Vijaya Ramaswamy Taught Her Students Both History and How to Live With Joy – The Wire

Vijaya Ramaswamy, retired professor of ancient Indian history at the Centre for Historical Studies in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), passed away on June 1, 2020 in New Delhi, due to pneumonia and myocordial infarction. She was 67.

Since 2019 and until the time of her passing, she held the Tagore fellowship at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Simla. She was also the recipient of several other prestigious fellowships like the Commonwealth and the Fulbright. She taught economic history and the history of religion at JNU, and before that at Delhi University.

Her areas of research specialisation included gender, religion, economic history, and the history of labour, migrants, craftspeoples, and especially the weaving communities of south India. Ramaswamy’s publications include Textiles and Weavers in South India (1985, 2006), Divinity and Deviance: Women in Virasaivism (1996), Walking Naked: Women, Society, Spirituality in South India (1997, 2007), Re-searching Indian Women (2003), A Historical Dictionary of the Tamils (2007), The Song of the Loom: Weaver Folk Traditions in South India (2013), and In Search of Vishwakarma: Mapping Indian Craft Histories (2019), among others.

The arc of her career challenged the conventional periodisation of Indian history. As a scholar, she excelled in both ancient and medieval history, but was also knowledgeable about themes in modern history. She demonstrated an equal facility over a range of intellectual traditions: her expertise in the writings of twelfth century figures like Akka Mahadevi and Basavanna was matched by her knowledge of the thought of 20th century thinkers like Antonio