Religion and Society
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This book consists of eight "Stephanos Nirmalendu Ghose Lectures for 1981" delivered by Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya. The series had been instituted by Rai Bahadur G.C. Ghosh at the University of Calcutta as a memorial to his late son. Rai Bahadur, a devout Christian, intended the lectures to be a defence or, perhaps more appropriately, a propagation of religion. It is a tribute to India’s spirit of respect for difference of opinion that a staunch Marxist was invited to deliver one series of lectures.
Professor Chattopadhyaya in his turn sought to unravel the social function of religion in different stages of human evolution. Following the Marxian schema, he visualized human history essentially in three stages: the pre-class stage, the evolution of class divisions and the future of humanity which would be classless. The stages also correspond to the absence of religion, when magic performed the function of what religion was to do when calss divisions emerged. Religion in this stage was a historical necessity. During the career of human civilization, its role had often been most complex and contradictory ranging from being an instrument for enforcing abject submission of the toiling masses to that of inspiring revolt against tryanny and oppression, as was the case with early Christianity. However, religion as a historical phenomenon – arising when society needed it – also ensures its ultimate disappearance with the transition to classless society in the future. The argument is that everything in the universe, both material and spiritual, is involved in the process of coming into existence and passing out of existence; it is a process of ceaseless flux.The argument runs through the opening theoretical perspectives to empirical, source based analysis of ancient Indian religions.
Professor Chattopadhyaya lived and died an unrepentant optimist in humanity’s future.
Late ProfessorDebiprasad Chattopadhyayawas an outstanding student of Indian philosophy in our times who was a self proclaimed Marxist, itself unique. Until his death in 1993, he taught at the City College, Calcutta and published a large number of books in English and Bengali on a range of themes which opened up new vistas in the history, philosophy and social movements before scholars and the lay readers alike. Like a true Marxist, he looked upon creation of knowledge as a weapon of struggle for better life for the masses.
Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya had earned his Doctorate from Calcutta University and had been conferred an Honorary D.Sc. by Moscow University. In his time, he was elected Member of the Academy of Sciences, (in the erstwhile) German Democratic Republic, Berlin, and National Fellow of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research for 1987-88. As Guest Scientist at the National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies, a CSIR constituent, he published the monumental History of Science and Technology in Ancient India. HisScience and Society in Ancient Indiaearned him praise from Professor Joseph Needham and was lauded in a review in Nature. His other prestigious books includeLokayata, Indian Atheism, What is Living and What is Dead in Indian Philosophy, Science and Philosophy in Ancient India,etc.
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