Dharampal (1922–2006) was a great Gandhian thinker, historian and political philosopher from India. Convinced about the urgent need for an objective understanding about India’s past, before the onslaught of colonial rule, he decided to embark on an exploration of British-Indian archival material, based on documents emanating from commissioned surveys of the East India Company, lodged in various depositories spread over the British Isles. His pioneering historical research, conducted intensively over a decade, led to the publication of works that have since become classics in the field of Indian studies. This major work entitled "The Beautiful Tree" provides evidence from extensive early British administrators’ reports of the widespread prevalence of educational institutions in the Bengal and Madras Presidencies as well as in the Punjab, teaching a sophisticated curriculum, with daily school attendance by about 30% of children aged 6–15, where those belonging to communities who were classed as Shudras or even lower constituted a good number of students, and in some areas, for instance in Kerala, where Muslim girls were quite well represented.
Dharampal was born in 1922 at Kandhala in the Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh. He has been associated in various ways with the regeneration of India’s diverse populations and the restoration of their decentralized social, political and economic organization centered on local communities.
Dharampal served as a member of the Indian Council of Historical Research for two terms in the early 1990s and again for a term recently. He was also the Chairman of the Commission on the Protection of the Cow set up by the Government of India in 2001. From the mid 1980s Dharampal was closely associated with Mahatma Gandhi’s Sevagram Ashram, Wardha (Maharashtra) which he considered his main abode until he passed away there on 24th October 2006. He is survived by his brothers, Yogendra Pal and Yash Pal, his sister, Sushila, and his children, Pradeep, Gita and Anjali. His elder daughter, Gita Dharampal-Frick is a professor of history at the South Asian Institute, University of Heidelberg, Germany.