Nivedan (The Autobiography of Dharmanand Kosambi)

Item Code: NAH530
Author: Meera Kosambi
Publisher: Permanemt Black
Language: English
Edition: 2011
ISBN: 9788178243252
Pages: 104
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5 inch x 5.5 inch
Weight 200 gm
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Book Description
About The Book

The autobiography of Dharmanand Kosambi (1876-1947), pioneering scholar of Pali and Buddhist Studies, is one of the most moving and spellbinding life stories ever written.

Born in rural Goa, Dharmanand came under the spell of the Buddha's teachings during his adolescence. At an early age he set off on a remarkable journey of austere self-education across the length and breadth of Britain's Indian Empire, halting at places connected with Buddhism. He went to Sri Lanka to master Pali, lived in a Burmese cave as a bhikshu, and even reached Nepal and Sikkim after arduous, sometimes barefoot, treks. Over these itinerant years Dharmanand acquired such mastery of the Buddhist canon that he taught and researched at Calcutta, Baroda, Harvard, and Leningrad.

Dharmanand blended Buddhist ethics, Gandhi's philosophy, 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. No Indian scholar's life seems as exemplary as Dharmanand's, or has approximated as closely to the nobility and saintliness of the Mahatma's.

About The Author

Meera Kosambi's annotations and introduction contextualize the life, career, and achievement of one of modern India's greatest scholar-savants.

Meera Kosambi's books include Dharmanand Kosambi: The Essential Writings (edited, 201 0), Crossing Thresholds: Feminist Essays in Social History (2007), and Feminist Vision or 'Treason against Men'? Kashibai Kanitkar and the Engendering of Marathi Literature (2008).


I did not know my grandfather, Dharmanand Kosambi. A shocking statement, but true. My childhood image of him, formed during his visit to us in Pune, as an elderly man with a beard may be based less on actual memory and more on his photograph on our drawing- room wall. He passed away-voluntarily, by giving up all sustenance- shortly afterwards, at Gandhiji's ashram in Vardha. My father, ever reticent about personal matters, did not talk about his relationship with his parents or siblings. Thus my relationship with Grandfather is not anchored in affective involvement, but is a vain effort (in both senses of the term) to claim him as an intellectual ancestor. The pre- sumption is obvious. I am the type of scholar who complains bitterly about a few entire days spent in libraries and dusty archives with only a meagre snack for lunch and not a single energizing cup of tea (which I consume by the mugful at home). Grandfather on the other hand had in his Buddhist quest, trudged barefoot up steep mountains through occasional now to Nepal, and lived in sylvan solitude in different parts of India, Sri Lanka, and Burma, on the edge of physical survival.

Another reason on for diffidence is the need to translate into English the Marathi autobiography of a scholar who wrote excellent English , His introduction to Visuddhi-magga, which he critically Edited for the Harvard Oriental Series, and his very few other English writing that I have been able to trace, show his thorough mastery over English as well as Pali (and textual criticism), Additionally, he had studied Sanskrit with the best teachers, knew Hindi and Gujarati well, had taken a course in Russian at Harvard, and probably had a smattering of Burmese and Sinhalese. Yet he wrote mainly in Marathi, his objective being to disseminate the benefits of Buddhism to as wide an audience as possible in Maharashtra.

The present book tries to present to English-speaking readers Dharmanand, the man and the scholar, as he comes across in his auto- biography, Nivedan.. The Introduction presents his life trajectory in brief and situates the text.

I have referred to Grandfather as 'Dharmanand' here and in the Introduction. This is in keeping with the Marathi convention of using the first name, along with the plural pronoun denoting the honorific- a distinction that unfortunately cannot be made in English. His name is spelt 'Dharrnananda' on the title page of Visuddhi-magga, but my father wrote his own name as 'Damodar Dharmanand Kosambi' and I have retained the latter transliteration.

The present book draws from my edited book of translations, Dharmanand Kosambi: The Essential Writings (Permanent Black, 2010). That book's first section, Nivedan, is a self-contained autobiographical memoir. Paperbacking Nivedan by itself was suggested by Rukun Advani-a most worthwhile suggestion for which I thank him. In translating the Sanskrit (and occasional Pali) quotations in the original text, I have received generous help from Dr M.G. Dhadphale, former Professor of Sanskrit and Pali at Fergusson College. Dr Madhavi Kolhatkar of the Deccan College of Post-graduate Studies (Deemed University) helped with translations of old Marathi verses of saint poets.

An absolutely indispensable resource centre for this exercise was the R.N. Dandekar Library of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute at Pune (established in the name of R.G. Bhandarkar, a scholar whom Grandfather knew well and greatly admired). The librarian, Shri Satish Sangle, provided willing and unstinting help. In Pune I also consulted the library of the Kesari-Mahratta Trust, the Bai Jerbai Wadia Library of Fergusson College, and the library of the Academy of Political and Social Science; in Mumbai I consulted the Mumbai Marathi Grantha-Sangrahalaya, Gandhi Memorial Museum and Library (Mani Bhavan), and the Jawaharlal Nehru Library of the University of Mumbai. Shri Ashim Mukhopadhyay, Library Information Assistant at the National Library, Calcutta, kindly provided the correct nineteenth-century spellings of most of the Bengali personal and place names mentioned in Nivedan.

The photos reproduced here have been taken mostly from Nivedan. The frontispiece is from the D.D. Kosambi collection (and was taken by himself); Dharmanand's photo dated c. 1909 has been taken from Manoranjan, Diwali Issue, 1909. I owe a deep debt of gratitude to all these individuals and institutions for their contribution to this book.

Finally, a note on the translation. An attempt has been made to retain the flavour of early- twentieth-century Marathi, avoiding current- and identifiably 'modern'-usage. In accordance with the accepted convention, round brackets denote matter in the original; square brackets indicate my additions. The original footnotes have been retained intact, and added in parentheses to the body of the text, where feasible. Quotations from Sanskrit, Pali, and old Marathi sources have been put in a very visibly different font, partly because they appear in bold letters in the originals.

The title 'Bhagavan' as applied to the Buddha has been translated as 'Lord'; 'the Buddha's religion or Dharma' as 'the Dhamma' (for easy identification, as suggested by Dr Meena Talim); and 'the sangha of monks (bhikkhus)' as 'the Sangha. Old Marathi place names (which are still in use) have been retained as in the original (e.g. Pune, Mumbai), except when these occur in old institutional names (e.g. the Bombay Presidency)-as far as Maharashtra is concerned. In other cases, old English names have been used to facilitate name recognition (e.g, Baroda instead of the Marathi Badode). The names 'Ceylon' and 'Sinhala-dvipa' have been retained in translation as in the original, although I have referred to the country as Sri Lanka in the Introduction. 'Brahmadesh' has been changed to Burma (though it is now Myanmar), again for easy name recognition.

As for transliteration, I have hyphenated long words, names, and book tides for ease of pronunciation and understanding (while respecting the Sanskrit/Pali/Marathi rules for compounds), although this is not an accepted practice. I personally find inordinately long Sanskrit, Pali, or Marathi words in the Roman script-even with diacritical marks-forbidding. For the same reason I have occasionally transposed certain personal names: for example, Shrisumangalacharya is some- times changed to Acharya Shri Sumangala, and Shantidev-acharya to Acharya Shantidev. It was decided, on the publisher's advice, not to use diacritical marks, because this book-like all of Dharmanand's Marathi writings-is meant for the average reader and not the Indologist. However, an attempt has been made to indicate the correct pronunciation-in the absence of diacritical marks-with 'aa' whenever strictly necessary. This has not been done for other vowels (except in rare cases), in order to avoid unwieldiness.

In conclusion all I can say is that this book has been, more than a labour of love, a partial repayment of my debt of gratitude to Grand- father, to whom I owe my physical as well as intellectual existence. Despite the rationalism instilled into me since childhood by my father, I cherish the irrational belief that Grandfather has somehow helped this effort along so that the translation was made in record time. My earnest hope is that it would have passed muster with him.


Dharmanand Kosambi's life (1876-1947) was largely devoted to a single cherished goal: popularizing the Buddha's message among his fellow Maharashtrians. This humanist mission coexisted with his intellectual career as a Buddhist scholar within academia-in India as well as in countries like the USA and Russia. As a thinker he also attempted to disseminate the ideas of egalitarianism and world peace across national boundaries, blending the ideology of socialism with the ethics of Buddhism and both with Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy of truth and non-violence. By seeking to anchor his social and political concerns in spirituality and moral uprightness, Dharmanand occupies a distinct, albeit relatively solitary, niche in Gandhiji's struggle for Independence.

To Dharmanand goes the credit for reviving Buddhism as a living religion in twentieth-century India, long after it had disappeared from the country, leaving behind only magnificent ruins as a mute testimony to its glorious existence. In reviving Buddhism, he not only reintroduced the doctrine and practice of the religion but also established its relevance to contemporary social and political ideologies, thus creating a new, cohesive worldview. The story of how and why this happened is unfolded through his autobiographical narrative (Atma-nivedan) in Marathi, known by its abbreviated title Nivedan (A Narrative).

Despite his mastery of several languages, Dharmanand chose to : write his autobiography as well as other books in Marathi because of his strong region-specific commitment-though few general readers are familiar today with his copious Marathi output in the field of Buddhist Studies, and fewer still are aware of his contribution as a social and political thinker.

This book seeks to reveal, through a translation of Nivedan, the manifold dimensions of Dharmanand's personality and of his intellectual and ideological journey.


A Narrative (Nivedan), 1912-192423
1Childhood Memories25
3General Conditions31
4Renouncing My Homeland35
5Diary and Notes39
6Sojourn in Punya-pattan45
7From Pune to Gwalior52
8Pilgrimage to Kashi57
9Sojourn in Kashi60
10Journey to Nepal74
11From Nepal to Ceylon87
12Vidyodaya Vidyalaya103
13Madras and Burma114
14Pilgrimage to Buddhist Holy Places121
15Burma Again148
17Patronage of Shrimant Gaikwad Maharaj169
18A Passage to America175
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