D.D. Kosambi, Marxist, historian, India

Damodar Dharmananda Kosambi (1907 -1966) was the son of Dharmananda Damodar Kosambi. The father was a great scholar and professor of the Pali period of literature and Buddhist philosophy; and the son was a rare genius of unusual brilliance having mastery over many disciplines who re-wrote the socio-political history of India through scientific methods and logical deduction. And thus he liberated history from the clutches of myths. Born on 31 July, 1907 in Goa, which was a colony of the Portuguese, Damodar was interested in India's history and heritage. His father being a specialist in the Buddhist Era of Indian history, he too became sufficiently knowledgeable in the contribution of the Buddhist philosophy to Indian Culture. But he formal education and training was in Mathematics. At the age of 11, he accompanied his father to the USA where his father was working with the Harvard University on Buddhism. The young Damodar completed his schooling from the Cambridge Latin School and joined his father's university from where he graduated in Mathematics, History and Languages. English, Greek Latin, French and German were his favorites along with Sanskrit, Pali and Persian which he learned at the feet of his father. But his basic specialty remained with Mathematics, Statistics and Genetics. He returned to India and began teaching mathematics in universities. But soon he realized that he could not limit his attention to mathematics and genetics, but the subjects which he had been pursuing as hobbies were to be taken up more seriously, especially the subjects like ancient literature, history, languages and philosophy. One of his boyhood fancies, numismatics, came handy for the study into the distant past of his country. The study of money and coins helped him to discover some significant economic and fiscal developments engulfing the Maurya and Gupta ages of India's ancient history. His analysis of the events in the socio-economic, cultural and even military fields led him to the discovery that the established historians of the land failed to see the significance of the economic factors in the course of history. It was this which led him to Marxism and for direct experience of the Marxist doctrines he read the originals in French, German, Italian and English; and he found to his surprise that even the so-called Marxist historians were not able to bring out the basic facts behind societal changes. And it was what made him in later years to be an interpreter of historical forces and developments in a different and scientific point of view. For finding more time and space in his mind, he left the universities and joined the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, from where he resigned after a couple of years to devote his time and energy entirely for studies and research and for peace. But before realizing all his dreams, he died in his sleep in 1966, at the age of 59.

His deep study of Sanskrit and ancient Indian literature resulted in his classics work on the ancient poet Bhartruhari and he published critical editions of his Shatakatrayee and Subhashitas during 1945-48. It was almost at this period that he became a Marxist. The Second World War made him an activist for the cause of peace, and he campaigned against the nuclearization of the world. He stood for alternative energy sources like solar power. And he traveled to Beijing, Moscow and Helsinki in his efforts towards the realization of peace in the world. But he did not forget his fascination for history and in 1956 he came out with his book, An Introduction to the Study of Indian History. A.L. Basham, eminent historian and a specialist on India, wrote about this book: "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."  Then came out Myth and Reality (1962), and a couple of other books on the history and culture of India, in his own unique style of analytical brilliance. He had left more than 150 works on the breathtakingly diverse fields of his interest like mathematics, electronics, history, literary studies, biology, energy, numismatics, philosophy and politics.