Vol. XLIII No. 08 February 24, 2019

TAMIL NADU: Centenary Celebrations of Lokayata Philosopher Held

V B Ganesan

BIRTH centenary of Indian Marxist philosopher, Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya, was observed by the Marxist (Tamil) monthly, in association with Bharathi Puthagalayam and the department of philosophy, Pachaiyappas College, Chennai. A one-day seminar was held at Chennai, on February 16, to remember his contributions to unearth the treasure called Lokayata from the ancient Indian philosophy, including vedic literature, that created a new world of thought in India.

The seminar attracted a gamut of people from all walks of life, notably a large number of students of philosophy from many city colleges. Prof V Srinivasan, head of the department of philosophy, Pachaiyappas College welcomed the gathering.

Presiding over the morning session, Dr N Settu, principal of the 175 years-old college, recalled the contribution of Prof Chattopadhyaya in moulding the Lokayata philosophy from many a groove of vedas and upanishads. With this effort, Debiprasad has established the plurality of thought in Indian philosophy, he said.

Prof A Karunanandam, former head of the department of history, Vivekananda College, opined that this occasion should be taken up as an opportunity for introspection. He also recalled the dictum of Marx that philosophy should be utilised as a tool to change the world.

Presenting a paper titled ‘Interaction of Science and Philosophy in the writings of Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya’, P K Rajan, editor, Bharathi Puthagalayam, outlined the efforts of Chattopadhyaya in drawing attention to the importance of science as gleaned from the ancient literature and its suppression by the vedanta adherents.

Dr M Venkatachalapathy, from University of Madras, speaking on ‘Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya on Sankhya Yoga’, recalled that from the days of Dr S Radhakrishnan, the study of Indian philosophy restricted itself with vedanta, a branch of philosophy and castigated those ancient philosophies centering around worldly matters such as Sankhya, Carvaka and Mimamsa, as second rate. He also proposed a study centre to take up a deep study of one book of Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya in every sitting which will be helpful in imparting the value of his writings among the present students of philosophy.

Dr Era Murali, former principal of Madura College, Madurai, explained the role of Chattopadhyaya and how he adopted social and materialistic approach in expounding vedanta literature. He was also the first person to use archaeology to establish philosophical viewpoints, he said.

Dr Krishnan, head of department of philosophy, Vivekananda College, reiterated that Chattopadhyaya is the one who brought out the nuances of Indian ideology and proved once again that you can understand the materialistic philosophy only after analysing the path of how the idealistic philosophy was developed over the years. He also pointed that Chattopadhyaya paved the path for secularism in Indian philosophy through his scientific orientation.

While presiding over the afternoon session, N Gunasekaran, editor, Marxist (Tamil), opined that this seminar has turned into an opportunity to know about Indian philosophy with all its nuances. He also said that it was Chattopadhyaya who had established the plurality of Indian philosophy through his painstaking effort to unearth the materialistic philosophy from the all-pervading vedanta philosophy. These centenary celebrations will be more appropriate and useful to take his ideas across a wider section of general public, he said.

Dr S Panneerselvam, head, department of philosophy, University of Madras, delivered a lecture on ‘The approach of Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya and its modern and future possibilities’ and said that such a deep-rooted discussion will be helpful to the students of philosophy who are still being fed with the predominant vedantic literature. He has also pointed out that though Chattopadhyaya was a student of Dr S Radhakrishnan and Dr Dasgupta at Calcutta University, he treaded a different path by following a scientific attitude towards Indian philosophy.

Dr S Madhavan, professor of Tamil, Mannar College, Pudukkottai, explained in detail about Chattopadhyaya’s approach in unearthing the Jain and Buddhist philosophies in order to establish the materialistic content in Indian Philosophy.

Dr AT Revathy, professor of philosophy, Pachaiyappas College, gave an illuminating lecture on the views of Chattopadhyaya upon materialistic contents in Indian philosophy which was hitherto unknown even to the students of philosophy.

Prof Arunan in his valedictory address enunciated the role of Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya in understanding the inherent materialistic streaks within the Indian vedanta philosophy and further lamented about the lack of English translation of Neelakesi and Manimekalai, epics of post-Sangam age, wherein enough references are available about the various philosophical streaks which prevailed during that period. He also said that with such knowledge, Chattopadhyaya’s materialistic presentation would have been enormous.

Dr Uthirakumaran, manager, Bharathi Puthagalayam, proposed a vote of thanks.

In all, this one day seminar gave an opportunity to the teachers and students of philosophy to get to know the ground-breaking contributions of Prof Chattopadhyaya in the study of Indian philosophy. On this occasion, Bharathi Puthagalayam brought out four books of Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya in Tamil as well as a short biography written by Dr Era Murali which was released at the venue.