Students and researchers at the South Asia Institute of Heidelberg University work with a range of South Asian languages including Bengali, Dari, Hindi, Nepali, Pali, Sanskrit, Singhalese, Tamil and Urdu. Sanskrit Studies at the Department of Cultural and Religious History of South Asia (Classical Indology) are carried forward with view of the language’s multi-faceted dimensions through the program HeidelbergSanskrit, initiated in 2017. The main approach of this program is to perceive and research Sanskrit in its various contexts and thereby to deconstruct the notion of its exclusively elite or elevated character. Engagement with Sanskrit in this program involves engaging with the contexts in which it is situated and to study the processes through which it gains or loses relevance.
A large amount of textual sources of relevance for the cultural and religious history of South Asia are in Sanskrit. A careful reading of these sources requires thorough knowledge of the grammar, vocabulary and usage of the language as well as acquaintance with the methods of philology, comparative linguistics, and textual criticism. The curriculum of the department is designed to impart a thorough training of Sanskrit in all these dimensions.
Sanskrit is not only an instrument to access ancient cultures of South Asia, as there also exist contemporary Sanskrit cultures that are practiced and experienced in a variety of settings. The „Lived Sanskrit Cultures“ program of HeidelbergSanskrit engages with the diverse loci of Sanskrit as it is learned, practiced and applied in the cultural and religious landscapes of South Asia. The program seeks to examine for example how Sanskrit is taught and learned in the Veda Pāṭhaśālās, by individual teachers, in universities and other organizations; how Sanskrit is applied in the ritual and religious contexts; how Sanskrit is claimed and sometimes abused for political goals; how a text is associated with the sacred topography of a place etc.
The planning and execution of the programs of HeidelbergSanskrit lay special emphasis both on the recognition of asymmetries and on the effective realization of the potential of the symmetries with South Asian scholars and students of Sanskrit in their diverse contexts, ranging from traditional Pāṭhaśālās to modern universities.
Accordingly, the established and experimental projects which HeidelbergSanskrit organizes include:
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