Monday, July 30, 2007

Seminar on DD Kosambi

A report by Prof KP Rao posted as a comment here:

The seminar to commemorate the centenary of Prof. DD Kosambi, “Remembering Kosamb i” was conducted between 9-30 AM and 4-30 PM on 22 nd July 2007 in the premises of Manipal Institute of Communication.
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We had about 50 people attending the proceedings and most of them were from the academic world.

We had breakfast at 9-30.

The proceedings started with no prayer/invocation, no lighting lamps, on the dot at 10.00

The deliberations were planned into 3 parts to cover the person and life of Kosambi, the work of Kosambi and the vision of Kosambi.

Prof. K P Rao gave a brief speech on the life, education and career of Prof. Kosambi. Personal references were avoided and what Damodar Kosambi inherited from his father, what influenced him, how he got interested in History and Indology, the persons that he came across, his career as a teacher and later an employee at TIFR, his friends and enemies at TIFR, post TIFR life etc. were highlighted.

Prof. Surendra Rao of Mangalore University conducted the next part.

He introduced Prof. Hayavadana Upadhyaya who talked on the class, caste and slavery in ancient India. He briefly mentioned Prof. DD Kosambi’s concern for the underprivileged and also observed that not much has changed even in modern times.

Prof. Stephan Vadakkan (professor of Mathematics) of Manipal talked on KKL functions and their application in data encryption and computers. He touched upon the point as to how a forgotten work of Prof. Kosambi was recognized and revived and due credit was given to him

Prof. Prabhakar Acharya, novelist and English teacher talked on the Urvasi myth, the original v/s the interpretation by Kosambi, as done in the second chapter of the book Myth and Reality. The brilliant capability to summarize classical works was also highlighted. He found it impressive that some one like Mr. Beram Sakatwala should be inspired to write a poem on Urvasi.

Prof. Surendra Rao welcomed Prof. Peter Claus, Anthropologist from the California Sate University who had just walked in.

Prof. Surendra Rao talked on the problems the historian faces in documenting events and on the value of progressive methods in History research.

Prof. Arun Kumar of MGM College and Mr. Tonse Krishna Bhat presented a paper on the role of fieldwork in many a field with special reference to the region of Udupi where such work was put to use. They cited the example of some local rituals where the procedures had to be reconstructed from collective memory and also referred to the Tulu lexicon project where most of the words had to be taken entirely on the basis of fieldwork rather than written documents. They also talked on the qualities of a good field worker and cited the examples of Prof. Kosambi, Prof. Sontheimer, Prof Honko and Prof. Claus.

Prof. Peter Claus talked briefly on his interest and knowledge of Kosambi and said how he was to participate in a joint research project with Prof. Sontheimer (who was guided by Prof. Kosambi) on Khandoba cult, and that the project was abandoned due to the sudden demise of Prof. Sontheimer.

Prof M G Narasimhan of the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore, conducted the after lunch session.

The first presentation was by Prof. N A Madhyastha. He described the importance of calculation of linkage distances in chromosomes especially as an important tool in the pre DNA structure days and how the Kosambi-Haldane formula helped achieving this.

Prof. Kesavan Veluthat of Mangalore University gave a talk on DD Kosambi in Indian Historiography. He talked about the importance of understanding and analysing DD Kosambi’s contribution at the time when they were put forth rather than now, and said that they were really original, path breaking and revolutionary for his time. He explained in detail the dedications of Kosambi’s works and how they indicate his attitude to people. Kosambi’s contribution to understanding the Harappan Culture, the Vedic Society, The eastward expansion in the puranic period, the function of the Mauryan Empire, the concept of feudalism from above etc. were discussed in detail.

Prof. K G Vasantha Madahava gave an introduction to DDKosambi.

Prof. Phaniraj revisited the pioneering Marxist scholar’s review articles on ‘Official Marxist’ thinking. He spoke on the need of finding open ended answers to Kosambi’s own stated positions on politics, his ideas on India’s ruling class and his expectations of Marxist leadership in light of his own frame work of criticism.

Prof. MG Narasimhan spoke on the science revolution, its gains and losses and the need to keep the balance right for obtaining progress and benefit to society. He talked on Prof. Kosambi’s concern for peace and harmony amongst common men as the prime criterion of healthy society and how this becomes and has to become the basic vision of everyone concerned.

In his valedictory remarks Prof. Rao briefly touched upon the Bhabha-Kosambi controversy and said how this should be viewed by historians as a classic case of clash between two towering personalities each great in his own way. He mentioned the legacy of DD Kosambi and spoke on the 13 Part TV serial that was produced by late Dr. Arvind N Das and dedicated to Prof. Kosambi. A mention of Dr. Arvind Gupta of Pune, an ardent admirer of DD Kosambi was also made. Copies of the serial were made available to those interested.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Seminars to focus on Kosambi

A report from the ToI:

Various events are being planned in different parts of the country in the birth centenary year of eminent Marxist historian Damodar Dharmananda Kosambi.

Kosambi is best recognised for his work on the Marxist interpretation of Indian history. In a glowing tribute to Kosambi, eminent Indologist A.L. Basham had described the 'Introduction
to the Study of Indian History' as "an epoch making work containing brilliant, original ideas on almost every page."

R.P. Nene, former member of the all-India committee of the People's Union for Civil Liberties, said that along with Kosambi's daughter, well-known sociologist Meera Kosambi, a committee of scholars was being put together to plan seminars on the Marxist historian's work.
"In Pune, we hope to organise at least six lectures, one every two months, if not more. We are also planning to invite eminent historians such as Irfan Habib and Romila Thapar," Nene said.

The veteran activist said that although three generations of the Kosambi family have taught at the Fergusson College, and Prof Kosambi also taught at the University of Pune, the city has failed to celebrate his eminence.

"This is partly because he was a Marxist and partly because he was short-tempered. His expectations were very high and he was very difficult to get along with," Nene said.

Arvind Gupta, another Kosambi admirer who is famous for teaching science through toys said,
"His way of looking at history was extraordinary. He taught us that history is not linear. So many of our present-day beliefs have their roots in ancient history. We can look at these beliefs and then understand history."

Gupta, who is head of the Muktangan science exploratorium for children at the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, has also planned to organise some events in Kosambi's memory during his birth centenary year.

information from ;

Kosambi on Marxist approach to Indian History

DD Kosambi on Marxist approach to Indian history.
When serious scholars like D.D. Kosambi tried to apply Marxian approach to Indian history, they found themselves in great difficulty. In 1951, Kosambi tried to examine Marxist approach to Indian chronology (Annals of Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Vol. 31 pp. 258-66) as presented by a Russian scholar D.A. Suleiken in 1949 and found it ‘dangerously misleading’ (Kosambi’s Omnibus, OUP 2005, p. 49). In his seminal work, An Introduction to the Study of Indian History (first published in 1956, sixth reprint 1993) Kosambi rejected many of Marx’s statements about India. Kosambi wrote: “India had never a classical slave economy in the same sense as Greece or Rome” (p. 11). Kosambi was at a loss what to make of Marx’s famous theory of the “Asiatic Mode of Production”. He says, “What Marx himself said about India cannot be taken as it stands.” Kosambi, who is considered to be the father of Marxist historiography on India, emphatically rejects Marx’s view of Indian history. He writes: “We cannot let pass without challenge Marx’s statement, “Indian society has no history at all… unchanging (village) society.” Kosambi says, “In fact, the greatest periods of Indian history, the Mauryans, the Satavahanas, the Guptas owed nothing to intruders, they mark precisely the formation and spread of the basic village society, or the development of new trade centers” (ibid, pp 11-12). Kosambi was of firm view, that: “The adoption of Marx’s thesis does not mean blind repetition of all his conclusions (and even less, those of the official party line Marxists at all times)” (p. 10).

DD Kosambi Centenary

Manipal Institute of Communications is hosting a one- day seminar on 22nd July (Sunday), a week or so before the birth centenary of the great historian and mathematician. Damodar Dharmanand Kosambi was born on 31st July 1907.
A one-day seminar in English will be held at Manipal Institute of Communication on 22nd July 2007. Some well-known historians and distinguished scholars in other disciplines are participating in the seminar. Discussions and presentations would include the life, work and vision of Prof. Kosambi. The relevance of Professor Kosambi’s work today and the paradigm changes his line of thought introduced into Numismatics, History, Culture and Scientific temperament would be discussed.

A few episodes of a 13 part serial named “India Invented” produced by Dr. Arvind N Das and dedicated to Prof. Kosambi would also be screened...