Oh Joy!

Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy. Art historian, philosopher, geologist. I used to own one of his books, inscribed AKC (in pencil), that I picked up at a library sale many years ago. The bookplate- a charming woodcut- inspired me to make my own, and years later, I found his name resonant when it came to naming my son...
AKC was inspiring in many ways. Few intellectuals with their origins in the subcontinent (that's one way to be inclusive!) have led a more charmed existence, or contributed so much in so many areas of human enquiry. This week's Current Science carries a historical review by Rasoul Sorkhabi of some aspects of his work, highlighting his early research in geology.

AKC was prolific in his work and in his writing (as well as in other aspects of his life- he married four times, for instance!). The Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts (IGNCA) in New Delhi is bringing out his collected works in 30 volumes, half or so of which have been published so far. Take Ananda K. Coomaraswamy's Writings on Geology and Mineralogy edited by Srinivasa Rao and Ranganathan, and published by Manohar. The articles in this volume collect important findings of the time when he was appointed Director of the Mineralogical Survey of Ceylon, including that of the remains of Radiolaria in the Gondwana Shales of Sriperumbudur. In the Current Science review, Sorkhabi writes, "Perhaps AKC’s greatest geologic discovery was thorianite, a mineral found in granitic rocks, which he reported from the Bambarabotuwa District, Ceylon in 1904. AKC sent samples of this economic mineral deposit to Wyndham Dunstan, Sir William Crookes, Sir William Ramsay, and Marie Curie for further examination. Ranganathan, who has examined these correspondences (given to him by the late D. N. Wadia, who was the Mineral Advisor to the Government of Ceylon in 1938), writes that Madame Curie suggested the new mineral be named ‘coomarite’ after AKC; however, this unselfish scientist did not promote this name...."

Some
of AKCs writings appear in unexpected places- like Myths and Legends of the Hindus and Buddhists which he wrote with Sister Nivedita, and which is published by the Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata. A steal at Rs 160, "the aim of this work is to relate, in a manner close to the original, such of the myths as are more or less familiar to every educated Indian."

With the passage of time, many of the books for which he was so well known- "The living thought of Gotama the Buddha" for instance- get increasingly more difficult to find (although it has been reprinted recently by Rupa), but as many of you know, at Scholars we like nothing more than to help you get the books you need, even if it means a nonlinear search!

The number of scholarly books on Coomaraswamy are increasing- and those from IGNCA are just a few. Look around our site: AKC appears on many pages- Essays, Religion, Music, Art...

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