03 April 2011

Kosambi, Kosambi, and Kosambi

Everyone's heard of the pioneering D.D. Kosambi, the Marxist founding father of Ancient Indian Studies.

Not everyone knows about the incredible life lived by D.D. Kosambi's father, Dharmanand Kosambi, the great scholar of Buddhism who travelled from penury in village Goa to renown as a Harvard scholar and friend of Mahatma Gandhi. This is because, until recently, when Meera Kosambi set about translating them, the major portion of the writings of Dharmanand Kosambi were only available in Marathi.

Now, for the first time, readers of English can marvel at arguably the most moving and spellbinding autobiography ever written by any Indian scholar. Dharmanand Kosambi's granddaughter Meera Kosambi -- the feminist historian famous for her work on Pandita Ramabai, Kashibai Kanitkar, and Maharashtra's women writers -- has provided a wonderful translation with contextualizing annotations.

Permanent Black is privileged to publish
NIVEDAN The Autobiography of Dharmanand Kosambi Edited, Translated from the Marathi, and with an Introduction by Meera Kosambi

Born in rural Goa, Dharmanand Kosambi (1876–1947) came under the spell of the Buddha’s teachings during his adolescence. At an early age he set off on an incredible journey of austere self-training across the length and breadth of Britain’s Indian Empire, halting to educate himself at places connected with Buddhism.

His sojourns included living in Sri Lanka to master Pali, in a Burmese cave as a bhikshu, and in some viharas of North India—begging for monastic sustenance—as well as in Nepal and Sikkim which he reached after arduous, sometimes barefoot, treks. Over these itinerant years Dharmanand acquired such mastery of the Buddhist canon that he was variously appointed to teach and research at Calcutta, Baroda, Harvard, and Leningrad.

As a thinker Dharmanand blended Buddhist ethics, Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of truth and non-violence, and the ideals of socialism. He exchanged letters with the Mahatma, worked for his causes, and died in the approved Buddhist/Jain manner by voluntary starvation at Sevagram ashram. Arguably, no Indian scholar’s life has been as exemplary as Dharmanand’s, or has approximated as closely to the nobility and saintliness of the Mahatma’s.

MEERA KOSAMBI’s Introduction contextualizes the life, career, and achievement of one of modern India’s greatest scholar-savants. Her many books include Dharmanand Kosambi: The Essential Writings (edited, 2010), Crossing Thresholds: Feminist Essays in Social History (2007), and Feminist Vision or ‘Treason against Men’? Kashibai Kanitkar and the Engendering of Marathi Literature (2008).
paperback / 204pp / Rs 295 / ISBN 81-7824-325-3 / World rights / Summer 2011

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