1932 - 2013
Professor Kashi Nath Singh, the luminous figure of Indian Geography, passed away on Thursday July 18, 2013. He was born in a village in Bhojpur district of Bihar on January 1, 1932. After high school he moved to Varanasi and joined Banaras Hindu University, from where earned his bachelor’s degree, M.A. (1956), and Ph.D. (1963).
In September 1957, Prof. Singh joined the Department of Geography, Banaras Hindu University as Lecturer, and was promoted to Reader in 1968. He was also professor and head, department of geography at Patna University (Bihar). In 1978 returned as Professor of Integrated Area Development in the department of geography at Banaras Hindu University, which he cherished till 1993. During 1991-93 (two terms), he had served as member of the Board of Directors, U.S. Educational Foundation in India (U.S.E.F.I.), New Delhi.
He published 6 textbooks, 11 co-edited volumes, and over 70 research articles. His visits abroad included East Africa, Anglo-America, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Bali, U.K. and U.S.A. He was also an Executive Member of the Commonwealth Geographical Bureau, London (1968-1972 and 1976-80); Asst. Secretary, NGSI, and was Life Member of national bodies like NGSI, NAGI, NEGS, IIG, CIG, and UBBP. He was honoured to be the President, National Association of Geographers India (NAGI), 1985-86, and Institute of Indian Geographers (IIG), 1991-92. During November 1993 – June 2008, he was Professor of Geography in the College of Social Sciences, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. After returning from Ethiopia, he lived in Varanasi and sometimes passed his holidays with his doctor son and his family in the campus of Banaras Hindu University.
During 1964-66 he was a Fulbright Scholar at Rutgers University of New Jersey; and in 1965-66 he served as Associate Professor at East Stroudsburg State College/ University, East Stroudsburg PA. In this period he studied and collaborated with Prof. John E. Brush (1919-2007), who was already influenced by the researches of Prof. Singh as an external examiner of his PhD thesis on “Rural Market and Rurban Centres in Eastern Uttar Pradesh (India).”
Professor K.N. Singh specialised in the studies of rural settlements, historical geography and planning, economic geography, and social geography. He was one of the two India-based geographers to have published in the Annals, Association of American Geographers (vol. 58, no. 2, 1968: pp. 203-220), entitled “Territorial basis of Town and village settlement in Eastern U.P., India.” David E. Sopher in his essay, “Towards a Rediscovery of India: Thoughts on some neglected geography,” in, Marvin W. Mikesell, ed. Geographers Abroad (University of Chicago, Chicago, 1973: pp. 110-133) appraised Prof. Singh’s contribution (p. 123) as representative of the Varanasi school in rural settlement and urban morphology. Anthropologist Richard G. Fox, in his book, Urban India: Society, Space and Image (1970, Duke University) wrote about his classical paper (AAAG, 58, no. 2, 1968): “Our papers have different emphases and in several places in the text some criticism is made of K.N. Singh’s interpretation. However, these differing viewpoints and interpretations in no way remove my intellectual debt to Dr. Singh, right only for the paper cited above, but for his [other] original paper on the subject.” Fox in another of his book, Kin, Clan, Raja, and Rule (UCP, Berkeley, & OUP Delhi, 1971), writes: “Recent work by Bernard Cohn, K.N. Singh, M.C. Pradhan, etc. has indicated the important role played by unilineal kin groups of locally dominant Kshatriya ‘Castes’ in the lower level political organisation of traditional North India.” Some of his papers were prescribed in the graduate courses in Hiroshima University, and are highlighted by famous Japanese scholar Prof. Hiroshi Ishida in his book, A Cultural Geography of the Great Plains of India (Univ. of Hiroshima Press, 1972).
The absence of Prof. Singh will be always felt by Indian geography, and we will miss him for many years to come; however his message, insights and visions are always with us.
Rana P.B. Singh
Department of Geography
Faculty of Science
Banaras Hindu University