24 November, 2020

The Master Revisited

Historian, statistician, Indologist, polyglot—there is a datedness to his political verities, but the scholar lives

The Master Revisited

The name of Damodar Dharmananda Kosambi hardly rings a bell beyond a small circle of Marxist scholars—a circle that has shrunk with the implosion of the Soviet empire, China’s tight embrace of the market economy and the rout of Communist parties around the globe. Another reason for his limited appeal, paradoxically, is the sheer range and complexity of his intellectual pursuits. He was, at one and the same time, a mathematician and a statistician, an economic and social historian, an Indologist and a major contributor to the studies on genetics and numismatics. Moreover, he excelled as a polyglot—his peers envied his mastery over several classical and modern languages—and, not the least, as a ‘public intellectual’ who commented on issues of topical relevance with an unmatched flair for polemics.

Interest in Kosambi’s multi-faceted work revived briefly on the occasion of his birth centenary in 2007. Universities across India held seminars to subject it to critical scrutiny. That exercise was also...



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