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July 21, 1997

Gift from area entrepreneurs to UCSC establishes one of country's few chairs in India studies

Establishment of chair coincides with the 50th anniversary of Indian democracy

Chandra and Narpat Bhandari
By Barbara McKenna

A $250,000 gift from a Los Gatos couple to UC Santa Cruz has established one of the country's few endowed chairs in India studies, and is the first step in a vision to establish an international center for the study of Indian civilization and culture.

The gift comes from Narpat and Chandra Bhandari, longtime entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley who were both born in India (their biographies). Their gift has established the Chandra Bhandari Endowed Chair in India Studies, named in honor of Chandra Bhandari, an educator with a lifelong interest in the history and culture of India and the precepts and practices of nonviolence. The announcement is timed to honor Chandra Bhandari, whose birthday was July 18. "I am deeply touched by the love and affection this gift represents from my husband," she said.

The establishment of the chair comes just a month before the 50th anniversary of Indian independence (August 15, 1947). "Fifty years ago, India launched the most ambitious democratic project in world history," said Narpat Bhandari. "I believe it is vital that we devote resources to the study of what is not only the world's largest democracy but also one of the world's oldest and most enduring cultures," added Bhandari, a recently appointed trustee of the UC Santa Cruz Foundation.

The endowment will fund a rich variety of activities, including distinguished scholars-in-residence, graduate research fellowships, course development, international conferences and symposia, the acquisition of resources on India studies for the University Library, and activities of faculty in the field of India studies.

"We are delighted to receive this gift," said Chancellor Greenwood. "Narpat and Chandra Bhandari are well respected for their ongoing support of education both regionally and in India, having dedicated both personal resources and their talents as educators over the years. Their gift has established an important endowment that will be a catalyst for a myriad of activities not only in the area but across the globe."

In making their gift, the couple stressed the importance of structuring the chair so that it can serve as a hub for India studies activities worldwide. "It is my earnest desire that this chair should be truly global," Narpat Bhandari said. "Through technology, UCSC can become an international focal point for India studies, connecting the nine UC campuses, other universities worldwide, and even Sojat--the tiny village where I was born. By establishing such an infrastructure we can facilitate remarkable collaborations in the field."

The chair will be administered through UCSC's Humanities Division, but Humanities Dean Jorge Hankamer stressed that, "This chair is interdisciplinary in nature and its activities will involve faculty and students from across the divisions. The chair is unique in that we will be able to create a significant program in India studies by leveraging our resources through technology and collaboration."

Chandra Bhandari explained the importance of the chair's interdisciplinary focus. "While it is valuable to examine India through the prism of economic and political utility, it is equally important for us to examine the country's rich history and culture as well as the living arts of contemporary India," she said.

A four-member steering committee will oversee the chair during its first two to three years. The committee is chaired by Dilip Basu, who is also chair of UCSC's Committee on South and Southeast Asian Studies and director of the Satyajit Ray Film and Study Collection.

"Dean Hankamer's initiative and the Bhandaris' generosity have dramatized an India studies presence on campus," he said. "Our existing faculty resources in South Asia are distinctive, representing research interests in anthropology, art, cinema, economics, the environment, and history, and their support will help us to expand our work in India studies."

The Chandra Bhandari Chair is one of only a very few India studies chairs in the country, according to Robert Goldman, a professor of Sanskrit and director of the Center for South Asian Studies at UC Berkeley. Goldman, who is a member of the UCSC steering committee, also holds a chair in India Studies at UC Berkeley. "The Bhandaris' gift is especially important since, nationwide, India studies has been a sadly underdeveloped discipline," he said.

The country's first chair in India studies, which was funded by members of the Indo-American community, was established at UC Berkeley in 1991. Since then only a few similar chairs have been established or are in the process of development--notably, at the University of Indiana, Columbia University, another at UC Berkeley, and, now, UCSC. "These chairs are very few and far between," Goldman added. "I think it's remarkable that Santa Cruz is getting involved in this field as India studies is not a widely developed discipline on most campuses in this country."

"This chair will be an ideal vehicle for bringing Indian culture into the public awareness today, and will take us into the 21st century, educating our children and grandchildren about the richness and complexity of India," said Chandra Bhandari.

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