Marxism and Classical Sanskrit Literature: D.D. Kosambi’s Approach and Assessment

Ramkrishna Bhattacharya


In this essay I examine D. D. Kosambi’s approach and assessment of classical Sanskrit literature from the Marxist point of view. In the first part, I discuss S. N. Dasgupta’s critique of the Marxist approach to art and literature, arguing that Dasgupta had an idealist (and idealized) view of Indian society that does not match historical reality. I then contrast Dasgupta’s views with those of Kosambi. The latter asserted that there was no qualitative change in the means of production and hence in the relations of production in India before the imposition of British rule. In his view, classical Sanskrit literature too reflects this ground reality. In the second part, I discuss how Kosambi’s Marxist approach to art and literature was both aesthetic and historical. Through presenting Kosambi’s appreciation of classical Sanskrit literature, I show that Daniel H. H. Ingalls misapprehended Kosambi’s views and that his criticism of Kosambi was misdirected accordingly.

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