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Nirmal Kumar Bose (22 January 1901 – 15 October 1972)[1] was a leading Indian anthropologist, who played a formative role in "building an Indian Tradition in Anthropology".[2] A humanist scholar with a broad range of interests, he was also a leading sociologist, urbanist, Gandhian, and educationist. Also active in the Indian freedom struggle with Mahatma Gandhi, he was imprisoned in 1931 during the Salt Satyagraha.

Life in anthropology

Bose was originally from Kolkata. His anthropological work was founded on extensive field work and had a pragmatic prescriptive basis, and was considered[by whom?] radical against the background of earlier descriptive work by British anthropologists.[citation needed]

His initial work was among the Juang of Orissa, as part of his master's work at Calcutta University (1924–25).[3] In 1929, he brought out Cultural Anthropology, presenting a developing world view of anthropology and culture. 1932 saw the publication of Canons of Orissan architecture, 1932, announcing his interest in art and architecture. His sociological interests were reflected in Some aspects of caste in Bengal (1958), and his urbanist interests in Calcutta 1964: a social survey (1968) and Anthropology and some Indian problems (1972).

Among his major works is the study Peasant Life in India (1961), based on a wide study with data collected from 311 out of 322 districts of India.[4] Here he comments on the considerable interpenetration in the material culture of rural India, "on the whole independent of language as well as of physical types".[5] Other important work includes The Structure of Indian Society (1949).

He was also the editor, from 1951 until his death, of the journal Man in India. He was the director of the Anthropological Survey of India from 1959 to 1964. In 1957–58, he visited the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Chicago. In 1965, he undertook a survey of the Hill districts of Assam and in the following year, the tribal regions of Arunachal Pradesh (then NEFA).

Over a long career during much of which he was also involved in political struggle and government offices, he "found time to write more than 700 articles and almost thirty books",[6] writing in both Bengali and English, for the general public and a scholarly audience.

Prof Bose had also written a descriptive book on the Sun Temple of Konarak in Orissa, in Bengali, titled Konaraker Bibaran. This title was out of print for a long time till recently, when New Age Publishers Private Limited of Kolkata published a new edition, annotated by Prasenjit Dasgupta and Soumen Paul.

Association and works on Mahatma Gandhi

Bose had been reading the works of Mahatma Gandhi since his college days, and his Selections from Gandhi (1934) remains a broad and useful anthology of Gandhi's work. Between 1934 and 1947, Bose started working closely with Gandhi, and served as his secretary in the mid-1940s. He developed a broad appreciation for his ideology, which is reflected in his analytical Studies in Gandhism (1940). This period is covered in his My Days with Gandhi (1953) which describes the last decade of Gandhi's life, particularly his courageous stance in personally moving into areas with fierce communal violence (Noakhali 1947).[7] While Bose held Gandhi's philosophy in high esteem, he was far more sceptical of his experiments with suppressing his own sexuality. In a letter to a friend, he wrote:

Gandhi sometimes asked women to share his bed and even the cover which he used, and tried to ascertain if even the least trace of sensual feeling had been evoked in himself or his companion ... Whatever may be the value of the [experiment] on Gandhiji's own case, it does leave a mark of injury on the personality of others who are not of the same moral stature."[8]

Eventually, an episode involving Gandhi's celibate sleeping with camp physician Sushila Nayyar contributed to a rift.[9]

The Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts has organized the N. K. Bose memorial lectures once every two years since 1993. Anthropologist Surajit Chandra Sinha has written a field biography: The Anthropology of Nirmal Kumar Bose (1970).


  1. ^
  2. ^ Anthropology of Nirmal Kumar Bose, Surajit Chandra Sinha, 1970, quoted in
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Peasant Life in India: A Study in Indian Unity and Diversity, by N.K. Bose, Anthropological Survey of India, Calcutta, 1961
  6. ^ Bose, Nirmal Kumar, The Routledge Dictionary of Anthropologists
  7. ^ My days with Gandhi, Nirmal K Bose, Orient Longmans 1953
  8. ^
  9. ^ Bose, My days with Gandhi, episode in chapt 12, views in chapter 18.



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