Rao, software expert and Director of Centre for Vedic and Linguistic Inquiry, speaking at a seminar on D.D. Kosambi in Manipal.
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Believe it or not, India has set an ambitious target of adding 100 gigawatts of solar power by 2022. Before the Paris Climate Summit, it had pledged that by 2032, it would increase its share of non-fossil fuels to 40 per cent of the total power generation capacity. These decisions have come many years after India under the leadership of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had signed the controversial civil nuclear agreement with the United States with a view to meet its energy requirements. So, clearly, solar energy is the flavour of the season.
This reminds me that there was a time in the 1950s and early 1960s when those who advocated solar energy could be pitted against the scientific and technological establishment of the country and viewed with suspicion. D. D. Kosambi, a polymath genius who made seminal contributions in pure mathematics, quantitative numismatics, Sanskrit studies and the study of ancient Indian history and culture, was one such individual who came in direct conflict with the Department of Atomic Energy because of his strong views against the use of nuclear energy as he favoured solar energy in its place. He also had to cross swords with Homi Jehangir Bhabha, widely recognised as the father of the Indian atomic energy programme.
It was Bhabha who had invited Kosambi in 1945 to join the recently established Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) and help set up the School of Mathematics. In the initial years their relations were very cordial (as it is clear from Kosambi’s scribble on the newspaper cartoon that he forwarded to Bhabha) but soon differences cropped up as Kosambi emphasised that a country like India that received sunshine in abundance must place greater reliance on solar energy. That he was a die-hard Marxist, who was very active in the international peace movement, did not help matters.
In the 1950s, the Department of Atomic Energy had started funding TIFR and Kosambi’s continuance there became untenable. Moreover, the fact that he had also emerged as a major historian who had brought about a paradigmatic shift in the study of ancient Indian society also made his fellow scientists view him with suspicion as his non-scientific interests were not considered compatible with his senior position in TIFR.
Recently, Three Essays Collective brought out a collection of Kosambi’s essays titled “Adventures into the Unknown”. Ram Ramaswamy, Professor of Physics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, has edited this volume that contains hitherto unpublished material. In his preface, Ramaswamy informs that in 1960 Kosambi gave a talk to the Rotary Club of Poona and the text has been published here as “Atomic Energy for India”. In this essay, he underlines the need for research and development in the field of solar energy, a need to which our government seems to have woken up only recently. “Solar energy,” Kosambi says, “is not something that any villager can convert for use with his own unaided efforts, at a negligible personal expenditure, charkha style. It means good science and first-rate technology whose results must be made available to the individual user.” Nuclear disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima have proved visionaries like Kosambi right.
In 2013, Prof. Meera Kosambi, the sociologist daughter of D. D. Kosambi, edited a book that contained writings of her as well as on her father. Titled “Unsettling the Past”, it was published by Permanent Black. It also contains two other essays of Kosambi on the question of solar energy that were written between 1957 and 1964. In “Sun or Atom?”, Kosambi draws our attention to the fact that scientific and technological research in the developed world is inextricably tied to the military-industrial complex and therefore solar energy was being ignored.
He says, “The research is of no use for war purposes. That is why it attracts some of us, but does not attract those who control the funds.” In another essay “Solar Energy for Underdeveloped Areas”, Kosambi cites another reason why significant technological advances were not being made to solve the problem of storage of solar energy: “The lands where technology is most advanced are just those which have very little sunlight as compared to India and Africa and where conventional forms of energy are highly developed.” However, he was quite confident that ultimately solar energy would become affordable and gave the example of aluminium. “But extracting this metal was a most costly process and aluminium was, a century ago, costlier than gold. Technology has made the metal cheap…”
As India finally turns to solar energy, it is very refreshing to read these essays that were written more than half-a-century ago.
The writer is a senior literary critic
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Panaji: The state government has revised the D D Kosambi Research Fellowship scheme. The objective of the scheme is to encourage Goan scholars to undertake research in the field of Goan history, culture, arts, social studies and related areas. Three fellowships, under the scheme, will be awarded every year by the state - at the junior level, at the senior level and at the post-doctoral level.
"Only topics that are closely connected to Goa will be accepted. However, authentic topics pertaining to Goa may also be considered for the fellowship depending upon the decision taken by the expert committee," the revised scheme document reads.
An individual who has completed post-graduation and is 35 and younger will be eligible to undertake research in the junior category. For the senior category an individual who has completed post-graduation and is above the age of 35 will be eligible. And for eligibility at the post-doctoral level, the individual will have to have completed PhD. There is no age bar for the third category.
"In case of exceptionally talented scholars of proven record with authentic work to their credit, the rules regarding educational qualifications may be relaxed, if recommended by the selection committee. The fellowship shall be awarded to any scholar only once in his lifetime under each category," the scheme states.
Eligible scholars for junior category will be awarded a fellowship up to Rs 10,000 per month for a maximum period of two years, on case-to-case basis. Scholars in the senior and post-doctoral category will be awarded a fellowship of Rs 20,000 per month for a maximum period of two years, again on case-to-case basis.
Every year, the department of art and culture will release an advertisement inviting applications for the "D D Kosambi Research Fellowship" for scholars and a selection committee constituted by the government will select scholars for the fellowship.
The project report in the form of two hard copies and a soft copy will have to be submitted within a period of 30 days after the completion of two years of the fellowship. The project submitted will be exclusively the property of department of art and culture, as per the scheme guidelines.
Sunday, April 3, 2016
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
A news report from Panaji where the ongoing DD Kosambi Festival of Ideas. Arvind Gupta has been an inspiration and a big time contributor in keeping DD Kosambi's writings available on the internet, including via this blog.
TNN | Feb 3, 2016, 10.23 AM IST
Panaji: Play is very serious business. If there is no play, there is no learning taking place, said IITian Arvind Gupta, well-known for his movement to popularise science among children by making toys from everyday waste. He also said that like Finland, India, too, should give its teachers a status equivalent to IAS officers, to turn its faulty education system around.
Gupta, who was the guest speaker on day two of the D D Kosambi Festival of Ideas being held at Kala Academy.
In his lecture on Tuesday Gupta awed the audience with demonstrations of some science experiments for which he used every day and inexpensive objects. "Barbies, He-Mans and such toys are very sexist and very expensive. Hopefully, they will become extinct like the dinosaurs," said the 'toy-inventor' who maintained that the Goa science centre and 36 similar centres established by the central government across states are unimaginative in their displays. "These science centres do nothing besides occupying five acres of state land," Gupta said.
Gupta also criticised the government's Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan mission and the NCERT syllabus, calling them ineffective.
"The classroom is the worst place to teach children science as all the science is outside the classroom. If children see the science that exists in real life, they will be hooked," he said. Gupta said that adding achieving learning through experiments is possible in a state like Goa, where the target size is small. He said that each private school in the country needs to lend its teachers for a few days to a government school to trigger a big movement in experimental learning.
Paying tribute to the genius of D D Kosambi, Gupta said, "He was spared the Indian childhood because his father, the great acharya Kosambi, had left for Harvard in the 1920s. Had he been sent to one of our schools he would not have excelled." He said that Kosambi was not given due recognition for his work during his lifetime after he wrote a critique of Jawaharlal Nehru's book 'The Discovery of India' and "exposed Nehru's lack of knowledge of Indian history."The Goa government, Gupta said, could consider making a comic strip on the lines of the Amar Chitra Katha series on the life of Dr Kosambi to inform young generations about his genius.
Responding to an audience question, Gupta said that he did not want students to make joining IITs their top priority, rather they should follow their passion, no matter what it was.
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Saturday, January 9, 2016
Thanks to Arvind Gupta for sending this paper.
A SCHOLAR IN HIS TIME: CONTEMPORARY VIEWS OF KOSAMBI THE MATHEMATICIAN
University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad, TS 500 034
“Kosambi introduced a new method into historical scholarship, essentially by application of modern mathematics.” J. D. Bernal , who shared some of his interests and much of his politics, summarized the unique talents of DDK  in an obituary that appeared in the journal Nature, adding, “Indians were not themselves historians: they left few documents and never gave dates. One thing the Indians of all periods did leave behind, however, were hoards of coins. [...] By statistical study of the weights of the coins, Kosambi was able to establish the amount of time that had elapsed while they were in circulation . . . ”
The facts of DDK’s academic life, in brief are as follows. He attended high–school in the US, in Cambridge, MA, and undergraduate college at Harvard, graduating in 1929. Returning to India, he then worked as a mathematician at Banaras Hindu University (1930-31), Aligarh Muslim University (1931-33), Fergusson College, Pune (1933-45), and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (1945-62), after which he held an emeritus fellowship of the CSIR until his death at the age of 59, in 1966.
Today the significance of D. D. Kosambi’s mathematical contributions [3–71] tends to be underplayed, given the impact of his scholarship as historian, and Indologist. His work in the latter areas has been collected in several volumes  and critical commentaries have appeared over the years [73, 74], but his work in mathematics has not been compiled and reviewed to the same extent [75, 76, 77, 78]. Indeed, a complete bibliography is not available in the public domain so far . This asymmetry is unfortunate since, as commented elsewhere , an understanding of Kosambi the historian can only be enhanced by an appreciation of Kosambi the mathematician .
DDK is known for several contributions, some of which like the Kosambi-Cartan-Chern (KCC) theory , carry his name, and some like the Karhunen–Loève expansion [37, 39, 82], that do not. The Kosambi mapping function in genetics  continues to be used to this day , but the path geometry that he studied for much of his life  has not found further application. DDK’s final years were mired in controversies, both personal and professional. His papers on the Riemann hypothesis (RH) [65, 66] brought him a great deal of criticism and not a little ridicule, while his personal politics put him in direct conflict with Homi Bhabha and the Department of Atomic Energy. This contributed to his eventual and somewhat ignominious ouster from employment at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. His early and passionate advocacy of solar energy was practical and based on sound scientific common sense. In some of his arguments, he seems even somewhat Gandhian, and although this was a contrary position to hold in the TIFR at that time, the essential validity of his argument remains to this day .