Indology, Indomania, and Orientalism: Ancient India's Rebirth in Modern Germany

Indology, Indomania, and Orientalism: Ancient India's Rebirth in Modern Germany

Indology, Indomania, and Orientalism: Ancient India's Rebirth in Modern Germany

Indology, Indomania, and Orientalism: Ancient India's Rebirth in Modern Germany

Synopsis

He has presented more than a dozen papers at academic conferences in North America, Europe, and South Asia, including Harvard University, Humboldt University, Heidelberg University's South Asia Institute, and the Max Mueller Bhavan in New Delhi, India.

Excerpt

It is odd that Germany of all European countries should have been the place where the academic and cultural diffusion of knowledge about South Asia developed the most strongly. By the end of the nineteenth century, Germany had more university professors studying Sanskrit than all other European countries combined. By 1903 in Germany there were forty-seven professors, including twenty-six full professors, of “Aryan” studies, a category that included, as its major component, Indology (the study of ancient East Indian texts, literature, and culture). In contrast, England, which one would think had the greatest incentive to study South Asian languages and culture considering it was currently occupying and ruling over the area, only had four professorships devoted to Indian studies. Yet as the German-born Oxford Sanskrit scholar Max Müller pointed out in 1883, there was a decided lack of interest in South Asia in England.

Why should a study of Greek and Latin… seem congenial to us, why
should it excite even a certain enthusiasm, and command general respect,
while a study of Sanskrit, and of the ancient poetry, the philosophy, the
laws, and the art of India is looked upon, in the best case, as curious, but
is considered by most people as useless, tedious, if not absurd… And,
strange to say, this feeling exists in England more than in any other coun
try. In France, Germany, and Italy, even in Denmark, Sweden, and Russia,
there is a vague charm connected with the name of India… A scholar
who studies Sanskrit in Germany is supposed to be initiated in the deep
and dark mysteries of ancient wisdom… In England a student of Sanskrit
is generally considered a bore.

The large number of scholars in Germany devoted to such an obscure ancient language is a curious phenomenon, especially considering the complete lack of German colonial involvement in South Asia.

The German interest in ancient India developed because of specific cultural, institutional, and political motivations. Germans were able to use Indological knowledge for widely varying projects within Ger-

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