Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
Heidelberg University

Lectures and Conferences

2016: 7 June

Talk "Mapping Sacred Spaces. Spatial Texts, Religious Cartography and Pilgrimage Practice in Banaras (India)"

  • by Apl. Prof. Dr. Jörg Gengnagel
  • 12 a.m., Hörsaal G202, Haus G Malteserestraße 74-100, 12249 Berlin.


    Banaras – also known as Kāśī („City of Light“) or by its official name Varanasi – forms a fascinating confluence of textual and spatial practices. It is one of the most well-known North-Indian pilgrimage sites (tīrtha) and a centre of brahmanic learning as well as royal patronage. This has led not only to the famous built river front along the Ganges but also to a rich production of spatial texts as well as visual representations of urban space and its complex waterscape in the form of pilgrimage maps. In this talk I will discuss the relation of textual, spatial and cartographic representations of space by presenting examples of painted and printed maps of the 18th and 19th century.
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    2016: 7 April

    Talk "The King, the Court, and the City: On a Controversy about the Construction of a New Gate in Jaipur" (Annual Conference of the British Association of South Asian Studies)

    • byApl. Prof. Dr. Jörg Gengnagel
    • 9 a.m., Gaskoin Room, Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge.
    • Panel: Writing Transnational Histories of South Asian Monarchies: Between Regional Dynamism and Global Entanglement, c. 1850-1950


      Man Singh II, the Maharaja of Jaipur, and his court decided in 1933 to move outside the walled city of Jaipur to the new Rambagh Palace situated in the South of the town. The building was lavishly refurbished by the Maharaja’s favorite interior designer Charles Hammond of London at the cost of 4 million rupees and thus provided for a modern, up-to-date style of living compared to the old residence in the City Palace, built in the first half of the 18th century. However, there was one major disadvantage brought about by the new location of the Rambagh palace outside the walled city: the Maharaja and his company could not enter into the walled city in a form suitable for ceremonial movements in space. This led to an unusual request by Maharaja Man Singh II: a new gate should be added to the city wall. This would allow for the construction of a new road granting a direct connection between the old and the new residence and thus an appropriate ceremonial entry by the King and this company. But the representatives of the religious specialists met at their assembly hall called Mauj Mandir (Dharm Sabh) and stated in a document undersigned by six members that they thought it not proper to construct a new gate in the south of the city. In this conflict during the first half of the 20th century the spatial setting of the ruling dynasty’s residence Jaipur provides the stage for representatives of mainly two status groups: the nobility of the local dynasty of the Kachvahas and the court administration with their ruler Maharaja Man Singh II and the religious elite and their representatives. In this paper I would like to contextualize the interaction of these two groups within cultural and social changes that led to a whole series of additions and re-structuring of space from the 18th to the present day. Power and ruler ship was negotiated in space; Gods, Goddesses, kings and priests have been and are highly mobile. One of the tasks of the actors was to connect old and new places, old and new practices and thereby grant continuity in rapidly changing social, political and cultural settings.
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    2016: 27 Januar

    Talk "Jnanavapi in Transition: Spatial Aspects and Ethnographic Perspectives from Research around a Sacred Well in Banaras"

    • by Dr. Vera Lazzaretti, Milan University
    • 4 p.m., R. 317, SAI


      This presentation explores multiple aspects and possible future directions of my research about past and present transitions at the Jnanavapi in Banaras. This sacred water place lies at the centre of the city’s religious life, next to the famous temple of Kashi Vishavanth, the Gyan Vapi mosque and other minor shrines. My research seeks to document ways in which religious heritage has been produced and negotiated in space by diverse actors in the past, and how it is now being reshaped by urban secular authorities and institutions. I will first examine the fragmented history of the well, its uses and roles, and highlight crucial phases of its spatial evolution. Drawing on ethnographic material, I will then focus on the multiple questions emerging during repeated dialogues with Kedarnath Vyas, who occupies a crucial role in the area as pilgrimage specialist and head of the family in charge of the Jnanavapi. Our encounters serve to illuminate changes in the management of sacred space, reflect on the consequent repositioning and decline of past religious authorities and spatial practices, such as pilgrimage, as well as imagining possible new visions of religious heritage and its space. The presentation will also reflect on the methodology adopted and question the role and position of the researcher, as well as considering future research pathways.

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    2016: 12 January

    Talk "Recovery and Politics in Post-Earthquake Nepal"

    • by Sudip Pokharel
    • 2 p.m., R. 316, SAI


    A devastating earthquake struck Nepal on 25 April 2015, killing thousands, injuring tens of thousands more, and damaging and destroying hundreds of thousands of houses, as well as public infrastructure. Less than three weeks later, on 12 May 2015, another major quake hit, bringing further destruction and misery. Recovery and reconstruction plans have since been implemented slowly leaving many without the aid they urgently need to survive the winter and to rebuild. Factors preventing a faster response during the second half of 2015 were political agreements to fast-track Nepal’s new constitution, the formation of a new government, subsequent political protests, as well as a blockade on Nepal’s border with India, among others. This presentation will discuss the immediate disaster response, how effective the aid response has been up to now, and how political turmoil has affected recovery and reconstruction after the earthquakes. The discussion is based on qualitative field research conducted by Democracy Resource Center Nepal in eighteen Village Development Committees (VDCs) across six earthquake-affected districts. This is a part of a broader research project produced by The Asia Foundation and supported by UK Aid and the Swiss Development Cooperation. The project focuses on how the earthquakes and the disaster response shape economic recovery, social relations, leadership, and politics in Nepal.

    Sudip Pokharel is the Director of Democracy Resource Center Nepal, a socio-political research organization based in Kathmandu.

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    2015: 4 November

    Talk "Reflections on Sound and Music in Nepalese Life-Cycle Rituals"


    In Nepal, as probably elsewhere in South Asia, many rituals performed in public or private space are marked by sound and music. The rich repertoire of musical traditions, which has attracted the attention of anthropologists and musicologists, provides rituals of different ethnic and social groups with distinguished sonic characters. Priestly recitations, ritual songs etc. further enrich and diversify the acoustic dimension. This paper will deal with Hindu life-cycle rituals of Nepalese speaking high-caste families in urban Kathmandu. Based on field work and textual studies, the diverse sounds occurring during marriages and initiations, will be looked at more closely. It will be argued that the different types of sound produced by different agents (priests, women, musicians), on the one hand, contribute to the creation and structuring of ritual time and space, while on the other, they transcend and radiate the same.

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    2015: 10 November

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    2015: 20-22 October

    Conference of the Zellwerk project "Gemstones in the first Millennium AD." with talks by Prof. Jörg Gengnagel, Kerstin Sobkowiak und Borayin Larios

    • Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum (RGZM), Mainz


    Die Tagung »Gemstones in the first Millenium AD« findet im Rahmen des Projektes »Weltweites Zellwerk – Umbrüche in der kulturellen Bedeutung frühmittelalterlichen Edelsteinschmucks vor dem Hintergrund von Wirtschaftsgeschichte sowie Ideen- und Technologietransfer« statt.

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    2015: 25 August

    Talk "Who is a „true“ Aghorī?"


    In India, the notion of the “fake” ascetic is probably as old as the idea of asceticism as a legitimate way to salvation. In order to indicate the range of arguments that can support such an accusation and imply different understandings of what a “real” ascetic is or should be the paper will concentrate on the example of the “Aghorī ascetics”. While in the colonial accounts these cremation ground dwellers are customarily accused of being imitators lacking any theological background or mere imposters who took the robe of an ascetic to extract money from the timid folk, modern scholars have explained the Aghorīs’ extreme practices as coherently fitting the logic of yogic asceticism. Furthermore, it will be shown that followers of the tradition have yet other ways to define who is a “true” Aghorī and who is a “fake” one.

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    2015: 20 August

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    2015: 20 August

    Talk “Tracing Royal Nepalese Navaratra Rites in History”


    Astrid Zotter’s project concentrates on the royal Nepalese Durgāpūjā rituals, and specifically focuses on those elements and related narratives that focus on the sword, a highly charged ritual implement - representing the king and at the same time embodying the Goddess. By doing so, one focus will be to sketch how in Navarātra rituals the relationship of the king and his śakti was conceived, reshaped, and celebrated, especially at times of political change.

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    2015: 05 - 25 August

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    2015: 11. July

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    2015: 7. - 8. May

    Talk "“Vallabhācārya's reading of the Bhāgavata-Purāṇa”

    • by Anand Mishra
    • at the conference "Expressing the Ineffable in South Asian Literary Traditions", Freie Universität Berlin, Room L116, Habelschwerdter Allee 45, 14195 Berlin, 7. – 8.05.2015
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    2015: 3rd February - Department colloquium

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    2015: 27th January - Department colloquium

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    2015: 20th January - Department colloquium

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    2014: 22th November

    Talk “Manuscripts and Documents at the Court in Jaipur (Rajasthan) between the Archives and the Museum”

    • by Apl. Prof. Dr. Jörg Gengnagel
    • on the conference "Manuscripts and Archives", Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC), 19. – 22.11.2014


    The study of the court ritual in Jaipur has to deal with a variety of documents preserved both at state archives, libraries and archives of the royal family and private collections. In this presentation I will mainly focus on the court protocol that has been transferred from Jaipur to the Rajasthan State Archives in Bikaner and documents that still form part of the collections of the royal family of Jaipur and are now administered by the Trust of the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum at the City Palace of Jaipur.

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    2014: 14th November

    Talk “At the pragmatic end of scholasticism: Ritualists and their textual tradition”

    • by Christof Zotter
    • during the workshop "Scholasticisms’ practice, and practices’ scholasticism", Centre d'Études - Inde Asie du Sud (CEIAS), Paris 14.11.2014
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    2014: 15th October

    Talk “A formal re-presentation of the Aṣṭādhyāyī”

    • by Anand Mishra
    • during the Workshop "Pāṇini and the Pāṇinīyas of the 16th - 17th century C.E.", French Institute of Pondicherry (IFP), 14. – 16.10.2014


    The presentation of the grammatical system in terms of the sūtras of Aṣṭādhyāyī follows the same basic principle on which the system of grammar is based, namely – analysis of a given whole into constituent components and then rule based synthesis of the whole out of the analyzed parts. Like a Sanskrit sentence is synthesized using the appropriate components and following the rules of grammar, similarly an operational statement of grammar needs to be synthesized using appropriate (parts of) sūtras and following the rules of presentation. This way of comprehending a whole in terms of combination of parts leads to brevity (lāghava). However, as the example of Siddhānta-kaumudī of Bhaṭṭoji Dīkṣita shows, the task of integrating the grammatical system (siddhānta) and the derivational process (prakriyā) is not trivial. Re-organizing the sūtras – as in Siddhānta-kaumudī – is problematic because of the relevance of the sequential position of the sūtras (adhikāra) and also because a sūtra is not always the smallest unit. In my talk, I will put forward a new manner to represent the grammatical system which facilitates the integration of the derivational process as well. Unlike the Pāṇinian framework, which is meant for oral formulation and application by using human memory, my framework is designed from a different perspective, namely to furnish the basis for a computer implementation of the grammar. It attempts to weigh the Aṣṭādhyāyī from a formal point of view and explores the possibilities of representing it in a logical, explicit and consistent manner. Further, such a representation aims to provide an adequate tool for postulating and/or evaluating hypotheses on the grammatical system.

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    2014: 24th July

    Talk “'Dattātreya's dwelling place': socio-religious dynamics at a contemporary urban temple under a holy tree”

    • by Borayin Larios
    • on the "23rd European Conference on South Asian Studies",
      Zurich University, 23. - 26.7.2014


    In this paper, I propose to investigate the relationship of nature and sacred place-making with the example of a contemporary Hindu temple in India. The 'Śrī Gurudev Datta Mandir' was established in a public park in the residential area of urban Pune, Maharashtra in the mid-1970s. The temple was built in honor of a devotee's vision of Lord Dattātreya: according to the oral tradition, in the year 1968, the park's gardener found a pair of brass sandals (pādukās) under an Audumbar tree (ficus racemosa), while watering the park's garden. He identified these sandals as Datta's holy footwear. Since then, daily worship has taken place there and after just a few years a sizable temple-complex has been erected with the sanctum sanctorum around the tree, which nowadays has a large number of daily visitors.

    The Audumbar tree is considered to be the 'dwelling place of Lord Dattātreya', and wherever such a tree is found the place is considered to be a potential sacred site. The dynamics of the interaction between space, nature/materiality and human practice are crucial to define one's identity. It is at places such as the 'Śrī Gurudev Datta Mandir' that one can study the multidimensional, transforming and transformative discourses that are being articulated and negotiated there, and which produce and contest ideas about locality, nature and religious experience.

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    2014: 22. Juli

    Talk “Designing specialized databases for Indological studies”

    • by Anand Mishra pon the workshop "Paper & Pixel: International Summerschool on Digital Humanities in Indology", 22. - 27.7.14
    • Universität Tübingen, 22.7., 1 pm, Schulungsraum, Wilhelmstr. 32 (University Library)

    The core of the Summer school is to develop and deepen the knowledge of young scholars and researchers working on textual material by using methods of the digital humanities. Especially with regard to manuscripts and rare books, this workshop deals with the process of digitizing, text structuring and encoding and its benefits for research. By using means of the digital humanities textual sources can be analysed in multiple ways and there are chances for new interdisciplinary approaches.

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    2014: 10th July

    Talk “What does it mean to be a tāntrika pujārī? On the diverging opinions regarding the three levels of initiation at the Kāmākhyā temple complex (Assam).”

    • von Irene Majo Garigliano:
    • ISO- Italian Institute of Oriental Studies, University of Rome “Sapienza”
      LESC- Laboratory of Ethnology and Comparative Sociology, Paris X-CNRS
      CEH- Centre for Himalayan Studies, CNRS
      CEIAS- Centre for Studies of India and South Asia, EHESS-CNRS
      DAAD fellow- Department of Anthropology, South Asia Institute, Heidelberg University.
    • Südasien-Institut, Raum 323, 16 Uhr c.t.


    In order to perform the daily pūjā for the Goddess Kāmākhyā, a Kamakhyan Brahman needs to be initiated and instructed by his seniors. At the end of the training period, he will be recognized as a pujārī. Three stages of dīkṣā can be acquired in the temple complex: those who restrain themselves to the first stage of initiation (the so called vaidika dīkṣā, or abhiṣeka) understand themselves to be vaidika, because the use of the pañcamakāras is only mandatory in the second stage (the satyābhiṣeka) and in the third one (the pūrṇābhiṣeka). Instead the pujārīs who take at least the satyābhiṣeka affirm that everyone who takes dīkṣā in the temple complex cannot but be a tāntrika. According to them, certain ritual operations preliminary to the pūjā aim at imposing divine energies on the pujārī’s body; this very fact and the resulting semi-divine status acquired by the pujārī makes the latter a tāntrika.

    Based on ethnographic data, this presentation aims at comparing the emic point of view on the three dīkṣās (the priests’ diverging opinions) with the etic one (the anthropologist’s perspective): the very sequence of initiations suggests that in the Kāmākhyā temple complex the second and third stages occupy the higher rank, whereas the first one (the so called vaidika initiation) represents a sort of preliminary to them.

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    2014: 1st July

    Talk “Vyavahāra: An Ancient Indian Source of Legal History”

    • by Dr. Anagha Joshi (Centre of Advanced Study in Sanskrit, University of Pune).
    • South Asia Institute, room 323, 4 pm c.t.


    Dharmaśāstra literature forms an important part of Sanskrit Literature. It pervades various aspects of Indian social and cultural life. Hindu Law is largely based on Dharmaśāstra literature. The Smṛtis are the primary sources of Hindu law. Judicial systems of ancient India are discussed in the Smṛti literature. The Smṛtis arrange their contents and treat the subjects under three principle heads, i.e. ācāra (code of conduct), vyavahāra (law) and prāyaścitta (expiations). The term vyavahāra is used in several senses such as transaction, dispute or law-suit, legal procedure or judicial proceedings. According to Smṛtikāras there are eighteen titles of law, i.e. vyavahārapadas. In this lecture, an attempt is made to explain the concept of vyavahāra and to look into some of the vyavahārapadas.

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    2014: 14th May

    Talk "'Restoring Dharma' in Contemporary India. The Performance of the Rājasūya Ritual in Barshi, Maharashtra"

    • by Borayin Larios on the conference "In the Name of the Veda. Contemporary Uses of Vedic Text in India and Abroad."
    • EHESS - Salles 638-640, 190-198, avenue de France, 75013 Paris, 4 pm


    In this paper, I present some of the results of my doctoral study of the traditional education and training of Brahmins as observed in 25 contemporary Vedic schools in Maharashtra, India. These schools called vedapāṭhaśālās (or gurukulas) are the hub in which the Vedic knowledge and authority is passed from one generation to the other. Vedic schools with their gurukula model of education are, thus, a very tangible place to observe how the Veda is passed on to the next generations and the way the Vedic tradition is preserved and reconstructed by orthodox Brahmins today. In this paper, I investigate how ideal conceptions around Brahmanhood are transmitted and ritually performed in contemporary India. I discuss how discourses around what it means to be a Brahmin are constantly being renegotiated anew. Drawn from my fieldwork, I will present an account of a rare Vedic coronation ritual called rājasūya performed in a traditional Vedic school of Maharashtra in 2011-2012. With this example, I will present ways in which the Vedic tradition is being articulated today and how apparent contradictions are being resolved. How is a coronation ritual in democratic India justified? What are the socio-political and religious implications involved in the costly performance of such a ritual? What does this event tell us about the role of the Vedic tradition in contemporary Hinduism? I this paper, I hope to provide answers to these questions and provide with a vivid example of how the Vedic tradition reinvents itself in contemporary India..

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    2014: 5./6. May

    Workshop and Lecture "The Vedic Foundation of Dharma: Epistimological Debates"

    • by Patrick Olivelle
    • Voßstraße 2, Building 4400, Heidelberg
      5.5. 6 pm, R 212, 6.5. 10 am, R 212a
      organized by Simon Cubelic


    The system built around the concept of dharma, the Patrick Olivelle argues, is undoubtedly a legal system. Prof. Olivelle’s starting point is H.L.A. Hart's (2012) The Concept of Law, perhaps the most influential work on the philosophy of law. Central to Hart’s philosophy is what he calls "the rule of recognition". The rule of recognition, simply put, provides both ordinary citizens and state officials, especially judges, the criteria for identifying what is a valid law and what is not. In other words, it deals with the epistemology or, in the case of Indian jurists, pramāṇa, of law: where do we find law, or in the present case, dharma? Prof. Olivelle’s paper addresses the development of a Brahmanical jurisprudence of dharma and its epistemology centered on the theory that dharma is found in and founded on the Veda. Between 500 and 1000 CE, we see scholars discussing the serious problems that flow from this basic principle. Given that most of what passes for dharma within Brahmanism is not found in the extant Vedic texts but in later texts known as smṛti, how can this principle be sustained? The most realistic answers to these problems come from scholars within the Indian legal tradition called Dharmaśāstra. Medhātithi, perhaps the greatest Indian jurist, frankly acknowledges that not all dharma is based on the Veda. The multiplicity of dharma, divided according the time, place, and community, is central to the Brahmanical understanding of dharma, in spite of theological veneer of its Vedic basis.

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    2014: 21. März

    Talk "Divine dishes and human gods: Food and food transactions in Nepalese marriage rituals"

    • by Dr. Astrid Zotter on the conference "Food and Ritual: Ancient Practices and Modern Perspectives"
    • Corpus Christi College, Oxford, 19. - 21.3.2014

    On food and ritual throughout history. Includes papers on food and religious behaviour, identity and emotion in religious texts from Ancient Greece and Rome, Mesopotamia, South and South-east Asia and the Hebrew Bible.

    Jan Bremmer (Groningen)
    Laura Feldt (Denmark)
    Patricia Ladwig (Max-Planck Insitute Halle)
    Fred Naiden (UNC/Chapel Hill)
    Nicholas Purcell (Oxford)
    Frances Reynolds (Oxford)
    Walther Sallaberger (Munich)
    Barbara Schuler (Hamburg)
    Francesca Stavrakopoulou (Exeter)
    Astrid Zotter (Heidelberg)

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    2014: 13th - 15th February

    International field workshop "Indian Waterscapes - Engineering Knowledge and Local Knowledge Systems"


    Water in Asia is subject to a great variety of knowledge systems and practices. Some of these appear to be linked to particular spaces – when associated with specific local cultures or religions – while others are structured by functional and symbolic differentiations, like expert knowledge, political knowledge and sacred knowledge. The newly formed inter-disciplinary research group “Waterscapes in Transcultural Perspectives” at the Cluster “Asia and Europe” at Heidelberg University attempts to trace the circulation and transformation of environmental knowledge fragments and practices across the boundaries of diverse knowledge systems.

    The recognition of the global inter-connectedness of environmental phenomena has increasingly led to cooperation across national, social and political boundaries. However, academic collaboration is still constrained by disciplinary boundaries, and even more importantly by the hierarchical boundaries of different knowledge systems. With this field workshop in Jaipur the research group is starting a series of workshops that should enhance transdisciplinary cooperation without sacrificing the strength of disciplinary methodology and competencies, which has lately become a state-of-the-art practice in the agendas of leading global environmental research.

    Step-wells and tanks in the city of Jaipur had from the early 18th century been built by Indian engineers with special expertise in water supply systems for arid zones. Modern public supply systems also had to cope with concepts of health and social function surrounding water and co-existed with traditional systems. The presented case studies of Jaipur and Amber will examine the systems of knowledge as applied to management of water and the shift in the function of water architecture down into the present.

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    2014: 28th January

    Talk "Śaiva Inscriptions Re-examined: Tracing the History of Śaivism in Early Medieval Nepal"

    • by Dr. Nina Mirnig, IIAS, Leiden University/Netherlands
    • SAI, room 316, 28.1.14, 4 pm c.t.


    It is well attested that Śaivism has held a prominent position in the religious landscape of the Kathmandu Valley from the so-called Licchavi period onwards (ca. fourth until the eight century CE), the time of the earliest written local records. Based on this epigraphical evidence, the popularity of Śiva Paśupati during Aṃśuvarman's reign (ca. 605-621 CE) and the presence of Pāśupata Śaivas thereafter are often noted. Beyond these facts, it has been challenging to draw a more comprehensive picture of the development of Śaivism during the early medieval period based on the available sources. In this presentation I will revisit some of the early Śaiva inscriptions and recover facets of Śaiva practices and their socio-religious context, which I hope will contribute to a more differentiated picture of Śaiva history during the Licchavi period. In particular, I will focus on a set of Śivaliṅga Pedestal inscriptions issued between 466 and 545 CE, thus pre-dating the Pāśupata records by over a century. Recording the setting up of Śivaliṅgas, these inscriptions attest to the religious activities of lay Śaivas, in particular of merchants and women of high rank, following common patterns of Indic donative practices. Even though Pāśupatas are not mentioned explicitly, two of these inscriptions reveal influence of both, some Śaiva sectarian ideology as well as the donative practices of their Buddhist competitors.

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    2013: 17./18. October

    Talk "Argumenting for Bhakti: A Study of the Bhaktihaṃsa of Viṭṭhalanātha"

    • by Anand Mishra on the "5th International Indology Graduate Research Symposium Bochum"
    • Ruhr University Bochum, Universitaetsstrasse 150, Conference Room FNO 02/46, 44780 Bochum
    • 17.10.2013, 2 - 2.30 pm


    Bhakti is serving God out of pure emotions of love. It does not require any logical apparatus for its foundation or exercise. At the same time, the philosophers of bhakti tradition employ a well developed argumentational structure, based primarily on the Mīmāṃsā and Nyāya schools, to establish their theses.

    In my presentation, I intend to outline the methods of reasoning followed by Viṭṭhalanātha (1516-1588 CE) of Puṣṭi-mārga in his work Bhaktihaṃsa. Building up on arguments similar to the Mīmāṃsā school, Viṭṭhalanātha attempts to establish that bhakti is different from the path of rituals (karma), knowledge (jñāna) and worship (upāsanā).

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    2013: 1st to 2nd October 2013


    • Translating the Bhāgavata Purāṇa
    • in Room Z 10, South Asia Institute, Heidelberg
    • Organizers: Monika Boehm-Tettelbach, Neeraja Poddar, Anand Mishra

    Further Information

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    2013: 23th September

    Made in Nepal (32. German Orientalistentag, Münster)

    • (32. German Orientalistentag, Münster)
    • The panel will take place on Monday, 23. September. 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m..
    • Panel leaders are Gudrun Bühnemann and Astrid Zotter.






    Bajracharya / Michaels

    How Buddhist is the Nepalese Wright Chronicle?




    Bhartṛhari in Nepal




    Dividing Texts: Conventions of visual text-organization in Nepalese manuscripts up to ca. CE 1300




    Bhairava and the Eight Charnel Grounds: On the History of a Monumental Painting at the Jayavāgīśvarī Temple, Kathmandu






    Zotter, A.

    Königliche Rituale ohne König



    Zotter, C.

    Neue vedische Rituale in Nepal

    Further details are available here.

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    2013: 12th July

    Talk "Sheldon Pollock and German Indology"

    • by Prof. Dr. Axel Michaels
    • at SAI at conference "Philosophy and Science - Indo-German Dialogues and Dimensions"
    • 12.7.2013, 4 - 5.30 pm, Heinrich-Zimmer-Saal at SAI-Bibliothek

    The International Conference entitled "Philosophy and Science - Indo-German Dialogues and Dimensions" takes place from 11. - 13. July. The opening of the conference is initiated on Thursday, 11th July, 2013 at 6 p. m. in Senatssaal, Alte Universität Heidelberg. On 12th and 13th July the conference takes place in the Heinrich-Zimmer-Saal, SAI-Library.

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    2013: 5th June

    Talk "Changing Sacred Waterscapes: The north-Indian Pilgrimage Center Varanasi between Purity and Pollution."

    • by apl. Prof. Dr. Jörg Gengnagel at Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages
    • at University of Olso, Faculty of Humanities, P. A. Munchs hus, Niels Henrik Abels vei 36, 0371 OSLO, Norway
    • 5.6.2013, 4.15 to 6.00 pm


    Water and the waterscape are central to the perception of the north-Indian city Varanasi (Benares, Banaras, Kāśī) as one of the most important Indian pilgrimage centers. Various types of water places form an integral part of the topography of Varanasi. The river Gaṅgā and the tributaries Asi and Varuṇā demarcate the sacred “field” of the city (kāśīkṣetra). The cityspace itself is dotted with numerous ponds, tanks (kuṇḍa, tālāb) and wells (vāpī, kūpa). Water forms an integral part of this territory that is praised in the eulogical Sanskrit literature on Varanasi as an ideal land- and waterscape, literally called the Ānandavana, i.e. “Forest of Bliss”. The whole territory is therefore perceived as one of the most prominent ford or crossing (tīrtha) promising liberation to the pilgrims.

    In this lecture I will show that this waterscape has its environmental history where technological, scientific and religious knowledge systems interact. The semantic domains of purity (pavitratā, śuddhatā) and pollution (gandagī) interact in the presented case studies of the 19th and 21st century and have led to significant changes in the seemingly unchanging sacred waterscape of Varanasi.

    2013: 25 February

    Talk "The Cremation Ground as an Arena of Ritual Denial. The Case of the Aghorīs."

    • by Christof Zotter at Colloquium on Indian Religions
    • at Groningen University, Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, Oude Boteringestraat 38, Raum 253, 9700 AB Groningen, Holland
    • 25th February 2013, 4 pm to 4.45 pm


    For the Brahmanical tradition the cremation ground is a place of impurity and danger. Elaborate rituals and sets of rules and regulations have been developed to ensure that the pollution caused by death does not enter the ordered world of normal life. But since ancient times this spot at the periphery of the settlement is the place for other ritual activities, too. Associated with ambivalent deities such as Bhairava and his female consorts, these are often transgressive in character and are usually performed in secrecy.

    One of the groups whose practice is related to the cremation ground are the Aghorīs, skull bearing ascetics that are normally seen as the successors of older Śaivite groups, such as the Kāpālikas. The lecture will take Bābā Kīnārām (17th/18th cent.), the most famous Aghorī of North India, and his tradition as an example to demonstrate the complexity of this heterodox movement.

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    2013: 18 - 23 February

    Conference "Water and Sacred Spaces: A Case-Study of the Ellora-Khuldabad-Daulatabad Historic Region"

    The region of Ellora is of great historical significance in the Indian sub-continent, as it was a zone of convergence of four major religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Islam; it lay on major trade and pilgrimage routes and was a political centre of medieval and early modern India in the Mughal Empire. The water conservation techniques are based on an understanding of the rock type (Deccan Basalt) out of which the reservoirs, tanks, cisterns and step-wells were excavated.

    The Workshop, to be held on site in Ellora, is a joint collaboration between the Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR), the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg. It will involve the participation of scholars and specialists in the fields of history, indology, archaeology, anthropology, architecture, hydrology and geography from India and Germany.

    Apl. Prof. Dr. Jörg Gengnagel is chair of the closing session.

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    2013: 31 Januar

    Talk: The vedamūrti: Embodying the Veda in Contemporary Maharashtra

    In this presentation Borayin Larios will address the title of vedamūrti (embodiment of the Veda) commonly used among Brahmin reciters in Maharashtra to analyze the relationship between text and performance / embodiment in contemporary India. Here he would discuss how, traditionally, in order to become a vedamūrtia complete socialization in the gurukula system of knowledge transmission is required. This presentation would address the topic of the Workshop and try to elucidate, with this particular example, how the dichotomy of ‘text’ and ‘practice’ is an unnecessary oxymoron.

    Borayin Larios will as well introduce a short film.

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    2012: 17 Dezember

    Workshop: The Aghora Tradition and the Denial of Ritual

    • organised by Dr. Christof Zotter, SAI, Raum Z 10
      Guest: JishnuShankar (University ofTexas atAustin, USA)

    Wohl kaum eine der zum Hinduismus gezählten religiösen Gruppierungen ist so berüchtigt wie die bevorzugt auf Verbrennungsplätzen lebenden Aghoris. Die ihnen zugeschriebenen transgressiven rituellen Praktiken und ihr Anstoß erregendes Auftreten haben im engeren und weiteren Umfeld, aber auch innerhalb der Aghora-Tradition selbst stark polarisierte Positionen provoziert. Mit radikalen Mitteln setzen sich die auch als Sarbhanga oder Aughar bekannten Religiosen über brahmanische Orthodoxie und bestehende Machtverhältnisse hinweg. Eben diese Mittel sicherten ihnen oft aber auch eine gesellschaftliche Position als Wunder und Heilung wirkende Heilige. Besonders deutlich wird dies am Beispiel des Baba Kinaram (17 Jh.). Der wohl bekannteste Aghori Nordindiens wird heute nicht nur in Benares als Vaishnava, Shaiva, Shakta, Sadhak, Sant und Dichter verehrt, sondern er ist auch der Gründer einer Tradition, die aufgrund des Wirkens von Aghoreshwar Baba Bhagwan Ram (1937-1992) mittlerweile mit zahlreichen spirituellen und sozialen Institutionen in Indien, Europa und den USA agiert und floriert.

    Organisiert im Rahmen des Projektes „Denial of Ritual“ des SFB 619 „Ritualdynamik“ wird im Workshop der Frage nachzugehen sein, wie im Falle der Aghori das Konzept „Denial of ritual“ als Argument in inner- und interkulturellen Diskursen fassbar ist. Die Veranstaltung soll aber auch Gelegenheit bieten, andere Bereiche dieses facettenreichen Themas mit Dr. Jishnu Shankar, einem erfahrenen Kenner der Tradition des Baba Kinaram zu diskutieren.

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    2012: 11 Dezember

    Talk "Der König und die königlichen Insignien. Beispiele aus dem Hofritual Jaipurs"

    Talk within the sixth Wuerzburg colloquium: "Wege zum Heil(igen)? 'Sakralität' und 'Sakralisierung' in hinduistischen religiösen Traditionen"

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    2012: 30 November

    Talk "Vedānta Exegesis by Svāmī Bhagavadācārya"

    O Svāmī Bhagavadācārya (1879 ? -1976 ? CE) belonged to Rāmānanda Sampradāya and played a central role in a conflict which arose among Rāmānandis at the beginning of last century, between those who accepted the Ramānuja lineage of Rāmānanda and those who rejected it. Apart from organizing and spearheading sectarian campaigns culminating in a split between Rāmānandis and Rāmānujis (Kumbh Mela, Ujjain 1921), he composed a number of commentaries and poetical works in Sanskrit, chief among them are his commentaries on Śukla-Yajurveda, Sāmaveda, Upanishads, Vyāsa-Sūtra, Bhagavadgītā and a mahākāvya on the life of Mahatma Gandhi.

    His interpretations are marked with exceptional objectivity and rationality and at the same time, his criticism of the established beliefs in Vedānta tradition is merciless and courageous. He is perhaps the only example of a Vedānta-ācārya, who neither accepts Vedas as apauruṣeya nor a creation of God nor revealed scriptures, but a miscellaneous collection of human thoughts.

    The forcefulness of his writings comes from a unique blend of modern approach towards a text and at the same time use of traditional apparatus in understanding it. I intend to provide an overview of the context, content and nature of his exegetical works.

    • Website for the talk including teaching material
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    11 October

    Talk "Battles of Material and the Gift of a Virgin – Aspects of Materiality in Nepalese Marriage Rituals"

    • with Astrid Zotter on the Annual Conference of the cluster "Asia & Europe"
    • 11 October 2012

    Over the last few decades, at least in the metropolitan context of Kathmandu, profound chan-ge has affected the material setting and layout of Nepalese Hindu marriage rituals. Marriage is nowadays organized as a series of semi-public events that require large sums of money to be spent. It is common to hire professional event management. The increase in finance expenditure goes along with a decrease of time and labour invested. This modern trend, as other developments in the material layout of the ritual too, seems to echo notions of western consumer culture and privatization without, however, abandoning the traditional patterns of hospitality and gift-giving. One of the central rites of the Hindu marriage ritual is the kanyādāna in which the father of the bride hands his daughter over to the groom. As on other occasions land, gold or cattle, the girl (kanyā) is transferred within the ritual model of gift-giving (dāna). By this act a continuous stream of gifts is initiated that follows the bride and forms an important channel through which material goods move within society.

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    3. Oktober

    Talk "Shastrapuja during the Dashahara Festival in Jaipur"

    • by apl. Prof. Dr. Jörg Gengnagel at Agrawal P.G. College, Jaipur
    • 3rd October 2012

    Apl. Prof. Dr. Jörg held a talk on 3rd October 2012 in Jaipur at Agrawal P.G. College, Jaipur, invited by Prof. R. S. Khangarot, addressed to the teachers of the college. The title was "Shastrapuja during the Dashahara Festival in Jaipur". Topic was one of the most important public royal rituals. The adoration of the royal insignia (śastrapūjā) takes place on the 10th day as closing ceremony of the nine day long festivity cycle Navarātri. The talk analysed the movements within the room during the 10th day, the socio-religious dimension of this complex ritual and the connection to the epos Mahābhārata. This year Navarātri and Daśaharā is celebrated vom 16th to 23th October 2012.

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    2012: 10 - 14 September

    Pāṇini Intensive Course

    • with Anand Mishra M. A. at Institute for Language and Information, Heinrich-Heine-Universität, Düsseldorf
    • 10 -14 Sept. 2012, 09:30 am - 16:30 pm
      Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, Universitätsstr. 1, Building 23.21, Room 02.52

    This intensive course will focus on the grammatical processes, meta-linguistic conventions and well developed techniques of representation of linguistic information in Aṣṭādhyāyī. It aims to introduce this grammar to students and scholars of linguistics and informatics and no prior knowledge of Sanskrit is required.
    Read more ...

    Local organizer: Wiebke Petersen, Institute for Language and Information, Heinrich-Heine-Universität, Düsseldorf

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    2012: 24 July

    Vortrag "Über die Ursprünge der Yogapraxis aus der Sicht eines indischen Yoga-Sādhaka"

    • von R. Sriram im Rahmen des Seminars "Yoga im Osten, Yoga im Westen"
    • 24. Juli 2012, SAI, Raum 316, 16 Uhr c.t.

    R. Sriram aus Chennai ist langjähriger Schüler von Sri T. K. V. Desikachar und bekannter Vertreter dieser Yoga-Tradition. Er unterrichtete mehrere Jahre an Desikachars Yogazentrum, dem Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Chennai. R. Sriram lebt seit 1987 mit seiner Familie in Deutschland und hat neben seiner Unterrichtstätigkeit mehrere Bücher verfasst, unter anderem eine deutsche Übersetzung von Patañjalis Yogasūtra.

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    2012: 26 June

    Talk "The Buddha’s Return Journey to Lumbinī (lumbinīyātrā)"

    • with Prof. Dr. Gudrun Buehnemann (Wisconsin)
    • 26 June 2012, SAI, room 316, 4 pm c.t.


    According to Newar Buddhists, Śākyamuni Buddha visited his birthplace Lumbinī after his enlightenment. Depictions of this journey became popular in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Nepal. They show the Buddha riding standing up on a snake while being attended by Hindu deities in service to him. The scene, known as the lumbinīyātrā, is represented in numerous paintings and in wood and metal work, and is also described in texts. This strand of the Buddha legend is specific to Newar Buddhism and not attested in Indian biographic or hagiographic accounts of the Buddha’s life. In this paper I will trace the history of the lumbinīyātrā theme by examining descriptions in texts and artistic representations. I will then discuss elements of the yātrā which are also found independently in other contexts. In conclusion, I will offer some thoughts on the significance of the lumbinīyātrā theme.

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    2012: 21 June

    Lecture and exhbition launch "Architektur und Ritual"

    • 6 pm, Völkerkundemuseum Heidelberg, Hauptstraße 235, 69117 Heidelberg

    The exhibition "Architektur und Ritual – Tempel, Stupas und Klöster des Kathmandu Tals" will include 20 of the works Niels Gutschow initially presented in his book "Architecture of the Newars. A History of Building Typologies and Details in Nepal", which was published in 2011. The exhibited architectural drawings are pieces which were skilfully made by Newar draftsmen. The Newar people developed a unique city culture, including ritual buildings. Gutschow began his research on their architecture in 1971. In addition to the drawings, the exhibition will show ritual objects and tools, including exhibits from Gutschow’s collection and from the museum.

    Patan, drawing of the Vishveshvara temple

    The exhibition will be opened with a talk by Prof. Michael Oppitz on June 21, 2012 at 6 pm at Heidelberg's Museum of Ethnology (Völkerkundemuseum). Oppitz, former curator of the Museum of Ethnology Zurich, will speak about drawing in ethnography ("Zeichnen in der Ethnography"). The exhibition is supported by the Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe in a Global Context", the South Asia Institute, and the Collaborative Research Centre 619 "Ritual Dynamics".

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    2012: 13 June

    Booklaunch "Architecture of the Newars"

    • with Prof. Niels Gutschow
    • 13 June 2012, Rubin Museum of Art New York, 150 W. 17 St., NYC 10011, 6.30 pm

    Prof. Niels Gutschow will present his recent publication in New York. The launch of three volumes on "Architecture of the Newars" will take place at the Rubin Museum of Art on June 13 from 5 to 8 pm.

    Niels Gutschow published three volumes with the entire history of architecture in Kathmandu and its neighbors over a period of 1,500 years. Architecture of the Newars is a rare tribute to an urban culture that has preserved a fascinating lifestyle to this very day. Gutschow first travelled to Nepal in 1962, returning in 1970 after reading architecture, and since then has constantly worked on the connections between ritual and the city. The three volumes document the various building typologies with 862 photos and 939 drawings.

    The booklaunch will begin at 5 pm with a Himalayan Happy Hour in presence of the author. After a Newar art tour in the galleries at 6 pm, Prof. Gutschow will give a talk at 6:30 pm. Subsequently, the author will sign the book.

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    2012: 24 May

    Talk "Pilgerpraxis, Raumtexte und religiöse Kartographie von Benares (Vārāṇasī)"

    • by apl. Prof. Dr. Jörg Gengnagel
    • Thursday, 24 May 2012, 6 pm c.t., Institut für Südasien-, Tibet- und Buddhismuskunde, Seminarraum 1, Spitalgasse 2, Hof 2.7, 1090 Wien

    zur Eröffnung der Fotoausstellung "Sakrale Topographie in Benares (Exkursion 2011)"

    Die Sakraltopographie von Benares (Vārāṇasī) findet sich nicht nur in zahlreichen „Raumtexten“ über die nordindische Pilgerstadt beschrieben, sie wird auch in Form von gemalten Bildkarten, Panoramen, Lithographien und topographischen Karten visualisiert. In diesem Vortrag sollen zunächst einige Karten aus dem 19. Jahrhundert vorgestellt und das Verhältnis von Text, Raum und religiöser Kartographie analysiert werden. Ausgehend von diesem Material werden dann historische und rezente Hinweise für Aushandlungsprozesse und Wandel im Kontext von Pilgerpraxis, Raumtexten und Sakraltopographie illustriert.

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    2012: April - Juli

    Vorträge bei "SAI dabei! In 50 Fragen durch Südasien"

    • werktäglich von 12.30 - 13.00 Uhr in der Peterskirche Heidelberg, Plöck 70

    Im Rahmen des Jubiläprogramms "50 Jahre SAI" beantworten Experten des SAI in einer täglichen Akademischen Mittagspause in allgemeinverständlicher und prägnanter Form 50 Fragen zur Region Südasien.

    Die Vorträge der Abteilung Kultur- Religionsgeschichte Südasiens (Klassische Indologie):

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    2012: 12 March

    Joint Talk "New Light on the Historiography of Nepal: The 'Wright Chronicle' reconsidered"

    Nepal: "New Light on the Historiography of Nepal: The 'Wright Chronicle' reconsidered is a Joint talk on March 12, 2012, marking the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Kathmandu Branch Office of the South Asia Institute and 50th anniversary of the South Asia Institute. The South Asia Institute presents a Joint Talk by Prof. Axel Michaels and Dr. Manik Bajracharya and a following reception on the occasion of the two anniversaries.

    For further information please contact:
    Pratibha Khanal or Rajesh Lal Shrestha
    Kathmandu Branch Office South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg
    E-Mail: or

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    2012: 1st - 2nd March

    Talk on the "Digital Corpus of Sanskrit"

    • by PD Dr. Oliver Hellwig
    • at the Wörterbuchcolloquium der Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur in Mainz, Geschwister-Scholl-Strasse 2, D-55131 Mainz

    On 1 - 2 March PD Dr. Oliver Hellwig will give a talk at the W&ounl;rterbuchcolloquium der Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur: "Das 'Digital Corpus of Sanskrit' - Aufbau eines lemmatisierten, wörterbuchbasierten Corpus für die philologische Forschung."

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    2012: 1 - 2 February

    Talks at the workshop "Fate, Freedom, and Prognostication in Indian Traditions"

    • with PD Dr. Oliver Hellwig and Anand Mishra M. A.
    • organised by the International Consortium for Research in the Humanities "Fate, Freedom and Prognostication. Strategies for Coping with the Future in East Asia and Europe", Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Ulrich-Schalk Str. 3a, IKGF Seminar Room, 91056 Erlangen

    Talk "Howling Jackals and Twitching Eyes – Searching for Descriptions of Omina using Computational Methods, with a Special Focus on Domain-Specific Sanskrit Vocabulary" by PD Dr. Oliver Hellwig

    Talk "‘Fate or Freedom’ vs. ‘Fate and Freedom’ – Inside Views of Two Indian Traditions" by Anand Mishra M. A.

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    2012: 26 January

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    2012: January 6

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    2011: December 8 - 10

    Conference "Exploring the Senses. Emotions, Performativity, and Ritual"

    • Organisers: Prof. Dr. Axel Michaels, Prof. Dr. Christoph Wulf
    • Freie Universität Berlin, Clubhaus, Goethestraße 49, 14163 Berlin


    • 1. Indian and Western Theories of Senses
    • 2. The Anthropology of Senses
      2.1 Vision and seeing
      2.2 Tasting and Smelling
      2.3 Movements and Touching
      2.4 Sound and Hearing
      2.5 The Unity of the Senses
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    2011: November 10

    Vortrag "Aspekte von Intentionalität und Kontingenz im nordindischen Wallfahrtsort Varanasi"

    auf der internationalen Konferenz "Unterwegs im Namen der Religion. Pilgern als Form von Kontingenzbewältigung und Zukunftssicherung in den Weltreligionen"

    Abstract: Die am Ganges gelegene nordindische Stadt Varanasi (Benares) nimmt nicht nur eine wichtige Position innerhalb der über den indischen Subkontinent verteilten hinduistischen Wallfahrtsorte ein. Auch der innerstädtische Raum ist geprägt durch zahlreiche Prozessionen, die ein zentrales Element der Sakraltopographie des Ortes darstellen. Die rituellen Bewegungen im innerstädtischen Raum beginnen mit dem Ablegen eines Versprechens (saṃkalpa), in welchem die Intention formuliert wird, eine der zahlreichen Prozession durchführen zu wollen (Sanskrit: ahaṃ kariṣye “ich werde tun”). Das Ende der Prozession und damit der Abschluß der rituellen Handlungsebene ist durch einen weiteren performativen Sprechakt markiert, bei dem das Getane benannt wird (mayā kṛtam “ich habe getan”). Diese formalisierten Sprechakte zu Beginn und Ende der rituellen Bewegung im Raum enthalten ebenfalls Formeln die Fehler und Auslassungen während dem Unterwegssein reparieren sollen. Damit soll gewährleistet werden, dass die ausgeführte Handlung nicht ohne Verdienst bleibt. In meinem Vortrag soll gezeigt werden, wie Intentionalität und Kontingenz im Spannungsfeld präskriptiver “Raumtexte” der sanskritischen Tradition und historischer sowie beobachteter Pilgerpraxis zu einer äußerst dynamischen und persistierenden Praxis des Unterwegssein führt.

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    2011: August 15 - 20

    Talks at the "Dubrovnik International Conference on the Sanskrit Epics and Puranas"

    • UInter-University Centre, Don Frane Bulica 4, HR-20000 Dubrovnik, Croatia.

    Talk by Anand Mishra, M. A.: "Analysing the Structure of Bhāgavata-Purāṇa"
    bstract: In his Tattvārtha-dīpa-nibandha Vallabhācārya (1478-1530 CE) analyses the structure of Bhāgavata-Purāṇa and examines its purpose, meaning and relevance. His attempt is to provide a semantic correlation between the organization of this text at its macro levels (śāstra, skandha, prakaraṇa and adhyāya) and its content at micro levels (vākya, pada and akṣara). According to the hermeneutical principle laid down by him, the correct meaning of a text like Bhāgavata-Purāṇa can be ascertained only when the meanings at all the seven levels mentioned above harmonize. Read more ...

    Talk by PD Dr. Oliver Hellwig: "Automatic Topos Detection in Epic and Puranic Literature"
    Abstract: Although Indological research disposes of valuable data collections such as the Epic and Puranic Bibliography and Brockington's survey of the Epics, it is still a demanding task to localize references that deal with certain predefined topics in the vast Epic and Puranic literature. The paper describes data-driven methods that make it possible to search for references of topics automatically, starting with just a few manually selected "seed references". It sketches the mathematical models on which an automatic topic search is based, and demonstrates how such a computational model can be integrated into philological work using examples from epic descriptions of omina.

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    2011: July, 7

    Talk "Pāṇinian Combinatorics: A set theoretical approach towards modelling Aṣṭādhyāyī"

    • von Anand Mishra M. A.
    • Heinrich-Heine-Universtität Düsseldorf, Institut für Sprache und Information, Abt. für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft, Universitätsstr. 1, 40225 Düsseldorf
    • 7. Juli 2011, 10:30 Uhr in Raum

    Abstract: About two and a half millenia ago, the grammarian Pāṇini provided a description of Sanskrit language. His work is called Aṣṭādhyāyī as it consists of eight chapters that contain some 4000 short aphorisms (sūtras). Paṇini employs a very sophisticated meta-language in order to assure mathematical perfection and utmost brevity in the formulation of his rules. The complex combinatorics of his grammar has the potential to synthesize more than 289 million finished word forms out of just 1960 roots. The basic approach is to analyze the given linguistic expressions into constituent elements and then to provide a rule based process to synthesize the standard expressions using the set of constituents. In my presentation, I intend to discuss a set theoretical approach towards modelling the Pāṇinian process of Sanskrit grammar and demonstrate my attempts to simulate it on computer.

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    2011: June 23 - 26

    Konferenz "South Asian Festivals on the Move"

    • Oslo, June 23rd to June 25th Jun 23, 2011 10 AM - Jun 25, 2011 05:15 PM,
    • Rådsalen, Lucy Smiths hus
    • organisiert von Axel Michaels und Ute Hüsken

    Vortrag von PD Dr. Jörg Gengnagel: "Inside and Outside the Palace: the Worship of Arms and Weapons as a Royal Festival on the Move".
    Abstract: The worship of the royal insignia (cihnāni) is a central element during the festival Vijayadaśamī, the tenth day of victory, which is celebrated immediately after Navarātri. The worship of arms, weapons and vehicles (śastravahanādipūjā) on this day highlights one of the aspects of this festival, namely the beginning of the war season characterized by the trespassing of borders. Based on textual and visual sources I will look at contemporary and historical practice in Jaipur, Rajasthan. Based on this material the question will be adressed to what extant the movements inside and outside the palace are linked to aspects of border crossing. .

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    2011: May 26

    The Knowledge Structure in Sanskrit Dictionaries

    • Gastvortrag von Amba Kulkarni,
    • University of Hyderabad, India.
    • Donnerstag, 26. Mai 2011, 17.00 Uhr c.t., Raum SAI E11

    Abstract: Traditional Sanskrit dictionaries like Amarakośa are important sources for an understanding of the evolution of semantic structures through which ideas and concepts are represented. An analysis of the principles and methods of organization of lexicographic knowledge provides the necessary framework for investigating the movement of concepts in a trans-cultural context. The proposed talk deals with the embedded semantic structure of traditional Sanskrit dictionaries and seeks to demonstrate the application of computational methods for their comprehension and representation on computer.

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    2011: May 24

    Spatial Texts, Religious Cartography and Pilgrimage Practice. Case Studies from Banaras and Jaipur

    • Vortrag von PD Dr. Jörg Gengnagel,
    • auf dem Journée de l’équipe "Territoires du religieux en Asie du Sud"
    • Paris, CEIAS, Rémy Delage, Mathieu Claveyrolas

    Abstract: In this talk Jörg Gengnagel will present a few case studies where a simultanous look at textual prescriptions, religious cartography and pilgrimage practice illustrates conflicts and contestations linked to religious territory. In the presented cases the normative “spatial texts” seem to reflect and highlight a tension between textual prescription and actual practice. The talk likes to take up these examples in order to discuss whether the religious elites have the power to shape and control a “territoires du religieux” or whether the normative power of texts and elites seems to be rather limited. The presented material includes texts and religious and topographical maps collected at the Varanasi Research Project in Heidelberg and is in one instance based on research in Jaipur.

    2011: May 20

    Vortrag "Die indische Alchemie und ihre Stellung in der altindischen Wissenschaftsgeschichte"

    • Vortrag von Dr. Oliver Hellwig
    • Institut für Südasien-, Tibet- und Buddhismuskunde, Universität Wien (ISTB), Seminarraum 1, 15 Uhr c.t.

    Abstract: Die indische Alchemie hat zwischen 1000 und 1600 u. Z. zahlreiche Sanskrit-Handbücher hervorgebracht, in denen chemische Experimente und die Herstellung medizinischer Präparate beschrieben werden. Der Vortrag bietet eine Übersicht über diese in der modernen Indologie kaum beachtete Lehrtradition. Dabei konzentriert er sich besonders auf die Fragen, wie die (proto) wissenschaftlichen Inhalte alchemistischer Texte quantitativ erfasst und in der indologischen Forschung verwertet werden können. Neben text- und wissenschaftsgeschichtlichen Folgerungen, die sich aus den quantitativ codierten Textinhalten ziehen lassen, spricht der Vortrag auch methodologische Konsequenzen für die textgeschichtliche Forschung an.

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    2011: March 25 - 26

    Information Technologies and Innovation in Sanskrit-Based Indian Studies

    • Anana Mishra M. A. und PD Dr. Oliver Hellwig
    • University of Vienna, Institute for South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, Seminarraum 1, Universitätscampus, Spitalgasse 2, Hof 2.7, 1090 Vienna

    Lecture by Oliver Hellwig: Improving the automatic tokenization and lexical analysis of Sanskrit texts

    Abstract: Indology nowadays disposes of large collections of digital Sanskrit texts that offer new insights into the linguistic, intellectual and religious history of ancient India. To use such collections effectively for research purposes, scholars need to have access to the linguistic structures of these texts and especially to their lexical and grammatical information. The presentation describes which methods from Computational Linguistics can be applied to extract and store such information in a semi-automatic way. The main part of the presentation is dedicated to the questions of how the accuracy of such automatic analysis methods can be improved and which accuracy rates we can expect for unsupervised linguistic analysis at the moment. The presentation is concluded with a sketch of how a complete linguistic analysis system for a text collection such as GRETIL could be designed.

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    2010: December 10 - 12

    4th International Sanskrit Computational Linguistics Symposium

    • Anand Mishra & PD. Dr. Oliver Hellwig
    • (J.N.U. New Delhi)
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    2010: September, 20 – 24

    Deutscher Orientalistentag: Südasiatische Natur- und Realienkunde

    • Astrid Zotter, Christoph Zotter und PD Dr. Oliver Hellwig
    • (Philipps-Universität Marburg, Centrum für Nah- und Mittelost Studien - DOT 2010, Deutschhausstr. 12, 35032 Marburg)

    Astrid Zotter spricht über „Irrtum oder Kreativität? Strategien nepalischer Ritualisten zur Übersetzung von Pflanzennamen aus dem Sanskrit“, Christoph Zotter über „Zur Substitution des Brahman-Priesters im post-vedischen Ritual“ und Oliver Hellwig über „Materialgruppen in der indischen Alchemie“. Südasien wird vor allem mit Religion, Philosophie und Dichtung verbunden. Dass daneben auch eine reiche Überlieferung zu Naturkunde, Handwerk und Technik existiert, ist dagegen weniger bekannt. Im Panel Südasiatische Natur- und Realienkunde wird untersucht, wie realienkundliche Informationen in Wissenstraditionen überliefert und zwischen diesen Traditionen - auch über Sprachgrenzen hinweg - ausgetauscht wurden und werden. Die Dynamik und die Spannbreite dieser Wissenssysteme zwischen schriftlichen Zeugnissen und praktischer Anwendung wird aufgezeigt und so einen Einblick in diesen oft vernachlässigten Bereich der südasiatischen Geistesgeschichte gewonnen.

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    2010: 20 - 24 September

    Talks at the sympsoium "Le Livre. La Roumanie. L’Europe"

    "Sacred sound becomes sacred scripture: the Veda Mandir in Naśik, Mahārāṣṭra" (page 233) by Borayin Larios

    "On the descriptive techniques of Prātiśākhya and Aṣṭādhyāyī" (page 245) by Anand Mishra

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    2010: June, 15

    Evaluation als akademisches Ritual

    • Prof. Dr. Axel Michaels
    • (15. Juni 2010, 11.45 Uhr - Fritz-Reuter-Saal der Humboldt-Universität Berlin, Seminargebäude am Hegelplatz, Dorotheenstr. 24, 10117 Berlin)

    Prof. Dr. Axel Michaels spricht über „Evaluation als akademisches Ritual“ auf der Tagung „Evaluation: New Balance of Power?“ im Rahmen der 4. Jahrestagung des Instituts für Forschungsinformation und Qualitätssicherung in Kooperation mit der Forschungsgruppe Wissenschaftspolitik des Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung.

    Abstract: Bestimmte Evaluationen und Begehungen werden als Rituale inszeniert. Wie stellen sich diese im Lichte der neueren Ritualforschung dar? Der Vortrag untersucht die Merkmale solcher Rituale und fragt, ob ritualisierte Evaluationen eher Erstarrung und Routine bringen und damit von den ursprünglichen Zielen wegführen, oder ob sie zu einer sinnvollen Vergemeinschaftung von Wissenskapital und Möglichkeiten der Erneuerung von Wissensüberprüfungen beitragen. Außerdem werden Aspekte der Macht über und in Ritualen sowie der Agency angesprochen. Die These lautet: Bestimmte Evaluationen werden ritualisiert. Damit überhöhen sich Institutionen und ihre Mitglieder. Diese Ereignisse führen zu Erstarrungen bei Evaluationskriterien und -verfahren, aber auch zur Identitätsbildung von Forschergruppen und der Möglichkeit ritualdynamischer Veränderungen.

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    2010: Jun. 1

    The Buddhist State in contemporary Sri Lanka

    • Prof. (Emeritus) Dr. H.L. Seneviratne
    • (Dienstag, 1.Jun. 2010, 16 Uhr (ct.) - SAI Z.10

    Abstract: In the mid twentieth century, there came into being in the literature of anthropology and religion, in particular with reference to the Theravada Buddhist societies of south and Southeast Asia, a conception of a “Buddhist state”. This was understood as a species of society whose political and cultural corner stone was a triangular relation between the king, the Sangha (the Buddhist monastic order) and the people. Especially in its earliest conceptualizations this political and cultural entity was idealized and sometimes understood as a salutary alternative to the ills that characterized the rational bureaucratic modern state and its accompanying atomization into discreet individuals. This paper presents a sample of data dealing with contemporary developments in society and politics in Sri Lanka that illustrates the directions towards which the Buddhist state is moving, while holding as an alternative the thought of the great Indologist Ananda Coomaraswamy.

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    2010: May 20.

    Wozu braucht es Rituale?

    Unter der Leitung von Prof. Dr. Axel Michaels lädt der SFB 619 gemeinsam mit der Gottlieb Daimler und Karl Benz-Siftung ein zum 14. Berliner Kolloquium mit dem Titel "Wozu braucht es Rituale? Kulturwissenschaftliche und neurobiologische Perspektiven".

    Homo ritualis?

    Noch immer ist weitgehend ungeklärt, welchen psychischen Nutzen Rituale haben. Kontrovers ist, ob der Mensch überhaupt Rituale braucht. Vielen erscheinen sie als ein überflüssiger, gar hinderlicher Wurmfortsatz der Evolution; andere halten die Wiederholungen von Ritualen für das Lernen oder andere – auch kulturelle – Gedächtnisleistungen für unverzichtbar. Rituale können helfen, Emotionen zu beherrschen. Sie stehen aber auch im Ruf, Kreativität und Erneuerung zu behindern. Gibt es einen ritualisierten Zwang zum Ritual? Oder welche Freiheiten lässt das Ritual? Diesen Themen soll sich das Kolloquium in Berlin widmen.

    Auf dem 14. Berliner Kolloquium der Gottlieb Daimler- und Karl Benz-Stiftung geht der Heidelberger Sonderforschungsbereich "Ritualdynamik" neue Wege in der Ritualforschung. Gemeinsam mit externen Forschern betrachtet er das Spannungsverhältnis von Ritual und Gewohnheit aus psychologischer und wirtschaftswissenschaftlicher, neurowissenschaftlicher und kognitionswissenschaftlicher sowie kulturwissenschaftlicher Sicht.

    Ritual - das soziale Drama

    An Ritualstudien und -theorien mangelt es wahrlich nicht. Die Vielzahl theoretischer sowie forschungsrelevanter Perspektiven ist überwältigend. Und doch muss weiter gefragt werden, von welcher Art das “Ritual” genannte soziale Drama (Victor Turner) ist, das immer wieder und an vielen Orten der Welt nach wie vor aufgeführt wird. Die Antworten sind vielfältig. Die einen verstehen Rituale als Medien für emotionsregulierende, angsteindämmende bzw. auslösende Verhaltenssteuerungen oder als symbolische Verfahren des Krisenmanagements mit oft zweifelhaftem Ausgang. Andere heben die solidarisierenden, kontrollierenden, hierarchisierenden, stabilisierenden, rebellierenden, heilenden, propagandistischen, spielerischen oder theatralischen Aspekte hervor. Wiederum andere sehen in Ritualen nichts anderes als magische Praktiken oder gar Heiligenerscheinungen. Nicht zu sprechen von denen, die Rituale für bedeutungslos halten oder auf artgeschichtlich vererbte Dispositionen zurückführen.

    Lästiges Erbe versus Erfahrungsschatz

    Diese neuen und vielfältigen Zugänge sind beeindruckend, vor allem wenn man an die erst junge Geschichte des Begriffs „Ritual” denkt. Weder im Grimmschen Wörterbuch (1893) noch in einschlägigen frühen religionswissenschaftlichen Lexika taucht das Wort auf.

    Zu negativ war in (post-)protestantischen, von verinnerlichender Individualisierung geprägten Gesellschaften der Begriff besetzt; die Beschäftigung mit ihm wurde eher als Last empfunden. Rituale galten als „äußerlich” und wurden gegenüber der „inneren Handlung” und Haltung, dem Glauben oder meditativen Gebet abgewertet. Rituale waren etwas für die Anderen, für die „Wilden“ oder „Primitiven“, die Kulte, aber keine Religion kannten. Rituale galten als konservativ, traditionsbewahrend und rückständig. Erst etwa Mitte der siebziger Jahre des vergangenen Jahrhunderts, nicht zuletzt angestoßen durch die Jahrestagung der American Academy of Religion im Jahr 1977, änderte sich diese Einstellung, indem das kreative und erfahrungsbezogene Potenzial von Ritualen erkannt und anerkannt wurde.

    Mit der positiveren Sichtweise wurden zunehmend auch den westlichen Industriegesellschaften zueigne Handlungskomplexe als Rituale begriffen und interpretiert. Rituale wurden mehr und mehr als kulturelle (Sub)Systeme angesehen und immer zahlreichere Handlungskontexte wurden unter dem Aspekt ihrer Ritualisierung studiert.

    Informationen zur geplanten Abendveranstaltung:

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    2009: Nov. 12.

    Early Buddhism and Peace

    • Prof. Dr. Lambert Schmithausen, Hamburg
    • (Dienstag, Nov. 12, 2009, 18.15 Uhr - KJC, Voßstraße 2, R212)

    Abstract: Buddhism started as a movement of renouncers, who had withdrawn from secular society in order to strive for spiritual perfection, or ‘inner peace’. As renouncers, they were not involved in the specific duties of the social classes, like participating in war, which was the duty of the warrior class in the first place. Even so, it is legitimate to ask whether and, if so, in which way early Buddhism addressed the issue of peace on the social and, above all, on the political level.

    Prof. Schmithausen, one of the most renowned scholars on Buddhism, is Professor emeritus at the University of Hamburg. He has published a number of highly influential books and articles on concepts, spirituality, violence and ethics in Early Buddhism. On 27. June 2009, he received the Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling-Preis of the Bavarian Academy of Science.

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    2008: Sept. 29. - Oct. 2.

    Ritual Dynamics and the Science of Ritual

    (PDF:)   Poster
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    2008: Jul. 7.

    Buddhism and Knowledge: Some Thoughts on the Phenomenology of the Visionary Experience

    • Prof. Dr. Gananath Obeyesekere, Princeton University, New Jersey
    • (Montag, Jul. 07, 2008, 18.15 Uhr - Neue Universität Hörsaal 10)

    About the talk: Native and European intellectuals have seen Theravada Buddhism as a kind of "rational" religion, some scholars viewing it a kind of "empiricism". Prof. Obeyesekere wants to reverse this paradigm and suggest that knowledge initially appears to the virtuoso during trance; the visionary derived knowledge is then is given secondary rational reformulation in the Buddha's discourses. Hewill use the Buddha's meditative trance during his Awakening or Enlightenment as a general take-off for a discussion of the phenomenology of visions, focusing in this lecture on the manner in which time and space appear to the visionary in Buddhism and other religious traditions, and also in dreams and in the psychoses. If time permits he will conclude the lecture with a discussion of what he calls "aphoristic thinking", a mode of thought that also by-passes the Cartesian cogito. Aphoristic thinking is exemplified not only in some Buddhist discourses but also in European thinkers like Nietzsche and Wittgenstein.

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    2008: May. 28. - 29.

    International Symposium: Hindu and Buddhist Initiations in Nepal and India

    • Heidelberg, IWH
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    2007: Dec. 10.

    Rewriting Philosophy's Global History: Why Bhartrhari Makes This Necessary.

    • Prof. Ashok Aklujkar, University of British Columbia
    • (Monday, Dec. 10, 2007, 16 c.t. - SAI, Room No. Z 10)

    The pace at which the Indian philosophical tradition is gaining place in world histories, encyclopedias etc. of philosophy as a worthy if not equal companion of Western philosophy is agonizingly slow. Despite the efforts at 'mainstreaming' and sophisticated comparative philosophizing made by scholars such as B.K. Matilal, Karl H. Potter, J.N. Mohanty, Elliot Deutsch, Wilhelm Halbfass and Arindam Chakrabarty, many misconceptions about Indian philosophy, particularly about its analytical side, persist. The aim of the present talk is not to dwell on the causes of this situation or to survey the work done, but to demonstrate through a striking example how the history of philosophy becomes skewed due to inattention or inadequate attention to authors in the Indian tradition.

    Prof. Ashok Aklujkar received his M.A. degree in Sanskrit and Pali from the University of Poona and his Ph.D. degree in Sanskrit and Indian Studies from Harvard University. He was teaching courses in Sanskrit language and in the related mythological and philosophical literatures (occasionally also in Indian belles lettres in general) at the University of British Columbia from 1969-2006. His published research is mostly in the areas of Sanskrit linguistic tradition and poetics. Advanced students have worked under his guidance in the areas of Buddhist and Brahmanical philosophy, religion, and mythology.

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    2007: Oct. 29. - 31.

    First International Sanskrit Computational Linguistics Symposium

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    2007: Sept. 24.-28.

    Deutscher Orientalistentag

    • Vom 24.-28.9. 2007 findet in Freiburg der 30. Deutsche Orientalistentag statt.

    (Email:)   Editor, Advisor,
    Im Neuenheimer Feld 330, D-69120 Heidelberg
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