D D Kosambi, polymath.



It is a great pity that when the JNU Library system was gifted the collection of D D Kosambi's personal books, they eventually chose not to keep them together in a single physical location. What were the books that a mind such as his found interesting? What were the crucial influences that allowed him, throughout his intellectual life, to contribute to mathematics, as well as to sanskrit studies, numismatics and to Indian history? And what was the reason for the daily commute on the Deccan Queen? All that might have been learned by seeing the physical evidence of the man's taste will now have to remain in the realm of mere speculation.

Kosambi's publications in history and numismatics (his last published paper, in 1996, was on Scientific Numismatics, in the Scientific American) have been incredibly influential, and some of them are still in print- for instance Myth and Reality, and An Introduction to the Study of Indian History, first published in 1956 by Popular Prakashan, Mumbai. Of this work, A L Basham said "An Introduction to the Study of Indian History is in many respects an epoch making work, containing brilliantly original ideas on almost every page; if it contains errors and misrepresentations, if now and then its author attempts to force his data into a rather doctrinaire pattern, this does not appreciably lessen the significance of this very exciting book, which has stimulated the thought of thousands of students throughout the world."

A more recent compilation of some of his important writings are in B D Chattopadhyaya's D.D. Kosambi: Combined Methods in Indology and Other Writings published in 2002 by Oxford University Press, New Delhi. Both can be obtained via our site, naturally. For a fuller appreciation of the man and for some idea of his contributions, follow this link and beyond...

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