5 Great Anthropologists of India and Their Contributions in the Field of Anthropology

Indian anthropologists who made great contributions towards Anthropology are listed below:

1. N. K. Bose:

Normal Kumar Bose is a highly familiar and respected name in Indian Anthropology. He was born in 1901. He got his schooling at Patina and Ranchi and higher education at Calcutta. He did his Master’s in Anthropology in 1925.

He was involved in freedom struggle and his academic career was interrupted several times by certain nationalist events. He taught anthropology at Calcutta University.

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N. K. Bose also served as a visiting scholar in the University of California, Berkley and Chicago. He also acted as the Director, Anthropological Survey of India during 1959-64 and served as advisor on tribal affairs, Government of India.

He retired in 1964 and from then onwards served in various capacities. He distinguished himself as a devoted social worker and was involved with several philanthropic organizations.

Bose had multifarious interests in the outside anthropology. Beside being author of books like Cultural Anthropology (1929) and Problems of Indian Nationalism (1969) he also published works such as Canons of Orissan Architecture (1932), Excavations in Mayurbhanj (1949) and Calcutta: A Social Survey (1964). He also served as editor of Man in India. He also wrote profusely in Bengali and helped popularizing anthropology and making it more relevant to the contemporary society. He died in 1972.

2. D. N. Majumdar:

Dhirendra Nath Majumdar shall definitely be included in such a category of persons known for his fierce devotion to the subject and his passion for the expansion for the expansion of anthropology so dear to his heart. He occupies a unique place in Indian Anthropology. To many he was a father figure, a patriarch and an institution into himself. If one is asked to name the persons dedicated to the cause of Anthropology in India.

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D. N. Majumdar was born in 1903 at Patna and pursued his education at Dacca, Calcutta, and Cambridge. He obtained a Master’s in anthropology from Calcutta University in 1924 and was recipient of several prestigious awards.

In 1928 he joined the Department of Economics and Sociology, Lucknow University, as a lecturer in ‘Primitive Economics’. In the midtwenties, Majumdar had turned down his nomination of a sub-deputy collectorship and preferred to do anthropological fieldwork in Chotanagpur.

He was initiated into field work by the great ethnographer S. C. Roy and he always acknowledge this profusely. In 1933 he went to Cambridge to write his doctoral thesis on culture contact and acculturation among the Ho of Kolhan under Hodson. He was awarded Ph.D. in 1935.

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He was invited to deliver a course of lectures at Cambridge during this period. This was a rare honor for any Indian. He was also elected as a fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute of great Britain and Ireland.

Though he specialized in social anthropology, he also maintained active interest in Physical anthropology and prehistory. He got advanced training in physical anthropology from Morant and Gates.

He was greatly influenced by Malinowski and regarded him as his teacher. On his return in India he joined his old post in Lucknow University. In 1939 he presided over the Anthropology and Archaeology section of Indian Science Congress. The number of medals and honor conferred on him were countless.

D. N. Majumdar was also involved in the decennial census of 1941 and he carried out an anthropometic and serological survey for the Untied Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh). The legendary statistician P. C. Mahalanobis collaborated with him in this endeavour. His involvement and devotion to the subject may be gauged from the fact that he was the most knowledgeable anthropologist about the tribes and castes.

His knowledge of the Ho of Chotanagpur and the Khasa (Jounsari) of Jounsar Bawar was amazing. The people of Bengal, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh and the tribals of Baster were intimately known to him. Along with Ferrier Elwin he initiated ‘problem oriented ethnography’.

He founded the Ethnographic and Fold Culture Society, U.P. in 1945 and later on brought a journal The Eastern Anthropologist. The society as well as the journal still remains to remind the world of his immense contribution to anthropology. He lectured at several prestigious universities of the world.

D. N. Majumdar may be regarded as a pioneer among Indian anthropologists to do ‘village studies’. The study of non-tribal peasant society was new trend. “He not only came forward with a ‘model’ of what anthropological village studies ought to be but even undertook the unconventional task of demarcating the social contours of an industrial city.

Along with these he also undertook and completed the evaluation of administratively engineered social change” (Gopal Sarn, 1961). He always remained in the forefront in Indian Anthropology. He was the innovator of acculturation studies as well as ‘theoretically oriented ethnography’.

We do not know of any Indian anthropologies other than D. N. Majumdar, who besides writing tribal monographs, studied various tribes in transition presented a model of anthropological village study, delineated the social contours of an industrial city, carried out anthropometric and serological survey, carried out excavation, influenced And molded a whole generation of anthropologist, a popularized anthropology in every department and acted as patriarch. D.N. Majumdar is the greatest academic anthropologist India has produce so far.

At the time of his death in 1961, he was head of the department he founded and Dean Faculty of Arts. True to his life style and philosophy he expired after an extremely busy day’s work. His bibliography runs into several pages and his works are too well known to be enumerated hail again.

3. M. N. Srinivas:

Mysore Narasimbachar Srinivas (popularly known as M. N. Srinivas) is a highly respected name in the contemporary sociology/social anthropology. He was born in 1961 and received his early education in Karnataka.

He did his Masters in sociology from Mysore University, Ph. D in Sociology from Bombay University and D. Phil in Social anthropology from the Oxford University. Srinivas has taught at Delhi University, M.S. University, Baroda and Oxford University. He has been a recipient of many prestigious awards and fellowships.

The first systematic attempt to define the processes of social change in Indian Society was attempted by Srinivas through his path breaking concept of Sanskritizations and Westernization. This concept was evolved by him in the course of his study of Coorgs of South India, later published as and Society among the Coorgs of South India (1952).

By providing lead in this direction, Srinivas inspired several Indian Sociologists and social anthropologists to do empirical research on India Society to understand the direction and the process of change hastened by the independence of the country.

Later on, when he published his paper Dominant Caste in Rampura (1959) in American Anthropologists, he gave further lead to the social scientist to understand the contemporary ground realities in village India. The phenomena of power and dominance in village India, to be understood through the concept of dominant caste, provide the basis to understand the nature of socio-economic political change in village India.

When linked with twin concepts of Sanskritization and . Westernization, this concept provide the crucial basis of understand the dynamics of social change were derived from memory after the whole text was lost in a dormitory fire where Srinivas was staying in the Stanford University USA.

Some of his other very well known works are Caste in Modern India (1962), Social Change in Modern India (1966) and India’s Village (ed.) (1955). Beside these and some other books he has also published more than hundred research papers.

M. N. Srinivas in still very active and academically productive. He has trained a whole generation of sociologists and social anthropologists some of whom are occupying prestigious positions in India and abroad.

4. S. C. Dube:

Shyama Charan Dube belongs to that category of social anthropologist who did not do their master’s or Ph.D. specifically in anthropology and yet, like M. N. Srinivas considered top ranking social anthropologist. S. C. Dube obtained his master’s degree in political science (with a special paper on social anthropology).

He wrote his doctoral dissertation in sociology on the Kamar, a tribe of Madhya Pradesh. He taught political science at Lucknow University and sociology/social anthropology at Nagpur and Osmania. He also served for some time in Anthropological Survey of India and National Institute of Community Development. He also taught at Sagar, London and Cornell Universities.

A fine field researcher, he did his field work in Chattisgarh, Telangana region (Andhra Pradesh) and West Orissa. He is best known for his theoretical interest and contributions in the field of social structure and sociology of economic development’.

Social change and economic development has been the major theme of his several works like India’s Changing Villages: Human Factors in Community Development (1958). Power and Conflict in Village India and several research papers His Indian Village (1955) is considered a major work in village studies.

S. C. Dube has always advocated for a dynamic social science responsive to the contemporary challenges. His Social Science in Changing Society is an important contribution in this field.

The theme of development and modernization has been uppermost in the work of Dube for the last two decades. It began prominently with the publication of his collection of articles titled Contemporary India and its Modernization (1973) and Explanation and Management of Change (1971) and Culminated in Modernization and Development The Search fro Alternative Paradigms (1988). He was born in 1922 and continues to be highly productive in the academic world.

5. L. R Vidyarthi:

Lalita Prasad Vidyarthi, popularly known as LPV is a familiar name in contemporary Indian anthropology. Vidyarthi did his masters in anthropology from Lucknow University and Ph.D. from Chicago. He was a student of D. N. Majumadar at Lucknow and Robert Redfield at Chicago, Perhaps, his was the last Ph.D. thesis supervised by the great patriarch of Chicago.

L. P. Vidyarthi joined Ranchi University and almost single handed raised the status of the anthropology department and added multifarious dimension to it a major department of anthropology in the country, centre of advanced studies in anthropology and a very productive area of anthropological research. Expansion of anthropology in the country was a passion with him.

The concept of ‘Sacred Complex’ is an original contribution of Vidyarthi through which the cultural processes in the India Civilization is sought to be understood. His Rise to Anthropology in India, a two volume narration of the growth of Indian anthropology is perhaps the only detailed treatise on this subject.

He did field work mostly among the tribes of Bihar and developed new insights into applied anthropology. When he headed the ‘Task force for the Development of the Backward Area’s, appointed by the Planning Commission on the eve of the Fifth Five Year Plan, it brought great honour to applied anthropology in India.

The concept of ‘Tribal Sub Plan’ (TSP) now in vogue is a product of this effort. He has published several books and research papers on applied anthropology. By writing extensively on the impact of industrialization and urbanization on the tribes of Chotanagpur region, he contributed immensely to an ‘Industrial Anthropology’ in India.

When the ‘Tenth International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences’ was held in 1978 in India it not only brought a singular honour to India (because it was the first time when this congress was held in any Asian Country) but also to L. P. Vidyarthi who chaired the Congress.