ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

D D Kosambi: The Man and His WorkSubscribe to D D Kosambi: The Man and His Work

Science is the Cognition of necessity

Damodar Dharmanand Kosambi, eminent mathematician and Marxist historian, wrote extensively on the development of science and its use. He focused on the Marxist understanding of science as having an all-encompassing and universal role in engaging with reality. Marxism provided Kosambi with the tools to write on a variety of subjects such as the use of atomic energy, "science and religion" and the need for alternative technology for energy (solar power).

Early Indian History and the Legacy of D D Kosambi

This article discusses three of the many themes in D D Kosambi's writings which have been seminal to the study of early Indian history: the relationship between tribe and caste, the link between Buddhism and trade, and the nature of feudalism in India. Many of the methods of Kosambi's analyses are substantially valid even 50 years later. Some need reconsideration either because of new evidence or because of new theories of explanation or because the overall perspectives of the past are today differently nuanced. Kosambi's intellectual perspectives and sensibilities were inevitably of his own times. Up to a point they carry traces of both the idealism and the dismissals of those times. He insistently asserted his autonomy from the clutches of contemporary orthodoxies, both of the Left and of the Right. The past was not to be used as a mechanism of political mobilisation as it has increasingly come to be among some in our time. The sources that inform us about the past have to be meticulously analysed and subjected to a rigorous methodology irrespective of their status or the authority they command. Kosambi would undoubtedly have agreed that the advance of knowledge was dependent on a constant critiquing of existing explanations.

The Lily and the Mud: D D Kosambi on Religion

D D Kosambi's investigations into religion in ancient India led him to look at the subject from a point of view that radically departed from the traditional and employ a method of analysis that combined the use of a variety of sources, disciplines, and comparative techniques. A theoretical framework that was new to the study of Indian history supported his reconstruction of the religion of the Indus valley, as well as his explanations for the spectacular rise and fall of Buddhism, and the enduring appeal of the Krishna myths. From today's perspective his work betrays a few blind spots, but it remains largely relevant for the intellectual leap it took in exploring the essential relation between faith and socio-economic factors, and its consciously creative use of Marxism.

Kosambi and Questions of Caste

Caste assumed a centrality in D D Kosambi's relentless quest for the origins of Indian society, since for him it was a category to understand socio-economic differences. This essay first investigates how Kosambi conceptualised caste as a structure. It then examines some specific aspects of his study of caste such as how caste identities were constituted, consolidated and even contested. And, third, the essay seeks to contextualise both the issues and methodologies of Kosambi's scholarship within more recent discussions and debates on caste.

The kosambi effect: a hermeneutic turn that shook indian historiography

Kosambi was a scientist who talked about the past with the politics of intimacy with the present. This paper identifies the "Kosambi effect" and its various constituents. The most crucial constituent is the awareness that historical knowledge cannot be based on empirical givens and that a methodology guaranteeing a systematic, deductively formulated, and empirically verified concept of reality about the past is indispensable. The adaptation of historical materialism to serve the purpose, and accordingly writing a history worth designating a genre by itself in form, content and hermeneutics is another crucial constituent.

D D kosambi and the study of early indian Coins

This article sets out to explain what drove D D Kosambi to take up the study of early Indian coins. Kosambi's research in numismatics beginning in the 1940s marked a radical departure in the field from the practices and interests in the previous 100 years. There can be questions about how historians, including Kosambi, may have used coins as markers of socio-economic change. But Kosambi's use of numismatics was such that historians can no longer ignore numismatic evidence for societal history. It was inevitable that some of the major findings of Kosambi would not stand the test of time. But the need to revisit his findings only demonstrates the value of his pioneering perspectives: we need to think differently and prepare a new agenda for examining material from the past - if necessary by turning current perspectives upside down.

D D Kosambi: The Scholar and the Man

D D Kosambi enjoys a unique international identity as a brilliant, profound and original scholar who straddled many fields of knowledge where he made multiple scholarly contributions. This essay outlines the vastness of his intellectual canvas, provides a short biographical sketch and also describes some facets of a fascinating personality.

Towards a Political Philology: D D Kosambi and Sanskrit

D D Kosambi's engagement with Sanskrit was marked by an intense search for both a text-critical method and a theory for interpreting culture and power. His method was positivist but sophisticated in its positivism, and if recent work in the history of textuality (Indian and other) suggests that more attention to cultural difference is needed, his text-critical work remains foundational for further scholarship. His theory was positivist, too, in keeping with his vision of scientific Marxism, and if its strong universalism here produced a skewed interpretation that is now in all its essentials dead, he introduced a new and crucial critical dimension to Sanskrit studies. Perhaps the most remarkable (and most disturbing) realisation about Kosambi's quest for a political philology is that nearly 50 years after his death he has had not a single successor in India.

Kosambi's Archaeology

D D Kosambi offered remarkable insights into the history of ancient India. Does his archaeology measure up to his history? The approach in this paper is to view the internal logic of his hypotheses in archaeology, and to ask if Kosambi did justice to the data available in his time. Did he present a sound data analysis that could be emulated, enlarged, or reworked? The answer has to be "no". Kosambi's site locations were not precise; he was not interested in the typology of stone tools; and his correlations of tool occurrences with sacred sites, of the tribe with an absence of plough agriculture, and of iron technology with agricultural surpluses, were flawed. Perhaps Kosambi's archaeology does not measure up to his history because for him archaeology was only an extension of history. But in order to work with the entities of archaeology, typology and classification are indispensable: as indispensable as is the knowledge of an ancient language for the historian. Failure to engage in the grammar of these entities and an ignorance of site formation processes give rise to faulty generalisation.

Kosambi, marxism and indian history

D D Kosambi profoundly redefined the message that Marxism had for historians. What set him apart from others who "applied" Marxism to Indian history was his determination to maintain, indeed increase the standard of rigour in his factual and textual research, for Marxism dealt with a far more extensive area than the one over which research had conventionally been conducted. Guided by the basic thesis about how social evolution occurs, he rejected the view that India had ever passed through a phase of slavery; rather it was the construction of caste society that happened here. The reasons for his acceptance of a stage of feudalism spanning the period from that of the Guptas to the Mughals are most interesting.
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