The life and writings of Dharmanand Kosambi (1876–1947), pioneering scholar of Pali and Buddhist Studies, comprise the substance of this book.
Born in rural Goa, Dharmanand came under the spell of the Buddha’s teachings during his adolescence. As described in his long autobiographical memoir (included here), at an early age he set off on an incredible journey of austere self-training across the length and breadth of Britain’s Indian Empire, halting to educate himself at places connected with Buddhism. His sojourns included living in Sri Lanka to master Pali as a novitiate-scholar, in a Burmese cave as a bhikshu, and in some viharas of North India—begging for monastic sustenance—as well as in Nepal and Sikkim which he reached after arduous, sometimes barefoot, treks. Over these itinerant years Dharmanand acquired such mastery of the Buddhist canon that he was variously appointed to teach and research at Calcutta, Baroda, Harvard, and Leningrad.
As a thinker Dharmanand blended Buddhist ethics, Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of truth and non-violence, and the ideals of socialism. He exchanged letters with the Mahatma, worked for his causes, and died in the approved Buddhist/Jain manner by voluntary starvation at Sevagram ashram. Arguably, no Indian scholar’s life has been as exemplary as Dharmanand’s, or has approximated as closely to the nobility and saintliness of the Mahatma’s.
Despite his mastery of several languages, Dharmanand chose to write in Marathi because of his strong region-specific commitment. Consequently, very few today are familiar with his copious output in Buddhist Studies, and fewer still with his contribution to social and political thought.
By translating and marshalling his most significant writings, Meera Kosambi shows the manifold dimensions of Dharmanand’s personality, and the profoundly moral character of his intellectual journeys. Her Introduction also contextualizes the life, career, and achievement of one of modern India’s greatest scholar-savants.
Meera Kosambi is a sociologist trained in India, Sweden, and the USA. She has specialized in Urban Studies and Women’s Studies. She was formerly Professor and Director of the Research Centre for Women’s Studies at the SNDT Women’s University in Mumbai. She has taught, lectured, and published widely in India and abroad. Her books include Returning the American Gaze: Pandita Ramabai’s ‘The Peoples of the United States’ (1889) (2003), Crossing Thresholds: Feminist Essays in Social History (2007), and Feminist Vision or ‘Treason against Men’? Kashibai Kanitkar and the Engendering of Marathi Literature (2008).