Skip directly to content

In memoriam: Scholars, benefactors and friends of the Centre

Friedhelm Hardy (1943–2004)

Friedhelm Ernst Hardy, widely known to his friends as Fred, died suddenly on 4 August, his 61st birthday, while he was dining in a restaurant with his wife Aruna. He died as he had lived, a bon viveur.
Fred was an academic of extraordinary learning, intelligence and sensitivity; and he was also an extremely kind and generous man with apparently boundless curiosity about and sympathy for his fellow human beings. He and Aruna, besides having a son and daughter of their own, acted for some years in loco parentis to the daughter of a friend from Ghana who was studying at an English boarding school.
His outspoken and occasionally even rough manner sometimes gave a wrong impression to those, especially within academia, who knew him only superficially, and he was one of the rare people to be fully justified in feeling that he was undervalued in his profession ñ though he did not bear grudges. He could be stubborn, but often this was because of his loathing for both hierarchy and bureaucracy.
When he died, he had just taken early retirement from his chair in Indian religions at King's College London, where he spent almost the whole of his career. He was looking forward to having the time at last to devote himself to several major academic projects, and making full use of his knowledge of Indian languages both classical and modern, unrivalled in this country and possibly anywhere in the world today.
Fred Hardy was born in the Rhineland. He was brought up by his mother, who was widowed at the end of the war. He showed an early interest in languages and scripts, and started his studies in Sanskrit in Cologne. In 1967 he came to Oxford University to read for a B.A. in Oriental Studies (Sanskrit and Prakrit). This was followed by a D.Phil., for which he was supervised by Prof. R.C. Zaehner. It was also at Oxford that he met his wife, the mathematician Aruna Gokhale.
For his doctoral research, Fred spent over a year in Tamilnadu, studying the classical language with local scholars and developing such empathy with his surroundings that when he returned to Britain he was speaking English with a strong Indian accent. The thesis traced through sources in Sanskrit, Prakrit and Tamil the origins of the extremely emotional devotionalism found in the Bhaagavata It was 225,000 words long, which would not be allowed nowadays; for publication, though it contained no redundant verbiage, it had to be considerably shortened. The book, Viraha-bhakti : the Early History of Devotion in South India (1983) was not just massively learned: it contained a least two major discoveries. He showed that though Krishna is the object of devotion ( bhakti ) in the Bhagavad Giitaa, that bhakti sharply differs from the later form of bhakti , which is highly emotional; the later form blends Tamil worship of the god Mayon with the literary tradition for depicting passion for an absent lover. In the Tamil poems of the Alwars, Vaishnava saints, the devotee is condemned to play the part of the lover who can only at rare moments fuse with God, the beloved. Fred was also able to demonstrate not merely that the Bhaagavata was heavily influenced by Tamil religious literature, but that some of its most famous and beautiful poetry is simply a translation into Sanskrit of Tamil originals. Thus Fred's work will forever be fundamental to the study of how Hinduism developed. He also showed in subsequent publications how Tamil devotionalism gradually spread to North India and laid the ground for the later bhakti of Caitanya.
At King's Fred taught across the whole range of religions indigenous to India and was as knowledgeable about Jainism and Buddhism as he was about Vaishnavism, even though he published comparatively little about them. His encyclopaedic knowledge made him an excellent editor of a general companion to Indian religion, The World's Religions: the Religions of Asia (1990) . But it was shown to best effect when he was invited to give the Wilde Lectures on Comparative Religion at Oxford. The 24 lectures, spread over 3 years, were later published as The Religious Culture of India: Power, Love and Wisdom , 1994 . It is probably its size that has prevented this book from gaining the recognition it deserves. It shows Hardy entertaining and enlightening his audience with his vast knowledge of literature both Indian and western. It also shows how he insisted on retaining his own intellectual style: he utterly despised jargon and academic fashions, just as the comparatively slow rate of production of his latter years was probably due to his revulsion from ìpublish or perishî and the world of Research Assessment Exercises. He refused to engage in any kind of reductionist analysis and always gloried in the richness of human diversity.
Richard Gombrich

Mrs Jane Metman (1934–2003)

Mrs Metman, a sincere and enthusiastic friend of the OCHS, passed away in September 2003. As soon as she discovered that she was gravely ill Mrs Metman arranged to donate her library to a worthy home. The Centre received a large collection of books on Hinduism.
Mrs metman was a gifted musician and linguist. Her studies often took her to India and Nepal. After her husband Philip's death in 1967 she worked as a therapist and music teacher. She was recognised as an associate of the Royal College of Music in 1953. We will always be grateful to Mrs Metman for her generosity and her support.

Aleksander Majewski (1955–2003)

A Polish businessman and a long time supporter of the OCHS, Aleksandra Majuwski passed away in September 2003. He provided inestimable support for the Center by investing in the beginning of its development, and displayed much faith in the overall vision of the future of the Center. By sharing this broad-minded vision of how the Center could be expanded he has provided us with a great impetus for future developments.
In recognition of his service to the Centre the Board of Governors has decided to establish ëThe Majuwski Lectures', to be held annually in Oxford. We hope this offering will continue to mark his dedication and enthusiasm for the academic study of Hinduism.

Tamal Krishna Goswami (1946–2002)

His Holiness Tamal Krishna Goswami, a sannyasi and Governing Body Commissioner for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, was killed in a car accident in India, in March, 2002.
TKG, as he was affectionately known lived in Oxford for the last year of his life and made a rich contribution to the scholarly life of the OCHS. He took to scholarship late in life yet was accepted as a DPhil student in the Divinity School, of Cambridge University, working with Dr Julius Lipner.
May we join with his many friends and followers in offering our respects not only to the Goswami himself, but to his ethos of academic originality and integrity.