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Formerly :
Visiting Professor, Centre for Contemporary Studies, Indian Institute of Science, Malleswaram, Bangalore 560 012
Currently :
Professor & Vice Chancellor,Mahatma Gandhi University, Priyadarshini Hills P.O.Kottayam : 686 560,
Date of Birth :
15 May 1948




Positions Held :


Foreign Experience

Current Researches


Projects Done (Ten Studies on Human Ecology, Historical Geography and Socioeconomics)

List of Select Publications:

a) Chapters of Edited Volumes:                  

    • "Aryanisation of South India" Dravidian Encyclopaedia, Trivandrum, 1983

    • "From the Royaly of Icons to the Divinity of Royalty : Aspects of Vaisnava Icons and Kingship in South India" in R. Parimoo ed. Vaisnavism and Indian Art, Baroda, 1984.

    • "State and Society in South India 200 B.C to 300 A.D", History of India: Earliest Times to 800 A.D Indira Gandhi Open University. New Delhi. 1990.

    • “Early Social Formation of South India and Its Transitional Processes,” in H.V. Sreenivasa Murthy, B. Surendra Rao, Kesavan Veluthat and S.A.Bari eds. Essays on Indian History and Culture, Felicitation volume in honour of Professor B. Sheik Ali, Mittal Publications, New Delhi, 1990

    • "Formation of Caste Society in Kerala : Historical Antecedents in K.L.Sharma ed. Caste and Class in Indian States, Delhi, 1994 

    • "Towards a New Discourse: Discursive Processes in Early South India," in R. Champakalakshmi and S. Gopal (Eds.) Tradition, Dissent and Ideology, Essays in Honour of Romila Thapar, New Delhi, 1996.

    • “Recent Historiographic Dimensions on Early South Indian Socio-economics,” in K.K.N.Kurup ed. New Dimensions in South Indian History, Felicitation volume in honour of Dr. M.R. Raghava Varier, Association of Peasant Studies, University of Calicut, 1996

    • “Historical Materialism and History”, in T.R. Venugopalan Ed. History and Theory, Government College Publications, Thrissur

    • “From Clan and Lineage to Hereditary Occupations and Caste in Early South India,” in Devanath ed. Transition from Tribes to Caste in India, Shimla, 1999.

    • “Social Formation in Iron Age South India,” K. Surendra Rao and Kesavan Veluthat (Eds) Sheik Ali Felicitation Volume, Mangalore 2000.

    • “A Historiographic Critique,” in K.K.N. Kurup Ed. Raghava Varier Felicitation Volume, Calicut, 2000

    • “Social Formation in the age of the Mauryas,” S. Rajagopal Ed. Studies in Epigraphy, Archaeology and History, Prof. Y. Subbarayalu Felicitation Volume, Chennai, 2001

    • “Antecedents of the State Formation in South India,” R. Champaka Lakshmi et.al (Eds.) State and Society in Pre-modern South India, Trissur, 2002.

    • "History, Hermeneutics and Methodological", in Bijoy H. Baruah & Ramshankar Misra eds. Social Reality and Tradition, Rawat Publications, Jaipur, 2006

    • "Tradition as Narrative", in Bijoy H. Baruah & Ramshankar Misra eds. Social Reality and Tradition, Rawat Publications, Jaipur, 2006    

b) Papers presented in Conferences/Seminars:

    • "Land Control and Social Structure of Early Medieval Kerala", Indian Council of Historical Research, Regional Seminar, Kerala University, 1979.

    • "Formation of Agrarian System in South India : Historical Antecedents", Indian Council of Historical Research, Regional Seminar, Kerala University, 1984.

    • "Evolution of State Power in Kerala : Historical Antecedents", Indian Council of Historical Research, Regional Seminar, Kerala University, 1985.

    • "The Beginnings of Agrarian Expansion in South Indian Region", University Grants Commission National Seminar, Mangalore University, 1989.

    • "From Clan and Lineage to Hereditory Occupations and Caste in Early South India", National Seminar on Transition from Tribe to Caste. Indian Institute of Advanced Studies. Shimla. November 1993.

    • "Literacy in Early South India: Socio-economics of Pervasive Dynamic", National Seminar on Literacy and Communication in Early India Jawaharlal Nehru University, December, 1993

    • "Hermeneutics, Objectivity and Historians", National Workshop on Objectivity, IIT, Kanpur. March 1995

    • "Indian Tradition as Narrative", National Symposium on Understanding Tradition, IIT, Kanpur, March 1995

    • “Historicising Culture,” Presidential Address, Section 3. South Indian History Congress, XVIII Session, Kalady, 1998

    • “Characterising Ancient Society: The Case of South India,” Presidential Address, Ancient India Section, Indian History Congress 59th Session, Patiala, 1998

    • “Social Theory in Ancient Indian Historiography: Hermeneutic Turns in the Writings of Romila Thapar”, Presidential Address, Andhra Pradesh History Congress, Cudappa, 2007

c) National Journal Articles :

    • "Local Measures Reconstructed from the Kollur Matham Copper Plates" Studies in Epigraphy, Mysore, 1975.

    • "The Ethnical Dichromatism of the Jewery in Kerala : A New Interpretation" Journal of Kerala Studies, Vol., III Part II, Trivandrum, 1976.

    • "Some Aspects of Early Medieval Brahman Village Local Codes of Kerala" Indian History Congress Proceedings, Delhi, 1979.

    • "The Land Rights Structure and the Pattern of its Redistribution in Early Medieval Kerala" Indian History Congress Proceedings, Delhi, 1978.

    • "Proliferation and Consolidation of the Temple Centred Hierarchy of the Cera Society" Journal of Kerala Studies, IV. III & IV. Trivandrum, 1979.

    •  "The Socio-Economic Milieu of the Kerala Temple : A Functional Analysis, c. A.D. 800 – 1200," Studies in History. II. 1. New Delhi, 1980. 

    • "Aspects of Early Iron Age Economy : Problems of Agrarian Expansion in Tamilakam" Indian History Congress Proceedings, Delhi, 1981.

    • "Non-brahmana Resistance to the Expansion of Brahmadeya-s : The Early Pandya Experience" Indian History Congress Proceedings, Delhi, 1984.

    • "Aspects of the Reservoir System of Irrigation in the Pandya State" Studies in History: New Series. II.2. New Delhi, 1986.

    • “Communal Harmony in Early Medieval Kerala: An Outline of its Material Milieu,” Religion and Society, Vol. XXXIV. No. 1 1987

    • "Nature of Warrior Power in Localised Agriculture : The Case of the Pandya State" IHC. 1986.

    • "Forms of Production and Forces of Change in Ancient Tamil Society" Studies in History Vol. 2. New Delhi,1989.

    • "Towards the Voice of Dissent: Trajectory of Ideological Transformation in Early South India" Social Scientist Vol.21, Nos.1-2, January-February 1993.

    • “From Clan and Lineage to Hereditary Occupations and Caste in Early South India,” Indian Historical Review, Vol. XX. Nos. 1-2, 1993-4

    • “Writing and its Uses in the Ancient Tamil Country,” Studies in History, 12, 1, n.s (1996)

    • “The Edakal Rock Engravings: Morphology and Meanings,” Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences, Vol. IV. No. 1, 1997

    • “Hypotactic Body Signs and Social Hierarchy,” South European Journal for Semiotic Studies, Vol. II (1-3), 1999.

    • “When a Coalition of Conflicting Interests Decentralises: A Theoretical Critique of Decentralisation Politics in Kerala:,” Social Scientist, Vol. 29, Nos. 9-10, 2001.

    • “Slave Laws in Ancient India and Hellenic Asia: A Comparative Search into Features of Servitude,” Journal of Indian Legal Thought, vol. 3. Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, 2005

    • “Did Slavery Exist in Ancient India,” ICHR, Special Paper, New Delhi, 2006

    • “Shift of Trust from Words to Deeds: Implications of the Proliferation of Inscriptions in the Tamil South,” Indian Historical Review, vol.XXXIV, No. 2, 2007

    • “The Kosambi Effect: A Hermeneutic Turn that Shook Indian Historiography,” Economic and Political Weekly, vol. XLIII No.30, 2008

d) International/Foreign Journal Articles :

    • “Hypotactic Body Signs, Drum Orchestration and Hierarchy,” Proceedings of the I & II East Asian International Semiotics Seminar, 1998

    • “Hypotactic Body Signs and Social Hierarchy,” European Journal for Semiotic Studies, Vo. 11 (1-3) 1999

    • “In Search of Muziris”, Journal of Roman Archaeology, 14, 2001

    • “Eco-Semiotics and Dravidian Culture: The Case of Nature >< Culture Homology in Ancient Tamil Poetics,” European Journal for Semiotic Studies, Forth coming issue.

e) International/Foreign Seminar Papers:

    • "Counter Culture and Containment Strategy : The Case of India" Humboldt University, East Germany, 1990.

    • "Morphology and Meanings of Edakal Engravings" Global Conference of Rock-art Specialists held at Delhi, November - December 1993

    • "Re-thinking Colonial Process Through Michel Foucault", International Seminar on Michel Foucault and Literature, Department of French Studies. University of Toronto, Octobr, 1994

    • "Literacy in Early South India", Matropolitan University, Manchester, October, 1994

    • “The Semiotics of Drum Orchestration and Social Hierarchy,” Proceedings of the International Conference of Semioticians, Shanghai, International Association of South Asian Semioticians, Shanghai, 1997.

    • “Namputiri Body Signs and Social Hierarchy,” Invited Professor Seminar, EHESS, Paris, 2002 

    • Caste Formation in Southern India,” Invited Professor Seminar, EHESS, Paris, 2002.

f) Monographs/Books:

    • Levi-Strauss (Monograph in Malayalam), Viswadarsana publications, Trissur, 1986.

    • History of Kerala, (book in Malayalam, jointly done with Raghava Varier) Vallathol Vidyapitham, Edappal, 1991.

    • The Kerala Temple and the Early Medieval Agrarian System, Vallathol Vidyapitham, Edappal, 1992.

    • Myth and Society (book in Malayalam, jointly done with Raghava Varier, Jalakam Publishers, Perambra, Calicut. 1994

    • Cultural History of Kerala, vol. I. Department of Cultural Publications, Thiruvananthapuram, 1999.

    • Forest Landscapes of the Southern Western Ghats, India jointly edited with B. Ramesh, French Institute, Pondicherry, 2007

    • Social Formations of Early South India, OUP, 2009.

    • Suice Trends in Kerala: Causes and Allevaiations, Monograph, Stat Planning Board, 2010 

Academic Note

    • Doing history beyond the discipline has been a sustained interest of the scholar whose research began with the study of the socio-economics of the Kerala temple and advanced through the study of the land system and socio-political organisation in the Tamil South. They are usually cited in South Indian Historiography.

    • His articles on ‘forms of production and forces of change in ancient Tamil society,’ ‘the Tamil heroic discourse,’ and ‘the writing and its uses in early historic society,’ indicate pursuance of the interest further. These articles are cited by specialists in the area of research.

    • His characterisation of ancient Tamil social formation as a combination of several unevenly evolved economies of kinship and redistribution structured by the dominance of the agro-pastoral, is a marked deviation from the accepted presumptions of South Indian historiography. This contribution is internationally cited.

    • His seminal papers that discussed for the first time, social transformation in terms of relations of production based on kinship turning into their fetters in the wake of development of productive forces based on plough technology and tank irrigation, have been internationally cited.

    • His interdisciplinary studies involved insights from human geography, human ecology and social semiotics as evident in articles such as ‘birth of paddy fields in Kerala’, ‘agrarian economy and ecological transformation,’ ‘hypo-tactic body syntagms and agrarian hierarchy’, and ‘nature >< culture homology in Tamil Poetics.’ They are being widely cited by specialists.   


      • Since 15.11.2008, Professor and Vice-Chancellor, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam.  

      • Dr. Rajan Gurukkal, former Professor & Director, School of Social Sciences, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam is currently Soundararajan Chair Visiting Professor, Centre for Contemporary Studies, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.

      • He was born on 15 May, 1948. A postgraduate in history with First Class & First Rank (1972) from the University  of Calicut, he continued his studies in JNU where he secured both M.Phil and Ph.D in historical socio-economics. He had taught at the Centre for Historical Studies of JNU for a few years before he joined his present post.

      • He has held several important positions such as the Dean of Faculty, member of the academic council, senate and syndicate of a few Universities and social science research Institutes, advisor to research journals and publications, executive committees of professional bodies like Indian History Congress and International Association of Semioticians and member of Indian Council of Historical Research.

      • He has written about eighty-six articles in various Research Journals of International Repute, a few chapters in various compilation volumes. He has written six books (three in Malayalam and the rest in English). Three of his books are on Socio-economic and Cultural History of Kerala, one on Structural Anthropology, one on Historical Sociology, and one on Human Ecology of the Southern Western Ghats. He has written many popular articles in various dailies and periodicals too on current issues.

      • He has travelled extensively and lectured at several Universities in the Country as well as abroad such as Humboldt, Leipzig and Berlin (Germany), Toronto and  Kingston (Canada), Manchester (UK), Shanghai (China), Tokyo and Taisho (Japan) are the Universities. He was Invited Professor and post-doctoral researcher at Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociale, Paris.

      • Historical human ecology and human geography are his areas of current research interest. He has done a few research projects on issues belonging to these areas. Historical atlas of south India is the Project now under way.