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Fantastic article about one of the world’s educational comic book pioneers, Anant Pai, the founder of Indian historical and cultural comic book line Amar Chitra Katha.

Anant Pai, at 81; used comics to teach history

MUMBAI — Anant Pai, the creator of a popular comic book series that taught several generations of Indian children the country’s history and mythology, died Feb. 24. He was 81.

The cause was a heart attack, his family said. He was in a Mumbai hospital after a fall.

Mr. Pai founded Amar Chitra Katha, or Immortal Illustrated Stories, in 1967 after watching a television quiz show in which many Indian children could not identify an important character in the Ramayana, one of the two great epics of Hinduism, said his wife, Lalita. “He came back thinking, ‘I have to do something for the country,’ ’’ Lalita Pai said.

Orphaned at an early age, he grew up with relatives near the town of Mangalore and in Mumbai, said Lalita Pai, who was tutored by Mr. Pai. He developed a love for literature and learned several Indian languages.

Trained as a chemical engineer, he gave up engineering early in his career to work for The Times of India. There he was involved in managing Indrajal Comics, an imprint that brought American comics such as The Phantom and Mandrake to India. Lalita Pai said he was dissatisfied with the job because it involved publishing imported stories.

Amar Chitra Katha struggled to find a market, said Subba Rao, a former teacher who joined the enterprise in 1976. Schools would not buy its publications because they considered comic books frivolous, and stores would not stock them because they were not an established brand.

Mr. Pai and Rao persuaded a school in Delhi to run an experiment in which one group of students was taught history using his comic books and another using traditional methods. Later, both groups were given the same test. The results showed that those who had studied using the comics learned more than those who did not, Rao said.

Original article: Anant Pai, at 81; used comics to teach history.