Scholar directed UH S. Asian studies


POSTED: Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Jagdish Prasad Sharma, University of Hawaii-Manoa professor emeritus of history and renowned historian of ancient India and Indian religions and cultures, died Feb. 21. He was 75.

Peter Hoffenberg, UH associate professor of history, said Sharma was a “;mensch”; who was beloved and respected by colleagues and students. “;The sparkle never left his eyes. The best way to remember him is to celebrate him, not to mourn him. That's how he would have wanted it.”;

Sharma was a UH faculty member from 1964 to 2003 when he retired. He played a major role in establishment of the South Asian studies program and served as its director. His wife, Miriam, is a UH professor of Asian studies.

He was one of only three historians in the nation specializing in ancient India in his early years, Frank F. Conlon, University of Washington professor emeritus and co-editor of H-Asia, said in an online obituary.

; Conlon said Sharma was heavily recruited by some elite mainland institutions but “;declared his preference for teaching at Hawaii where he felt a great affinity for local students.”;

Robert Locke, UH-Manoa emeritus professor of European business and economic history, said his office was next to Sharma's in Sakamaki Hall, and they became good friends. “;Sharma was above all a gracious and civilized man, which permitted him to feel at ease with people from any culture. I loved him for his wry wit, the twinkle in his eye and his forbearance when dealing with boorishness,”; Locke said.

In 39 years at UH, Sharma either chaired or sat on committees of more than 150 students who received either a master's or doctorate degree, including some who joined the faculty in various UH departments, Conlon wrote as editor of H-Asia Net.

He served as a consultant to the South Pacific Commission, helping to rewrite the basic high school curriculum for South Pacific students, and was a visiting professor at Banaras Hindu University and Universities of Rajasthan and Allahabad during research leaves.

Sharma was born in Kota, a small village in North India, in 1934. He earned a bachelor's degree in 1955 from Agra University and went to the University of London's School of Oriental and African studies. He completed a Bachelor of Art honors degree in Sanskrit and classical languages of India and a doctorate degree in ancient Indian history.

He taught at Columbia University, the University of Virginia and the American University in Washington, D.C., before joining UH.

Sharma was best known for his “;Republics in Ancient India”; (1968) but steadily wrote and edited with special reference to pre-modern South Asia, Conlon said.

Survivors include his wife of 48 years, son Arun David, daughter Nitasha Tamar Sharma and brothers Satya Prakash and Rohitashva Kumar Sharma.

A celebration of life will be held at 4 p.m. March 14 at the Elks Lodge, 2933 Kalakaua Ave.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Jagdish P. Sharma Educational Foundation, c/o The Asian Studies Program, Moore Hall 415, University of Hawaii, Honolulu 96822.