In 1947, the Department of Anthropology came up in the Faculty of Science at the University of Delhi, with Dr. P.C. Biswas (M.Sc., Calcutta, Ph.D Berlin)
as its founder head. It was the second university department in the country. His other colleague was Mrs. Hilda Raj. In 1949, Dr. Freda Mookerjee joined
the faculty of the department. Then followed J.D. Mehra, Inder P. Singh and S.C. Tiwari.
Abhimanyu Sharma joined the department in 1956, followed by R.D. Sanwal and A.K. Mitra. When B.Sc. (Honours) course was introduced in 1962,
S.K. Basu and Rameshwar Singh were taken as the member of the teaching faculty. They were followed by P.K. Datta, Raghbir Singh, J.S. Bhandari,
D.K. Bhattacharya, P.K. Seth, I.S. Marwah, H.K. Kumbnani, Swadesh Seth, P.K. Chattopadhyaya, M.K. Bhasin, A.K. Kala, Surinder Nath, P.K. Ghosh,
S.L. Malik, and V.C. Channa. Many teachers joined the department from time to time as it expanded its teaching and research activities.
In 1968, one year Certificate Course in Forensic Science was started by the Department. The Department was headed by Prof. P.C. Biswas till 1968
and he laid a sound foundation of an integrated discipline. He was succeeded by Professor Inder P.Singh (1968-79, 81-84), Professor J. D. Mehra (1979-81),
Professor S.C.Tiwari (1984-87), who expanded its scope and developed various laboratories and branches of anthropology. They were followed by Professor
Raghbir Singh(1987-90), Professor J.S. Bhandari (1990-93), Professor D.K. Bhattacharya(1993-96), Professor R.S.Mann (1996), Professor P.K.Seth (1996-99),
Professor M.K. Bhasin (1999-2002), Professor A.K. Kala (2002-2004), Professor Surinder Nath (2004-2007), Professor P.K. Ghosh (2007-2010), and Professor
S.L. Malik (2010-2013). At present the Department is headed by a distinguished anthropologist Professor Vinay Kumar Srivastava (2014- till date), former
Principal of Hindu College, University of Delhi.
The Department started in 1947 in two rooms in an old building adjacent to Department of Zoology. It was shifted to a new building in Arts Faculty in 1949,
and later came to occupy its present building- the erstwhile Prince‘s Pavilion facing Mughal
Garden in 1966. Laboratories and lecture halls were added to meet the needs of the growing discipline. From a humble beginning of two rooms today it has
12 laboratories (general and specialized), lecture halls, teacher’s rooms, library, and an ethnographic museum.
The Museum when it was located in the Arts Faculty building had the distinction of having the visit and blessings of our beloved Prime Minister
Pandit Jawaharlal Lal Nehru who regularly donated ethnographic specimen and cultural objects from his personal collection throughout his tenure.
This tradition was continued by his distinguished daughter, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In its present location, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales,
visited the museum in 1980.
The Department which in 1947 had a faculty of two members has now 22 members and a number of research associates,
DST women scientists, research fellows and scholars which include JRF, and SRF.
The Department had the privilege of a large number of visiting faculties over the years which helped its development as one of the foremost
centres of anthropological teaching and research in the world. Some of them were Professor F.Vogel (Heidelberg, Germany), Professor Napolean
Wolanski (Warsaw, Poland), Professor H. Walter (Bremen, Germany), Professor W.W.Howells (Harward, U.S.A). Professor P.T. Baker (Pennysylvania, U.S.A),
Professor R. Kirk (Canberra, Australia). Professor J.M. Tanner (London, U.K.). Professor D.G. Mandelbaum (California, U.S.A), Professor Jim Shaffear
(Ohio, U.S.A) and Dr. John van Willingen (Kentucky, U.S.A), Professor C. Beall (U.S.A), Professor P.R.M. Jones (U.K.) Professor Chie Nakane (Japan),
Professors Stanley and Ruth Freud (U.S.A), Professor Margaret Mead (U.S.A), Professor G.A. Harrison (U.K.), Professor R.M. Malina (U.S.A).,
Professor Parizkora (Czechoslovakia), Professor J.V.G A. Durnin (Scotland), Professor Furer-Haimendrof (Germany) and many more.
The students of the Department are engaged in teaching and research in various disciplines of Anthropology and allied sciences
in various universities and institutions of India and abroad. One can find at least one, if not more, in every department of Anthropology in India.
Others are engaged in central and provincial state services, Forensic Laboratories or in multinationals or entrepreneurs. The Department has been
actively engaged in teaching and research in all branches of Anthropology. It has been producing Ph.D. and M.Phil. dissertation consistently all these years.
So far it has awarded approximately 309 Ph.D. degrees. Its faculty members, research scientists, associates, fellows and scholars have been working on research
projects funded by different governmental, national and international agencies. Professor P.C.Biswas, Dr. Abhimanyu Sharma, Professor P.K. Datta,
Professor J.S.Bhandari, Professor R.S. Mann and Dr. V.C. Channa were our faculty, are no more with us but their contribution in building up this
department cannot be forgotten.
The Department has a distinguished faculty with many honours to their credit. A large number of faculty members have been recipients of various national
and international fellowships, honours and awards such as Humboldt Fellowship, Tropical Medicine Commonwealth Fellowship, Fulbright Fellowship, Charles
Wallace Fellowship and Erasmus Mundus Fellowship, UGC Career Award and Research Award, Vidhya Ratan Award, Life Time Education Achievement Award, S.C.
Roy Memorial Gold Medal (Asiatic Society), Dr. Panchanan Mitra Memorial Lecture Award, Elected Presidents of Anthropological and Behavioral Sciences in
Indian Science Congress Association (four teachers of the Department).
The Department has numerous laurels to its name and has carved its own niche in the world of anthropology.
Several branches of anthropology have been exclusively designed and taught to the students by our faculties, which are yet not taught in any
other department of anthropology in India. The Department has well equipped and functioning laboratories and the teachers ensure that the syllabus
covers the latest developments in the discipline. Our Alumni has distinguished itself and many occupy positions of relevance in institutions such as UNESCO,
World Bank, WWF, WHO, Microsoft, BBC, UNDP, Action Aid, etc. The Department has produced two Vice Chancellors, Professor S.L. Malik (Gorakhpur University)
and Professor A.K.Kapoor (Jiwaji University).
In 2015, the department started another Post Graduate course in Forensic Science. Prof. Anup K. Kapoor is the brain behind this inspiring programme.
The Department has produced many distinguished teachers and some of them are recipients of distinguished teacher award from University of Delhi.
On 94th foundation day, the University of Delhi awarded ‘Distinguished Serving Teacher Award 2016’ to Prof. Subhadra Channa and ‘Distinguished Retired
Teacher Award 2016’ to Prof. S.C.Tiwari.
Anthropology is perhaps the only specialization in the galaxy of academic disciplines that studies human beings in relationship with the other organisms
from a biological as well as a socio-cultural perspective, providing a viable and an appropriate intellectual forum for looking at a phenomenon –
an ailment, a custom, or a slice of behaviour – from a bio-cultural (or bio-behavioural) approach. It is because of this integrated way of analyzing
reality that the anthropological writings have palpably influenced the nature of research and reasoning in other subjects.
The Department of Anthropology at the University of Delhi was founded in 1947 with the sole aim of undertaking holistic research and teaching in different aspects of human living. The first batch of students, admitted a year later, produced some of the finest anthropologists of international repute, who also contributed significantly to the administrative and corporate life of the University of Delhi. Students trained in our department diffused to other universities, founding academic departments and centres, carrying forward the exemplary tradition of the University of Delhi therein. It was not only that the Delhi Department of Anthropology flourished, moving from one success to the other, but was also instrumental in the spread of anthropology to other parts of the country. In other words, our department has always been the leader, declaring the agenda of research and teaching for others to have a close and learning look; and with the efforts of the twenty-five scholars who constitute the teaching faculty, the glorious status of the department continues and will continue to be so in future.
Like any other discipline, anthropology has to keep pace with the changing society
and polity. Changes of vast magnitude and repercussions are taking place in the world today. Today, the world is not conceptualized as ‘one’,
the idea conveyed by the term ‘universe’, but rather as a congregation of ‘several worlds’; the world today is, so to say,
‘pluriverse’, with negotiations and contestations constantly going on between different peoples, communities, ideologies, and cultural styles.
If disability has reduced, diseases have increased; if globalization is one part of reality, the other is the segmentalization of the world. These challenges
force us to critically review our concepts, methodological apparatuses, conclusions, and the agendas of research and teaching. Anthropology is prepared to
face these challenges and contribute meaningfully and realistically to a better, honourable, decent, and dignified living for all on this biosphere.
Vinay Kumar Srivastava
Former Head, Department of Anthropology
University of Delhi