A. K. Ramanujan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Attipate Krishnaswami Ramanujan (16 March 1929 – 13 July 1993) also known as A. K. Ramanujan was a, Indian poet and scholar of Indian literature who wrote in both English and Kannada. Ramanujan was a poet, scholar and author, a philologist, folklorist, translator, and playwright. His academic research ranged across five languages: Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Sanskrit, and English. He published works on both classical and modern variants of these literature and also argued strongly for giving local, non-standard dialects their due. Though he wrote widely and in a number of genres, Ramanujan's poems are remembered as enigmatic works of startling originality, sophistication and moving artistry.Posthumously he has been awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1999 for his collection of poems " The Collected Poems".[1]



He was born in Mysore City on 16 March 1929. His father, Attipat Asuri Krishnaswami, a professor of mathematics at Mysore University and an astronomer, had a study crammed with books in English, Kannada and Sanskrit. His mother was a home maker. He also has a brother, a writer and mathematician A. K. Srinivasan.


He was educated at Marimallappa's High School and Maharaja College of Mysore. In college, Ramanujan majored in science in his first year, but his father, who thought him 'not mathematically minded', literally took him by the hand to the Registrar's office and changed his major from science to English. He was a Fellow of Deccan College, Pune in 1958 – 59 and Fulbright Scholar at Indiana University in 1959 – 62. He was educated in English at the University of Mysore and received his PhD in Linguistics from Indiana University [2]


Having been a lecturer in English at Quilon and Belgaum, he taught at The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda for about eight years. In 1962, he joined the University of Chicago as an assistant professor, where he was affiliated throughout the rest of his career, teaching in several departments. However, he did teach at several other US universities at times, including Harvard, University of Wisconsin, University of Michigan, University of California at Berkeley, and Carleton College. At the University of Chicago, Ramanujan was instrumental in shaping the South Asian Studies program. He worked in the departments of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, Linguistics, and with the Committee on Social Thought.

In 1976, the government of India awarded him the honorific title Padma Shri,[3] and in 1983, he was given the MacArthur Prize Fellowship (Shulman, 1994).[2] In 1983, he was appointed the William E. Colvin Professor in the Departments of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, of Linguistics, and in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, and, the same year, he received a MacArthur Fellowship.

As an Indo-American writer Ramanujan had the experience of the native milieu as well as of the foreign milieu. His poems like the "Conventions of Despair" reflected his views on the cultures and conventions of the east and the west.

A. K. Ramanujan died in Chicago, on 13 July 1993 as result of adverse reaction to anaesthesia during preparation for surgery.

Contributions to Indian Sub-Continent Studies[edit]

A. K. Ramanujan's theoretical and aesthetic contributions span several disciplinary areas. In his cultural essays such as "Is There an Indian Way of Thinking?" (1990) he explains cultural ideologies and behavioural manifestations thereof in terms of an Indian psychology he calls "context-sensitive" thinking. In his work in folklore studies, Ramanujan highlights the intertextuality of the Indian oral and written literary tradition. His essay "Where Mirrors Are Windows: Toward an Anthology of Reflections" (1989), and his commentaries in The Interior Landscape: Love Poems from a Classical Tamil Anthology (1967) and Folktales from India, Oral Tales from Twenty Indian Languages (1991) are good examples of his work in Indian folklore studies.[2]

Controversy regarding his essay[edit]

His 1991 essay "Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translations" courted controversy over its inclusion in B.A. in History syllabus of University of Delhi in 2006. In this essay, he wrote of the existence of many versions of Ramayana and a few versions portrayed Rama and Sita as siblings, which contradicts the popular versions of the Ramayana, such as those by Valmiki and Tulsidas[4]

ABVP a student wing of the BJP opposed its inclusion in the syllabus, saying it hurt the majority Hindus' sentiments, who viewed Rama and Sita as Gods who were husband and wife. They demanded the essay be removed from the syllabus. In 2008 Delhi High Court directed Delhi University to convene a committee to decide on the essay's inclusion. A 4-member committee was formed, which subsequently gave its verdict 3-1 in favour of inclusion in the syllabus.

The academic council however, ignored the committee's recommendation and voted to scrap the essay from its syllabus in Oct 2011.[5] This led to protests by many historians and intellectuals, accusing Delhi University of succumbing to the diktat of non-historians.[6]

Selected publications[edit]

His works include translations from Old Tamil and Old Kannada, such as:

Translations and studies of literature


Poetry, fiction and drama


  • The Striders. London: Oxford University Press, 1966
  • Relations. London, New York: Oxford University Press, 1971
  • Selected Poems. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1976
  • Samskara. (translation of U R Ananthamurthy's Kannada novel) Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1976
  • Second Sight. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986


  • Hokkulalli Huvilla ("No Flower in the Navel"). Dharwad, 1969
  • Mattu Itara Padyagalu ("And Other Poems"). Dharwad, 1977
  • Kuntobille ("Hopscotch")
  • Mattobbana Atma Charitre ("Yet Another Man's Autobiography")

A.K. Ramanujan's three books of Kannada Poetry, and a novella have been translated into English, and published by Oxford University Press. Poems And A Novella: Translated From Kannada(Hardcover – 2006-03-09)by A. K. Ramanujan (Author), Tonse N. K. Raju (Translator), Shouri Daniels-ramanujan (Translator). This collection has his poetry collections: 1) Hokkulalli Hoovilla (No Flower in the Navel); 2) Mattu itara kategalu (And Other Poems); and 3) Kuntobille (Hopscotch). The novella in Kannada is titled "Mattobbana Atma Charitre" ((Yet) Another Man's Autobiography).


  1. ^ "Obituary: A. K. Ramanujan". The Independent. 31 July 1993. 
  2. ^ a b c Attipat Krishnaswami Ramanujan, Biography and works Emory University.
  3. ^ "Padma Awards Directory (1954–2009)". Ministry of Home Affairs. 
  4. ^ Parashar, Arpit and Vishwajoy Mukherjee (24 October 2011). "Which version of 'Ramayana' would Ram read?". Tehelka (New Delhi). Retrieved 29 October 2012. 
  5. ^ "DU to scrap Ramanujan essay on Ramayana that incensed right wingers". First Post (New Delhi). 10 October 2011. Retrieved 29 October 2012. 
  6. ^ "Academics Upset by Oxford's Stopping Essay on Indian Epic". The Chronicle of Higher Education. 28 November 2011. Retrieved 29 October 2012. 

External links[edit]