[INDOLOGY] Sukumari Bhattacharji

George Thompson gthomgt at gmail.com
Mon May 26 19:25:02 UTC 2014

Dear List,

I meant to send this message to the entire list yesterday.  Instead, I sent
it to one list member by mistake.


Dear friends,

I did not know Prof. Bhattacharji personally, but I very much admired her
work.  I mourn with you who were her friends and colleagues.


On Sun, May 25, 2014 at 10:16 PM, George Thompson <gthomgt at gmail.com> wrote:

> Dear friends,
> I did not know Prof. Bhattacharji personally, but I very much admired her
> work.  I mourn with you who were her friends and colleagues.
> George Thompson
> On Sun, May 25, 2014 at 3:07 PM, Rosane Rocher <rrocher at sas.upenn.edu>wrote:
>>  Dear Colleague,
>> Thank you for sharing this sad news and for your sketch of the life of
>> Sukumari Bhattacharji.  She reached out to us when we were on a nine-month
>> research stay in Calcutta in 1969–1970 and she was full of the impending
>> publication of her *Indian Theogony*.  We visited with her on subsequent
>> stays in Kolkata, one of which times caused us to ride the Metro for the
>> first time.  In addition to being a dedicated scholar, she was a strong
>> woman and a lady.
>> Rosane and Ludo Rocher
>> On 5/25/14 11:00 AM, Dipak Bhattacharya wrote:
>>  <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 Professor.
>> 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
>> her.
>> Dipak Bhattacharya
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