This article is part of our “Ten Contemporary Dharma Warriors” series; the other articles of the series can be accessed with “Dharma Warrirors” as the search tag.
In the academic realm, Professor Kapil Kapoor stands as an eminent proponent of Indic knowledge despite facing formidable challenges. A trailblazer in Indian Knowledge Systems, he played a pivotal role in establishing its academic foothold within contemporary Indian educational frameworks throughout the 1970s. His comprehensive two-volume publication on Indian knowledge systems remains a cornerstone in universities across India.
He’s been an ardent educator for over six decades, influencing research and educational endeavors across numerous institutions. His expertise spans literary and linguistic theories encompassing Indian and Western frameworks. Notably, he served as the editor-in-chief for the monumental 11-volume Encyclopedia of Hinduism, published in 2012.
Prof. Kapil Kapoor has an extensive list of achievements, having served as a distinguished faculty member at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. He was a Professor of English in the Centre for Linguistics and English, concurrently serving as a Professor at JNU’s Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies (now School of Sanskrit and Indic Studies). He also served as the Dean of the School of Language, Literature, and Culture Studies from 1996 to 1999 and as JNU’s Rector (Pro-Vice-Chancellor) from 1999 to 2002. His remarkable legacy also includes mentoring 42 Ph.D. and 30 M.Phil. candidates during his tenure from 1996 to 2005.
Apart from his distinguished tenure at JNU, Professor Kapoor has played a critical role in safeguarding and promoting cultural legacies through his active involvement in various organizations, such as the Indian Council of Philosophical Research and the Institute of Advanced Studies (IIAS) in Shimla.
Prof. Kapoor played a pivotal role in guiding the innovative CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) elective course titled “Knowledge Traditions and Practices of India” (KTPI) for Grades XI and XII. He also chaired the Language Expert Committee for Comprehensive Language Policy for India, whose report is being reviewed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
Simultaneously, he has held significant positions as the chair of key institutions, including the Editorial Committee of the Indian Historical Records Committee, the National Archives, and the India Policy Foundation in New Delhi.
In 2023, his contributions were acknowledged with the prestigious Padma Bhushan award by the government, honoring his immense contributions to literature and education. Responding to the announcement, he humbly expressed that the award was a recognition of the rich Indian Knowledge Tradition. 
Born in 1940 in Amritsar, Panjab, he weathered the tumultuous period around Indian independence. Disrupted schooling due to partition compelled his family’s move to Srinagar in J&K. His early education, primarily guided by his mother in history and language, laid a strong foundation. Formal schooling in Jammu and, later, in Punjab followed. Driven by an insatiable thirst for knowledge, he finished his college education at a remarkably young age of 19, marking the beginning of his lifelong journey in the education field.
Known for his sense of humor, Professor Kapoor’s Hindi and English, infused with Punjabi, add a charming touch of authenticity to his persona.
Now in his eighties, Professor Kapoor leads a modest life, detached from material pursuits. His demeanor is marked by politeness, cultured conduct, and a genuinely kind heart. He finds contentment in stark contrast to academics who often prioritize grant proposals and foreign conferences. His openness in sharing knowledge across various platforms echoes his candid persona.
Positions on Societal Issues
Despite his advanced age, Prof. Kapoor continues to be a highly sought-after speaker, thanks to his encyclopedic mastery of Indic knowledge systems, sharp wit, and penchant for expressing bold viewpoints on topics that many deem controversial. As a social thinker, he actively engages with societal issues such as caste dynamics, sati, superstitions, minority rights, gender concerns, and environmental conservation.
In an enlightening discussion with Sangam Talks, Professor Kapoor recounted the opposition faced due to the Swastika design of the Centre of Sanskrit Studies, which many misconceived as a communal symbol.
Kapil Kapoor draws a sharp distinction between contemporary intellectuals and the traditional men of knowledge in Hinduism, the Rishis. The Rishis were dedicated to societal welfare, fostering values of responsibility, self-sufficiency, and joyfulness. In contrast, contemporary “intellectuals” are akin to Buddhi-Jivis, leveraging their intellect solely for livelihood.
Prof Kapoor notes that the principal genre in Indian literature, Katha, explores the essence of human life and virtue. Unlike individualistic Western narratives, Indian literary works are communal, intricately interwoven into the lives of Indians on various levels. Each Indian language forms a tapestry of sounds originating from a shared phonetic source. While Indian languages exhibit similar sentence structures (subject-object-verb) and share vocabulary, they do so with a fluidity that reflects a collective Indianness across themes, values, and artistic expressions within these languages and their literature.
Prof Kapoor has been a vocal proponent of shedding colonial perspectives in all forms of thought: linguistic, mathematical, historical, and, last but not least, action. When examining the Indian psyche, Prof. Kapoor delves into the potential impacts of colonization on our collective mindset. He points out several outcomes, such as an identity crisis, the suppression of ‘voice,’ a diminishing lexicon, and consequent subjugation of thoughts. This subjugation, evident in our attitudes, choices, self-assessment, and customs, led to a loss of self-awareness, traditional values, cultures, and heritage due to colonization’s influence. However, he notes that this’ loss of self-knowledge’ initiates a ‘recovery process.’ Prof. Kapoor aptly describes this cyclic phenomenon as Vyasa Parampara.
In a recent address, Prof. Kapoor elucidated the historical anecdote of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who, at the tender age of 20, after defeating the Afghans, demanded the return of the gold-plated doors looted from the Somnath temple by Mahmud Ghazni eight centuries earlier. This demand was part of the initial conditions for the agreement to be signed by the Afghans. This event serves as a strong reminder for our civilization to shed the forgive-and-forget attitude regarding our cultural identity and civilizational existence. You may forgive but never forget because history repeats itself to those who ignore the lessons from it. At the same time, Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s act is a timeless inspiration for all generations to keep our civilizational goals as a part of our individual, family, social, cultural, and national vision at all times.
In the concluding remarks of his talk at the Vivekanand International Foundation, Prof Kapoor underscores the critical significance of our education system. He highlights how figures like Macaulay shaped our education to align with British colonial interests. Prof. Kapoor firmly advocates restructuring our education system as the pivotal step in commencing the process of decolonizing the Indian mindset. The session culminated with an engaging Q&A session that vividly reflected the audience’s enthusiasm, clearly indicating the reception and impact of the talk.
More of Prof Kapoor’s enlightening talks and lectures can be followed on all renowned Indic academic and social channels like – Sangam Talks, Infinity Foundation, Bharatiya Vichar Manch, Young Thinkers’ forum, India Inspires, and others.
 CV of Prof Kapil Kapoor https://www.sanchiuniv.edu.in/newwebsite/images/Mentor_Group/Kapil_Kapoor_CV.pdf
 Indian young minds have been colonized: Padma Bhushan winner and ex-JNU pro-V-C Kapil Kapoor https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/indian-young-minds-colonised-padma-bhushan-winner-ex-jnu-pro-v-c-kapil-kapoor-8406027/
 Indian literature is participative and not individualistic. – Prof Kapil Kapoor https://indiaeducationdiary.in/indian-literatures-are-not-individualistic-but-participative-prof-kapil-kapoor-provided-a-glimpse-of-indias-rich-and-diverse-literaturescape-during-iks-2/#google_vignette