Monday, March 29, 2010

Madeleine Biardeu: A Remarkable Indologist

On February 1, 2010, a very remarkable French Indologist Madeleine Biardeu had passed away at the age of 88-next day, I struck through her final updates by the Indian Newspapers and backed to the down memory lane of my early years of under graduation days in Banaras Hindu University when as an enthusiast of Indological studies, I had gone through her views on Advaita Vedanta, translation of the works of Mandan Mishra, Vachaspati Mishra and the grammarian Bhatrhari which all she compiled in her doctoral dissertation “Theory of Knowledge and the Philosophy of Speech in Classical Brahmanism{1964}”.
Personally, I impulsed for her work because to see her dedicated and unbiased inquiry on Maithil Sanskrit scholars like, Mandan Mishra and Vachaspati Mishra, hitherto they have been largely ignored by the Indologists-the way she elaborated the notion of orthodoxy and structural tension within the Brahmanism must be taken into account.

Genuineness was her epithet, which she had relentlessly demonstrated in her complex quest of comprehending the basic themes of Hinduism-her endorsement to see every individual as a sacrosanct divine entity was indeed a democratic alignment of Advaita Philosophy which enabled this spiritual cult for wider acceptance beyond the religious boundary. Born in Niort, in the west of France into a middle class of economy entrepreneurs, she joined the prestigious Ecole Normale Sup’ereiore of Serves {restricted for girls than} at Paris in 1943, where she studied philosophy and embodied with the classical heritage of Indian culture. What her works stands best on her personnel choice o the matter of religion or spiritualism-she herself, despite hailing from practicing Catholic milieu chosen to be a true secular in personnel life and berefted from it.
To know Indian history in real terms, she studied Sanskrit in India under the scholars and let herself intertwined with the Pandits and common folks of India to meet with the naturalization in her engagement with subjects. Further, she joined the University of Travancore for two years; in the 1950’s-later she maintained her close ties with India until 1990’s and used to visit at least once in a year.

Her major works included the translation of the Ramayana, two edited volumes of the Mahabharata and her works on Purana that provides an optimum account of Hindu scriptures-she received the companionship of French Sanskrit scholars, Marie-Claude Porcher and Philippe Benoit in the translation of the Ramayana of Valmiki into French {year,1999}. She succeeded to provide fresh view on Mahabharata; she considered the epic as an intellectual and religious reaction against Buddhism whose appeal among lower strata was disastrous for Brahmanical values-that was her personnel opinion and it must be seen in same context.
Her works on the twilight of career “Hinduism: The Anthropology of a Civilization {1994}” and “Stories about Pasts: Vedic Variations about the Hindu Goddess {2002}”provides a new outlook with meticulous interpretation-her institutional engagement with the Deccan college {Pune} and at the French Institute {Pondicherry, founded by the French Indologists, Jean Filliozat in 1950} was proved like backbone in her intellectual pursuits.

In laconic overview, crux of her work stressed on the unity of Hinduism by streamlining the end issue-her contribution in T.N.Madan’s edited volume, “The Hinduism Omnibus {2003}” shows this very lucidly. In comparative terms, her works stands in proximity with the ideas of Louis Dumont on most of issues including on Hinduism and caste system-Louis Dumont’s work “Homo Hierarchies {1966}” which is an essential text to know about the Indian caste system has many common features with the thoughts of Madeline Biardeu. Both these scholars had spent a considerable time in south India in deciphering the new meanings from Hindu scriptures and mythologies-today indeed their works are imperative for historical inquiries. She was equally well regarded in France for her accomplishments and served on most of institutional crucial position in his domain…passing away of Madeline Biardeu is indeed a big loss for these two countries.
Atul Kumar Thakur
March24th 2010 {Wednesday} New Delhi

1 comment:

  1. Her quest for Indological studies was among the finest effort putted by any foriegn also delighted me to know about her extraordinary work on Maithili scriptures.