Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dr T. Bhaskaran

I am sorry to read today that Dr T. Bhaskaran has died (d. 12.8.2010).

In the 1980s, Dr Bhaskaran was Director of the Oriental Manuscript Library and Research Institute, University of Kerala. (On the OMLRI, that many of us will have visited over the years, see here). Amongst his many books, Dr Bhaskaran was particularly proud of his publication, with his successor Dr K. Vijayan, of the facsimile edition of a beautiful illustrated palm-leaf manuscript of the Rāmāyaṇa, over which he took great pains to ensure high-quality colour reproduction and typesetting (Chitra Ramayanam, 1997, published by the University of Kerala, Trivandrum Sanskrit Series no.265, and on CD by CDIT).

Dr Bhaskaran also prepared and published three volumes of the Alphabetical Index of Sanskrit Manuscripts in the Oriental Research Institute and Manuscripts Library, Univ. of Trivandrum, that are essential guides to the MS holdings of the library.  This series was started with vol.1 (a - na, 6079 works) in 1957 by Suranad Kunjan Pillai, and continued with vol.2 (ta - ma, 7980 works) in 1965 by K. Raghavan Pillai. There the series halted for decades, until Dr Bhaskaran re-enlivened it, finishing off the alphabet (vols 3 & 4, 1984 & 1986, 5253 & 2218 works), and starting a supplemental series (vol. 5, 1988, covering 4643 works). Few people in the world can say that they have catalogued 12,000 Sanskrit manuscripts.  The impulse of Dr Bhaskaran's diligent cataloguing work directly inspired the library to complete the Supplementary Index in two further volumes (1995, 2000).  These seven volumes cover the 35,060 Sanskrit MSS in the library that have been catalogued, amounting to about half the library's total holdings.

Dr Bhaskaran was a member of the Ezhava community.  He was proud to have been such a leading figure in Sanskrit studies in Kerala, and explained to me a few years ago, when I visited him in his retirement in Aleppey, that the Ezhavas as a group were often quite wrongly categorized merely as toddy-tappers, when in fact many members of their society were physicians and herbalists, as well as Sanskritists.  As an example, he cited the famous facsimile inscription of 20 April 1675 in the Hortus Malabaricus (Amsterdam, 1678-1693) in which the Ezhava Itty Acyutan, "Doctor Malabaricus," wrote about his own contribution to that magisterial work of Dutch botanical science.

Dr Bhaskaran was a kind and learned man, who did much quiet and important work for the indological field of studies.


  1. Saw this post only today. After almost 5 year after my father's demise.
    Thank you so much for putting in your thoughts on him.

    1. It is very nice to hear from you, Niranj, and I am glad that you found this notice about your father. He made a great impression on me.