ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Sukumari Bhattacharji's World

Sukumari Bhattacharji - Sanskritist, historian, writer, educationist - with a passionate commitment to social and political change, passed away on 24 May 2014 at the age of 92. Excerpts from an interview the author conducted with her.

My first introduction to Sukumari Bhattacharji was through her The Indian Theogony, an encyclopaedic study, based on Sanskrit texts, of Vedic and Puranic deities, which appeared in 1970. Through the 1980s and 1990s, she wrote with empathy and erudition on Sanskrit literature, and more polemically, and often in Bengali, on issues relating to women and society. Some of her articles were published in the Economic & Political Weekly and many Bengali pieces appeared in the Anandabazar Patrika. All her writings were informed by her theoretical concerns within a Marxist framework.

We met for the first time in the 1990s, when she was visiting her daughter, Tanika Sarkar in Delhi. Whenever I called, her curiosity and enthusiasm would lead to fruitful conversations. In March 2003, she agreed to a more formal interview, conducted in English and Bengali. I took notes as she spoke. There were questions that inevitably remained unasked, unanswered, unaddressed. These are excerpts from the transcript of the interview which tell us not only about her life as an intellectual and political being, but also about the contexts which enabled pioneers like her to succeed.

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