Sons of Sarasvatī

Late Exemplars of the Indian Intellectual Tradition

Edited and translated by Chinya V. Ravishankar
Introduction by Chinya V. Ravishankar

Subjects: India And South Asian Studies, Intellectual History, Biography
Hardcover : 9781438471839, 498 pages, September 2018
Paperback : 9781438471846, 498 pages, July 2019

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Presents rare biographies of traditional Indian scholars during the nineteenth century, a critical moment of transition for the Indian intellectual tradition.


Traditional Indian pāṇḍitya (scholarship) has a long and distinguished history but is now practically extinct. Its decline is remarkably recent—traditional pāṇḍitya flourished as recently as 150 years ago. The decline is also paradoxical, having occurred precipitously following a broad and remarkable flowering of the tradition between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries. The important questions this decline poses are the subject of much ongoing work. The intellectual history of the period is still under construction, and the present book represents a major contribution to the project.

A notable impediment has been the lack of critical biographies of significant thinkers in this tradition. The importance of personal and social context for reconstructing intellectual histories is widely understood. In the classical Indian intellectual tradition, however, authors systematically exclude such context, making intellectual biography something of a rarity—very rare in English and sparse even in the regional languages.

This book contains translations from the original Kannaḍa of the biographies of Garaḷapurī Śāstri, Śrīkaṇṭha Śāstri, and Kuṇigala Rāmaśāstri of nineteenth-century Mysore, all representing the highest echelons of traditional pāṇḍitya at this critical period of transition. Their fields are literature, grammar, and logic, respectively. The biographies focus on the personal lives of these scholars and their many contexts.

These biographies are almost contemporaneous accounts, reflecting firsthand knowledge. The translations are accompanied by copious footnotes as well as appendices drawn from the relevant primary sources.

Chinya V. Ravishankar is Professor of Computer Science and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education at the Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering at the University of California, Riverside.


"What has been missing in the past forty years of discussion of nineteenth-century Indian Orientalism and colonialism are fine-textured accounts of the Indian orientalists themselves, those who cultivated, reproduced, and promulgated knowledge of their own textual past. Ravishankar's book is a valuable contribution toward that project. He has given us a fascinating and unique picture of Indian intellectual life in its pre-colonized form. " — Sheldon Pollock, Arvind Raghunathan Professor of South Asian Studies, Columbia University