NOBORU KARASHIMA (1933-2015) National

Tamil scholar who inspired a generation

Professor Noboru Karashima was instrumental in setting up the International Association of Tamil Research.

Professor Noboru Karashima was instrumental in setting up the International Association of Tamil Research.  

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Noboru Karashima, the distinguished scholar and historian of South Asia, whose body of research has rewritten the economic and social history of medieval South India, died in Tokyo on Thursday. He was 82. At the time of his death, Professor Karashima was Professor Emeritus at the University of Tokyo and Taisho University.

Professor Karashima was the recipient of the Padma Shri in 2013 for his contributions in building India-Japan ties. As he could not travel to New Delhi to receive the award, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in a gesture of recognition and respect, personally presented the award to him in Japan.

From his first study — a small but ground-breaking essay that he published almost 55 years ago on land control in the two Cauvery delta villages of Allur and Isanamangalam, based on the study of Chola inscriptions — Professor Karashima had to delve deeper into understanding land relations and social relationships in medieval Tamil Nadu. His seminal contribution to South Indian history was his use of statistical techniques to distil information from a mass of inscriptions, thereby lending his interpretations and conclusions a more sound and reliable base. His last major book is A Concise History of South India, published last year.

Professor Karashima was instrumental in setting up the International Association of Tamil Research, and had been its president from 1989 to 2010. He was the principal organiser of the 8th World Tamil Conference in Thanjavur in 1995, although he dissociated himself from its 9th edition on the ground that the conference had been hijacked by the political establishment. He had been the president of the Japan Association for South Asian Studies from 1996 to 2000, helping to build it into a vibrant and scholarly organisation it currently is.

In Japan, Professor Karashima was a popular figure on television where he commented on South Asian culture, including Indian cuisine.

A steadfast friend and admirer of India in general, and Tamil Nadu in particular, Professor Karashima has exercised a strong intellectual influence on a generation of Tamil scholars, both in Japan and India.

He is survived by his wife, Takako Karashima, who is the author of a popular book on India that has run into several editions, three sons and three grandchildren.

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Printable version | Nov 17, 2018 3:14:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-scholar-who-inspired-a-generation/article7920303.ece

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