Remembering Folklorist Komal Kothari: A Conference on Intellectual Contributions to Scholarship on Rajasthan

NEW YORK, June 17, 2004 The Area Studies Division of the Columbia University Libraries and colleagues in South Asian Studies organized and hosted a conference in the South Asian Studies Graduate Reading Room, Butler Library, on May 20, 2004, dedicated to the memory of Komal Kothari. Kothari, who died April 20, 2004, distinguished himself as a folklorist not only in India but throughout the world.


During his long career, he researched and documented the performing arts of Rajasthan. He made notable contributions to the study of folklore and in particular to the study of musical instruments, regional oral traditions, and puppetry. A pioneer in folklore, Kothari founded the Rupayan Sansthan in the 1960s and served as a consultant to several institutions and research scholars from around the globe. He received several national and international awards including Padamshri and Padam Bhushan, the highest civil award bestowed by the President of India.

The conference drew a large group of students, scholars, and researchers who gathered to honor Kothari. Maxine Weisgrau, a visiting professor in the Department of Anthropology at Barnard College, welcomed the attendees to the conference. Speakers at the conference included: Frances Taft, President, Rajasthan Studies Group, Carol Henderson of Rutgers University, Christi Merrill, University of Michigan, Nandita Sahai, Hindu College, University of Delhi, and David Magier, Director of Area Studies at Columbia Libraries. Magier, who has a Ph.D. in South Asian linguistics, conducted his Fulbright dissertation fieldwork in Rajasthan in 1980 under the close guidance of Kothari.


Ann Grodzins Gold, a member of the Religion faculty at Syracuse University delivered the keynote address "Komalda, Goddess Shrines, Breathing Space." In tribute to Kothari, Manish Kothary spoke about family remembrances.

A post-conference reception was held at the Southern Asian Institute at the International Affairs Building on the Columbia campus. Magier gave a slide presentation documenting his fieldwork in rural Rajasthan. A 1979 documentary film on Kothari's ethnomusicology work was shown, along with another, entitled Komal Da, on the life and works of Kothari, which was produced in April, 2004, in his memory. Both films have been donated to Columbia Libraries for archiving.

Area Studies at Columbia University Libraries consists of individual libraries providing region specific research-level collections, services, and resources. The individual libraries include: African Studies; Latin American and Iberian Studies; Middle East and Jewish Studies; Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies; and South and Southeast Asian Studies. For additional information about Area Studies, please contact David Magier, Director, Area Studies, 212-854-8046 or

06/17/04 JD