The Australian anthropology pundit who never tired of listening to Nepalese priests

Vivienne Kondos
Vivienne Kondos

6 March 2016: Vivienne Kondos, an Australian who loved all things Nepalese and a constant companion to Australia’s Nepalese diaspora, is being remembered as someone who could never have enough of the Himalayan nation. Years after years, she kept her robust academic pursuit fixated on two inter-related subjects, Nepal the country and the practice of Hinduism in that country. In the process, she witnessed Nepal’s political ups and downs as the former kingdom moved from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy to republicanism.

That walking wealth of knowledge passed away ‘quietly’ at her Sydney home on 24 March 2016. She was 83. Leaders of the Nepalese diaspora mourn Vivienne’s death as an irreplaceable loss for the community.

Her death has in particular affected those Australian Nepalese who emigrated to Australia early on and had over the years befriended her. They are the ones who saw Vivienne rise and shine through academia.

Vivienne’s funeral service was held in the West Chapel of the Eastern Suburbs Crematorium in Matraville on  April 1.

“In lieu of flowers please consider a donation to Help Nepal Network Australia. BSB:062000 Account 11660078,” an obituary read on the Sydney Morning Herald.

There was indeed, nothing that Vivienne more enjoyed about fieldwork in Nepal than her numerous lengthy sessions with the local pundits,” said Professor Michael Allen in his obituary to the late anthropologist. Professor Allen would know her because, after all, he worked with her for 45 long years. They did fieldwork in Nepal together; he mentored her.

Kali and On the Ethos of Hindu WomenHer PhD topic, ‘Kingdom of Nepal’, sums up what she knew of Nepal. She was awarded PhD in social anthropology by the University of Sydney in 1982. She remained associated with the Department of Anthropology in the same university for the following decades, retiring in 2001. She might have retired as an academic but her study of Nepal, Hinduism, the Nepalese diaspora and the South Asian region in general did not stop. That eventually led to the publication of two books by her – needless to say, on Nepal.

Her introduction on the website of University of Sydney says, “Since retirement I have continued researching certain old interests, sometimes with more gusto and experimenting with a different genre. Regarding the latter I have written a docudrama about the Gurkha soldiers and their relationship with their British officers (Your Glory, Our Honour.)

Her PhD research focused on the goddess-worshipping culture of the Hindus in Nepal. She was equally interested in the Nepalese diaspora as it began taking root in Australia in the early 2000s. It is in the recognition of her service to Nepal and the Nepalese community in Australia that led to her being awarded honorary membership of two Australian Nepalese organisations  – Guthi Australia and Nepalese Australian Association.

According to Indra Ban, a well-respected senior member of the Australian Nepalese community who was awarded the Order of Australia for her relentless service to the Nepalese communities spread across the country, Vivienne was a member of the Nepalese and Australian Association since its inception in 1976. Ms Ban further said in an email that the late academic would enthusiastically participate in all programmes of the diaspora until it became physically impossible for her to continue.

In 2004, she published On the Ethos of Hindu Women: Issues, Taboos and Forms of Expression (2004), published by Mandala Books in Kathmandu. Her latest book Kali was published in 2013.

“Her work on Nepal and her critical understanding of Hindu cosmology and philosophy and their application to the social and political worlds of the sub-continent have stimulated so many of us who have studied in her field and well-beyond,” Professor John Gray said in his obituary to Vivienne. The anthropology professor at University of Adelaide appreciated her lasting contribution to not just the world of Sydney and Australian anthropology but to the numerous others in Nepal and elsewhere who came to share with her that very special excitement with the imagination and potential of human being.

2 thoughts on “The Australian anthropology pundit who never tired of listening to Nepalese priests

  1. On today’s day, its complete one year that vivienne has left our world to some glorious peace of death. I didnt knew her personally but as far as I am concerned about her, makes me feel so bad that I couldn’t see her in person before her death. With lots of love and heartfelt condolences I want her a peaceful rest. ^_^

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