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Indology or Indian studies is the academic study of the history and cultures, languages, and literature of India and as such is a subset of Asian studies.[1]

The term Indology (in German, Indologie) is often associated with German scholarship, and is used more commonly in departmental titles in German and continental European universities than in the anglophone academy. In the Netherlands the term Indologie was used to designate the study of Indian history and culture in preparation for colonial service in the Dutch East Indies.

Specifically, Indology includes the study of Sanskrit literature and Hinduism along with the other Indian religions, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Pāli literature. Dravidology is the separate branch dedicated to the Dravidian languages of South India. Hindu texts in Dravidian languages are considered disciplines in Indology.

Some scholars distinguish Classical Indology from Modern Indology, the former more focussed on Sanskrit and other ancient language sources, the latter on contemporary India, its politics and sociology. But recently Indology has declined in academic circles due to various reasons.



The beginnings of the study of India by travellers from outside the subcontinent date back at least to Megasthenes (ca. 350–290 BC), a Greek ambassador of the Seleucids to the court of Chandragupta (ruled 322-298 BC), founder of the Mauryan Empire.[2] Based on his life in India Megasthenes composed a four-volume Indica, fragments of which still exist, and which influenced the classical geographers Arrian, Diodor and Strabo.[2] Megasthenes reported that the caste system dominated an essentially illiterate India.[3][4]

Islamic Golden Age scholar Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad Al-Biruni (973–1048) in Tarikh Al-Hind (Researches on India) recorded the political and military history of India and covered India's cultural, scientific, social and religious history in detail.[5] He studied the anthropology of India, engaging in extensive participant observation with various Indian groups, learning their languages and studying their primary texts, and presenting his findings with objectivity and neutrality using cross-cultural comparisons.[6]

Academic discipline[edit]

Indology as generally understood by its practitioners[7] began in the later Early Modern period and incorporates essential features of modernity, including critical self-reflexivity, disembedding mechanisms and globalization, and the reflexive appropriation of knowledge.[8] An important feature of Indology since its beginnings in the late eighteenth century has been the development of networks of academic communication and trust[9] through the creation of learned societies like the Asiatic Society of Bengal, and the creation of learned journals like the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society and Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute.

One of the defining features of Indology is the application of scholarly methodologies developed in European Classical Studies or "Classics" to the languages, literatures and cultures of South Asia.

In the wake of eighteenth century pioneers like William Jones, Henry Thomas Colebrooke, Gerasim Lebedev or August Wilhelm Schlegel, Indology as an academic subject emerged in the nineteenth century, in the context of British India, together with Asian studies in general affected by the romantic Orientalism of the time. The Asiatic Society was founded in Calcutta in 1784, Société Asiatique founded in 1822, the Royal Asiatic Society in 1824, the American Oriental Society in 1842, and the German Oriental Society (Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft) in 1845, the Japanese Association of Indian and Buddhist Studies[10] in 1949.

Sanskrit literature included many pre-modern dictionaries, especially the Nāmaliṅgānuśāsana of Amarasiṃha, but a milestone in the Indological study of Sanskrit literature was publication of the St. Petersburg Sanskrit-Wörterbuch during the 1850s to 1870s. Translations of major Hindu texts in the Sacred Books of the East began in 1879. Otto von Böhtlingk's edition of Pāṇini's grammar appeared in 1887. Max Müller's edition of the Rigveda appeared in 1849–75. Albrecht Weber commenced publishing his pathbreaking journal Indologische Studien in 1849, and in 1897 Sergey Oldenburg launched a systematic edition of key Sanskrit texts, "Bibliotheca Buddhica".

Fueling anti-Semitism[edit]

German indologists[who?] arbitrarily identified "layers" in the Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita with the objective of fueling European anti-Semitism via the popular Aryan invasion theory.[11] This required equating Brahmins with Jews,[clarification needed] resulting in anti-Brahmanism.[11]

Indology and the modern world[edit]

From the late 16th century to the late 18th century, Hinduism was seen as highly on civilization and scholarly basis. But after the 19th century, western scholars often criticized India and Hinduism without ever visiting India or reading Hindu scriptures (i.e. E. M. Forster). As with many academic subjects which seem to have no direct bearing on modern concerns, Indology has come in for criticism. This has prompted a vigorous response from a number of eminent scholars, among them J. Bronkhorst.[12]

Professional literature and associations[edit]

Indologists typically attend conferences such as the American Association of Asian Studies, the American Oriental Society annual conference, the World Sanskrit Conference, and national-level meetings in the UK, Germany, India, Japan, France and elsewhere.

They may routinely read and write in journals such as Indo-Iranian Journal,[13] Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society,[14] Journal of the American Oriental Society,[15] Journal asiatique,[16] the Journal of the German Oriental Society (ZDMG),[17] Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Südasiens,[18] Journal of Indian Philosophy,[19] Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Journal of Indian and Buddhist Studies (Indogaku Bukkyogaku Kenkyu), Bulletin de l'École française d'Extrême Orient,[20] and others.

They may be members of such professional bodies as the American Oriental Society, the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, the Société Asiatique, the Deutsche Morgenlāndische Gesellschaft and others.

List of indologists[edit]

The following is a list of prominent academically qualified Indologists.

Historical scholars[edit]

Contemporary scholars with university posts[edit]

Other indologists and contributors to indology[edit]

Indology organisations[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Indology | Definition of Indology by Lexico". Lexico Dictionaries | English.
  2. ^ a b Bosworth, A. B. (April 1996). "The Historical Setting of Megasthenes' Indica". Classical Philology. The University of Chicago Press. 91 (2): 113–127. doi:10.1086/367502. JSTOR 270500.
  3. ^ Panthapalli A. Augustine: Social equality in Indian society: the elusive goal, Concept Publishing Company, 1991, ISBN 9788170223030, p. 40
  4. ^ John Duncan Martin Derrett: Essays in Classical and Modern Hindu Law: Consequences of the intellectual exchange with the foreign powers, Brill 1976, ISBN 9789004048089, p. 1
  5. ^ Khan, M. S. (1976). "al-Biruni and the Political History of India". Oriens. Brill. 25/26: 86–115. doi:10.2307/1580658. JSTOR 1580658.
  6. ^ Ahmed, Akbar S. (February 1984). "Al-Beruni: The First Anthropologist". RAIN. Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. 60 (60): 9–10. doi:10.2307/3033407. JSTOR 3033407.
  7. ^ Bechert, Heinz; Simson, Georg von; Bachmann, Peter (1993). Einführung in die Indologie: Stand, Methoden, Aufgaben (in German). Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft. ISBN 3534054660. OCLC 33429713.
  8. ^ Giddens, Anthony (1991). The consequences of modernity. Cambridge, U.K.: Polity Press. OCLC 874200328.
  9. ^ Polanyi, Michael; Nye, Mary Jo (2015). Personal knowledge: towards a post-critical philosophy. ISBN 9780226232621. OCLC 880960082.
  10. ^ English Summary Archived 15 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 20 November 2011.
  11. ^ a b Vishwa, Adluri. Bagchee Joydeep (2014). The Nay Science: A History of German Indology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 289–426.
  12. ^ Bronkhorst, Johannes. (2011). "Indology, what is it good for?" Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 161.1: 115-122. Available online:
  13. ^ description&changeHeader=true& International Publisher Science, Technology, Medicine. Springer. Retrieved on 20 November 2011.
  14. ^ R A S – Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland Archived 22 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 20 November 2011.
  15. ^ JAOS Front Matter Archived 7 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 20 November 2011.
  16. ^ (in Dutch) Journal Asiatique. Retrieved on 20 November 2011.
  17. ^ "Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft (ZDMG)". Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft (DMG).
  18. ^ Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Südasiens (WZKS) Vienna Journal for Indian Studies. Retrieved on 20 November 2011.
  19. ^ Journal of Indian Philosophy Archived 25 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 20 November 2011.
  20. ^ Bulletin de l'EFEO. Retrieved on 20 November 2011.

Further reading[edit]

  • Balagangadhara, S.N. (1994). "The Heathen in his Blindness..." Asia, the West, and the Dynamic of Religion. Leiden, New York: E. J. Brill
  • Balagangadhara, S. N. (2012). Reconceptualizing India studies. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
  • Vishwa Adluri, Joydeep Bagchee: The Nay Science: A History of German Indology. Oxford University Press, New York 2014, ISBN 978-0199931361 (Introduction, p. 1–29).
  • Joydeep Bagchee, Vishwa Adluri: "The passion of Paul Hacker: Indology, orientalism, and evangelism." In: Joanne Miyang Cho, Eric Kurlander, Douglas T McGetchin (Eds.), Transcultural Encounters Between Germany and India: Kindred Spirits in the Nineteenth Century. Routledge, New York 2013, p. 215–229.
  • Joydeep Bagchee: "German Indology." In: Alf Hiltebeitel (Ed.), Oxford Bibliographies Online: Hinduism. Oxford University Press, New York 2014.
  • Chakrabarti, Dilip K.: Colonial Indology, 1997, Munshiram Manoharlal: New Delhi.
  • Jean Filliozat and Louis Renou – L'inde classique – ISBN B0000DLB66.
  • Halbfass, W. India and Europe: An Essay in Understanding. SUNY Press, Albany: 1988
  • Inden, R. B. (2010). Imagining India. Bloomington, Ind: Indiana University Press.
  • Vishwa Adluri, Joydeep Bagchee: The Nay Science: A History of German Indology. Oxford University Press, New York 2014, ISBN 978-0199931361
  • Gauri Viswanathan, 1989, Masks of Conquest
  • Rajiv Malhotra (2016), Battle for Sanskrit: Dead or Alive, Oppressive or Liberating, Political or Sacred? (Publisher: Harper Collins India; ISBN 978-9351775386)
  • Rajiv Malhotra (2016), Academic Hinduphobia: A Critique of Wendy Doniger's Erotic School of Indology (Publisher: Voice of India; ISBN 978-9385485015)
  • Antonio de Nicolas, Krishnan Ramaswamy, and Aditi Banerjee (eds.) (2007), Invading the Sacred: An Analysis Of Hinduism Studies In America (Publisher: Rupa & Co.)
  • Shourie, Arun. 2014. Eminent historians: their technology, their line, their fraud. HarperCollins. ISBN 9789351365921
  • Trautmann, Thomas. 1997. Aryans and British India, University of California Press, Berkeley.
  • Windisch, Ernst. Geschichte der Sanskrit-Philologie und Indischen Altertumskunde. 2 vols. Strasbourg. Trübner, K.J., 1917–1920
  • Zachariae, Theodor. Opera minora zur indischen Wortforschung, zur Geschichte der indischen Literatur und Kultur, zur Geschichte der Sanskritphilologie. Ed. Claus Vogel. Wiesbaden 1977, ISBN 3-515-02216-3.

External links[edit]


Library guides[edit]