[INDOLOGY] Sukumari Bhattacharji

Dipak Bhattacharya dipak.d2004 at gmail.com
Sun May 25 15:00:09 UTC 2014

<indology at list.indology.info>

25 5 14

Dear Friends,

I sadly announce the death of Professor Sukumari Bhattacharji on 24 May
afternoon at the age of 93 at her residence in Kolkata. One of the
brightest students of the Calcutta University she worked for her doctorate
at Cambridge and was awarded the degree. The work appeared as *The Indian
theogony *in 1970. Coming from a Protestant Christain family of Central
Bengal Sukumari could never adjust herself to situations that she regarded
as not in conformity with her principles. She faced many adverse situations
but never succumbed to circumstances. She took her MA in English language
and literature and married a Hindu Brahmin, Dr.Amal Bhattacharya who taught
at the Presidency College. Sukumari again got herself admitted to the
Sanskrit MA course at the University of Calcutta. A yājñika Vedic scholar
is said to have objected to her - a woman and Christaian - attending Veda
classes. This was ridiculed down by the authorities that saved her from
humiliation. She attended the classes and was declared first at the final
examination. She became a Marxist by principle but avoided active politics.
Till the early sixties she taught in one of the most prestigious Women's
College in Calcutta, namely the Bethune College. She was admired for her
scholarship and spirited non-conformism by many contemporary philologists
of Calcutta that included S.K.Chatterji, Durgamohan Bhattacharyya and
Ramaranjan Mukherjee. I later came to know that Durgamohan and Ramaranjan
had been instrumental in getting her selected as Reader in Sanskrit
(Associate Professor) at the Jadavpur University. Later she became

When a hot debate was raging over her depiction of women's life in ancient
India, she asked in a letter to a newspaper why she would not have the
choice to declare that she did not believe in any religion. The rightists
in Calcutta used abusive language against her and falsely accused her of
plagiarism on Zimmer. Others showed that it was not so. A famous historian
is said to have remarked that she got a prestigious prize only because of
her remark that only prostitutes had been free women in ancient India

Her siding with the leftists too did not last. From 2005 to the end
Sukumari was shunned by all -- the right and the left. The sole grace was
that publishers did not shun her. Sukumari was not sorry.

Her non-conformist character placed Sukumari in opposition to a number of
Indologists including Professor Gonda. Perhaps Burrow had remained fond of

Dipak Bhattacharya

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