Rann Singh Mann (1936-2013)


Prof. Rann Singh Mann was born on 15th November 1936 in a village in Delhi. All his elementary education was in Delhi. At the under graduate level he chose to study in the physical science stream. All through this and also for a while at post graduate level, he played volley ball for the University of Delhi. Finally he became the captain of the University team and represented Delhi University at several inter University competitions.

Being sensitized in village life, Rann Singh Mann found it easy to shift to social anthropology for M.Sc., which he completed in 1960. Almost within years of passing M.Sc., Prof. Mann was appointed as an Instructor in the Tribal Orientation and study centre in Udaipur. Here he came in regular contact with tribal group of Rajasthan and Gujarat. His romance with his roots, however, brought him back to his village in order to organize, plan and execute field work for his Ph.D. thesis. In 1973 he was awarded Ph.D on the topic Social Structure and Social change in a Delhi Village, by University of Delhi.

Very soon he was selected for the post of superintending anthropologist at the Anthropological Survey of India (ASI). This again brought him back to Udaipur where ASI had a regional station. Thus, having seen the Bhil, Bhilala, Mina, Garasia and Saharia tribes through time gave him the necessary insights into issues of social change leading to the publication of many meaningful papers on the subject. In the subsequent years, social change became one of his favourite perspective for studying tribes and multi caste villages. He got posted in various regional centers of ASI and at almost each of these centers he brought out book volumes of great value.

Prof. Mann has published seven books. Most of his books till now are taken as the only reliable accounts of the contemporary status of tribes in remote areas. Of these the Ladakhi Nature-Man-Spirit-Complex and The Bay Islanders are worth mentioning. His research papers deal with such diverse topics as tribal polyandry, awareness and attitude of minas and social barriers to nutrition among Indian tribes. His complete involvement in and passion for the subject soon saw him elevated to the position of Director at ASI. This was at the time when the survey had undertaken a mammoth Project of bringing out a compendium of People of India in several volumes. Data were being collected by scholars from all corners of India and the head office had the almost impossible task of compiling them in a meaningful pattern.

It was shortly after this that he took a premature retirement from ASI and came to Delhi and joined his Alma Mater the Department of Anthropology, Delhi University as a Professor. His rich experience in field and his continuous involvement in publishing in the past made him a very successful teacher. He took up to teaching many challenging paper for the specializing batches. He also successfully guided a number of Ph.D. thesis during this short period of service in the Department of Anthropology at Delhi University before he retired in 2002. He remained academically active and addressed research seminars and also helped ASI in advisory capacity until the year of his death. On 1st September 2013, he expired after a brief illness.

Prof. Mann was a fun loving person who otherwise very serious in his work. He was a voracious reader and an excellent speaker. With his demise, social anthropology in India has lost a very important scholar of all India experience.

Excerpts from:
Bhattacharya, D.K. 2013.'Prof. Rann Singh Mann (1936-2013)'.Indian Anthropologist 43(2): 101-102.