History of Anthropology in India

The Memorandum of Articles of The Asiatic Society, prepared by Jones read as follows: The bounds of investigations will be the geographical limits of Asia, and within these limits, its enquiries will be extended to whatever is performed by the man or produced by nature. The next impetus for Anthropology in India came with the Census operations by the British administration in 1881. Indian census data and its publications included a huge amount of anthropological information and the first Census Commissioner Sir H.H.Risley constructed the first racial classification of the Indian population. Censuse

Anthropology in India began under colonial rule. Both European scholars and British administrators contributed to the establishment of Anthropology in India.

The first anthropological publications started with The Asiatic Society, which was established on 15 January 1784 in Kolkata by Sir William Jones, a philologist although, anthropology was not separately studied in this pioneering centre of learning in India, the scholars in Asiatic Society studied language, history, arts and the sciences.

The Memorandum of Articles of The Asiatic Society, prepared by Jones read as follows: The bounds of investigations will be the geographical limits of Asia, and within these limits, its enquiries will be extended to whatever is performed by the man or produced by nature. The next impetus for Anthropology in India came with the Census operations by the British administration in 1881.

Indian census data and its publications included a huge amount of anthropological information and the first Census Commissioner Sir H.H.Risley constructed the first racial classification of the Indian population. Censuses yielded massive biological and cultural information on the tribes and castes of India, which formed a major source of anthropological data.

The first Department of Anthropology was established at Calcutta University in 1920 by the famous Indian Vice-Chancellor, Sir Ashutosh Mukhopadhyay and Ananthakrishna Ayer (a pioneering Indian anthropologist) were its Head of the department.

Famous Indian Anthropologists, mostly trained outside India were the founder teachers in the department. Ramaprasad Chanda, Panchanan Mitra, B.S.Guha, K.P. Chattppadhaya, T.C.Das, N.K.Bose, D.Sen, S.S.Sarkar and wiki many others developed a strong empirical tradition of Anthropology in India characterised by fieldwork in social-cultural anthropology and anthropometry in physical anthropology.

The thrust on a holistic approach was the cardinal feature of anthropology in India. In contrast to Europe, Indian anthropologists paid more importance to the collection of data from the field rather than to building theories.

B.S.Guha, the founder and Director of the Anthropological Survey of India wrote an account of the history of Indian anthropology, which was published by the Indian Science Congress as early as 1938.

Guha's article entitled ‘Progress of Anthropology in India during the past twenty-five years’ is the first comprehensive account on the history of Indian anthropology by an Indian anthropologist (Guha 1938:300-335)

Gradually, universities in Lucknow, Delhi, Madras and Pune also developed strong traditions of anthropological research and teaching and the largest governmental organisation, the Anthropological Survey of India was established by Dr.B.S.Guha also began with the holistic framework of anthropology and added interdisciplinary collaborations with other biological and social sciences, like biochemistry, geography and linguistics.