Surajit Chandra Sinha

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Surajit Chandra Sinha
Prof. Surajit Sinha working at his home in Shantiniketan.
Born 1926
Susang, Bengal, British India
Died 27 February 2002
Santiniketan, West Bengal, India
Nationality Indian
Occupation Anthropologist, administrator
Religion Hinduism
Spouse(s) Purnima Sinha (nee Sengupta)
Relatives Mani Sinha (Uncle)

Surajit Chandra Sinha (1926–2002) was born in Mymensingh District, (then Bengal and now) in Bangladesh since the divide, to Bhupendra Chandra Sinha (Maharaja of Susang) and a mother that belonged to a Zamindari (aristocratic) family of Sithlai in Pabna District, was an Indian anthropologist, and committed to the ideologies of both Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore.

Background[edit]

Being the eldest son of a maharaja, he was a maharajkumar and his mother could trace the origins of her family to the reign of Emperor Jahangir. His father was a well known artist who had studied at Presidency College, Calcutta. Sinha's youngest sister is Purba Dam, the eminent exponent of Rabindrasangeet. He was married to Dr. Purnima Sinha, a physicist, author and music scholar, who was the daughter of the eminent legal scholar and Bengali novelist, Dr. Nares Chandra Sen-Gupta.

In the British period, Bhupendra Chandra Sinha's official status was ranked third in protocol in the Government House of Calcutta after the Coochbehar (a princely state) and the Burdwan, the latter the highest echelon of zamindari of Bengal. The Maharajas of Susang (a hill estate), were the most influential "zamindars" of Mymensingh. The other major zamindari family of the same district were the Maharajas of Muktagacha, who in spite of being the richest zamindars in the district, considered the Susanga Maharajas to be their chiefs. The Maharaja of Susanga was the chief of all the other zamindars of Mymensingh, which emerged from the Muktagacha family, the predecessor estate.

A close paternal uncle, Maharajkumar Mani Singh was a well-known Communist Party leader and the author of Jiban Sangram. Moni Singh was an elected head of the communist party in East Pakistan. In his youth Sinha followed in the footsteps of this paternal uncle. Sinha's maternal uncle was Kumar Jyotirindra Moitra (popularly called "Botukda"), an eminent exponent of Rabindrasangeet, who was a son of a zamindar of Sithlai. Moitra was a lifelong member of the CPI and wrote the school song for Patha Bhavan, a school founded in Calcutta in the 1960s.

Even though Sinha was brought up and worked in Calcutta for the most part of his life, he spent several years (especially the last few years) in Santiniketan, where, from the beginning of the twentieth century, his family owned a house. The Sinha's of Susanga can be considered to be one of the prominent families of Santiniketan.

Education[edit]

After his education in a high school in Mymensingh and at Ballygunge Government High School, Calcutta, he started his college education in physics at Presidency College, Calcutta, but then changed to geology and then finally to anthropology. Nirmal Kumar Bose, the eminent anthropologist, became his mentor soon after they met in the viva examination for the master's degree, where Bose was one of the examiners. Later, Sinha completed his PhD in anthropology from Northwestern University in Illinois, United States on a Fulbright Scholarship.

Career[edit]

In his long and illustrious career he was a professor at Indian Institute of Management Calcutta.

He also held a number of administrative posts such as director of the Anthropological Survey of India in Calcutta. At this time he was considered to be an advisor of the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi. He was the upacharya of Visva Bharati in Santiniketan. After retirement he became the second director of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta.

Sinha distinguished himself in the field of social anthropology. Upon returning to India from the United States, he continued to conduct field research. His main area of research was Indian tribes, particularly the Bhumij tribe in central India.

Opinion[edit]

Sinha was committed to the ideologies of both Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore, arguably the two most eminent Indians in the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. The difference between the views of these two men was that whereas Gandhi wanted every Indian to be (in the best sense) a Shudra, Tagore wanted every Indian to be (also in the best sense) a Brahmin.[1]

Legacy[edit]

He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 1993 and died after a prolonged illness in 2002. He left behind a rich heritage of anthropological fields of research. He inspired a whole generation of Indian anthropologists and contributed significantly to understanding the process of acculturation of tribal people in India.

Publications[edit]

  • Science, Technology, and Culture: A Study of the Cultural Traditions and Institutions of India and Ceylon in Relation to Science and Technology
  • (ed.), Tribal Polities and State Systems in Pre-Colonial Eastern and North Eastern India, (Calcutta, 1987)
  • Tribes and Indian Civilization: Structures and Transformation (Varanasi, 1982)
  • (ed.), Ascetics of Kashi : An Anthropological Exploration, (co-edited with Baidyanath Saraswati) (Varanasi, 1978)
  • (ed.), Field Studies on the People of India : Methods and Perspectives, (In Memory of Professor Tarak Chandra Das), (Calcutta, 1978)
  • (ed.), Anthropology in India, Tribal Thought and Culture, (Calcutta, 1976) [2]
  • (ed.), Aspects of Indian Culture and Society: Essays in Felicitation of Professor Nirmal Kumar Bose, (Calcutta, 1972)
  • (ed.), Cultural Profile of Calcutta, (Calcutta, 1972)
  • (ed.), Research Programmes on Cultural Anthropology and Allied Disciplines, (Calcutta, 1970)
  • (ed.), Ethnic Groups, Villages, and Towns of Pargana Barabhum: Report of a Survey, (co-edited with Biman Kumar Dasgupta and Hemendranath Banerjee) (Calcutta, 1966)
  • (ed.), Levels of a Economic Initiative and Ethnic Groups in Paragana Barabhum, (Durham, N.C., 1964)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "A creeping Insularity – Santiniketan still has a living link with its founders". The Telegraph 12 April 2008. Retrieved 27 February 2009. 
  2. ^ "Sinha, Surajit 1926–". Retrieved 27 February 2009. 
Academic offices
Preceded by
Barun De
Director, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta
1983–1987
Succeeded by
Amiya Bagchi
Preceded by
Pratul Gupta
Upacharya, Visva-Bharati
1975–1980
Succeeded by
Amlan Dutta
Preceded by
D.K. Sen
Director, Anthropological Survey of India
1972–1975
Succeeded by
Kumar Suresh Singh