About Sujata

SUJATA MIRI was born in Delhi on 23 June, 1942. Her father, Mukund Lal Khanna, was a renowned refrigeration engineer and was Chief Advisor to the Ministry of Agriculture during the early years of India’s independence, but resigned from his position owing to differences with the government. Her mother, Manorama, was an extremely popular social worker and worked for long periods with slum-dwellers in Delhi.

Sujata took her BA degree with Honours in Philosophy from Lady Sriram College of Delhi University and her MA in Philosophy from the same College. She got a first class in her MA examination. On the basis of her excellent academic record, she was selected by the College as Lecturer in Philosophy immediately after her MA examination results were announced. She taught Philosophy in Lady Sriram for the next ten years. During her lectureship in College she excelled herself not only as a teacher, but also as a leading contributor to collegiate life. She produced plays for the College which are still remembered, organized seminars and was instrumental in creating an atmosphere of harmony and cordiality among teachers and in student-teacher relationship. While teaching in College, Sujata also worked for the PhD degree of Delhi University and received the degree in 1973. In 1974 she accepted the offer of a Visiting Fellowship at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study in Shimla to complete writing her book, Suffering. The book was published by the Institute in 1976. In 1975, Sujata went to teach in the newly established national University in Shillong, the North-Eastern Hill University. She rose to a professorial position there in a few years, and also became the Head of the Department of Philosophy and Dean of the School of Humanities and Education. She retired from University service in 2005 and has since settled down in Delhi.

Very soon after Sujata began teaching in Shillong, she discovered her two major interests: understanding tribal cultures and painting. In fact her second interest sprang in a way from her first. She was able to build a dedicated team of researchers consisting primarily of her research students who helped her with their intimate first hand knowledge of their own cultures. A series of books resulted from her research: Religion and Society: North-East India, An Introduction to the Study of Tribal Religions and The Khasi Milieu, The Khasi World View: A Conceptual Exploration, Communism in Assam: A Civilizational Approach, Rationality and Tribal Thought (Ed), Stories and Legends of the Liangmai Nagas. During the mid 1990’s, Sujata was awarded a Fellowship by the Indian Council of Philosophical Research to work on her project on “Ethics and Environment”. She returned to the Indian Institute of Advanced Study to complete the project. Her book, Ethics and Environment, which resulted from this project, is acknowledged to be a path-breaking contribution in the area. It is primarily an exploration of the idea of man-nature continuum within tribal cultures and how deep respect for nature necessarily springs from such an idea. It was in the course of writing this book that Sujata took seriously to painting. She found that while the ratiocinative method is one possible way of exploring the tribesman’s thought and ideas, it was inherently inadequate in many ways and painting provided a much more “articulate” and insightful method. Sujata painted intermittently as a young woman, but it was in Shimla while working on her book on environment that she began to realize her potential as a painter. She produced in very quick succession a series of paintings on “tribal themes” interspersed with a few based on somewhat different ideas. She had her first exhibition of paintings in Shimla. It was hugely attended and received very appreciative media attention. This was followed by an exhibition in Chandigarh and one in Patiala. [Media comments]. She also lectured on her paintings in the India International Centre in Delhi. Her book, Paintings on Themes from North-East India. Contains most of her major paintings on tribal themes. [extracts from review]. On her retirement from University service, her colleagues, friends, admirers and students hono ured her with the publication of a book (Tirbe, Culture and Art: Essays in Honour of Professor Sujata Miri) The book is a fitting tribute to her personality and life time’s work. Sujata has also published two novels (Days and Nights and TheBroken Circle) besides many articles in professional journals. Sujata is married with two daughters and four grand children.

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