D.N. Jha (1940-2021) obituary

Professor Dwijendra Narayan Jha passed away peacefully, at home, in Delhi, on 4 February 2021.

A former professor at the Dpt. of History, Delhi University, and Secretary of the Indian History Congress for many years, Prof. Jha was one of India’s most brilliant and respected historians. His scholarship is reflected in hundreds of books and articles which, not rarely, underline what he saw as distortions of Indian history. For instance, he dispelled the myth of ‘religious tolerance’ in ancient India, dismantled the hypothesis whereby the Ᾱryans would be amongst the original autochthonous peoples of the subcontinent (an idea that Jha considered an ‘ideological propaganda’) and demonstrated that the sacred status of the cow was a much later development than is frequently claimed. Such arguments (well documented on the grounds of meticulous textual and historical research), naturally, ended up alienating many factions, and he faced a firestorm of hostility in his lifetime. As The Indian Express wrote (5.02.2021): “Jha’s works and words played out in the battlefield of politics in modern India”.

His extraordinary learning went hand in hand with rare human qualities: generosity, kindness, humility. Every time I went to visit him, he was quick to enquire about the subject I was working on and, in addition to his ever-valuable suggestions, he inevitably put me in contact with Indian scholars who could have been of help in my project, presenting me as  “an Italian colleague”. Therefore, involuntarily, not only did I find myself raised to the ranks of a colleague of his, but, thanks to him, so many doors were opened to me with the best known scholars of contemporary India.

We shall never forget his exceptional figure, and, since behind a great man there is often a great woman, here, I also wish to thank his wife Mrs. Rajarani Jha whose care, patience and lifelong support of her husband was what, ultimately, made him the Prof. Jha we all have loved and admired.
Tiziana Lorenzetti


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