Indological Programme

The Indological Programme will consist of the following courses:

Features of Vedic Poetry (9.30 - 11.00)

Werner Knobl (Kyoto)

The Ṛgveda, which in 10 Song-Cycles contains more than 1000 hymns of over 10000 stanzas, was compiled some time before 1000 B.C. It is the oldest and richest poetical text-corpus of this size in any Indo-European language.

In our Vedic Poetry course, we will read — “as slowly as possible”; non multa, sed multum — a few particularly interesting and thought-provoking hymns of the Ṛgveda. To be sure, the interpretation of this highly complicated text depends on a thorough knowledge of Vedic grammar and syntax, on an intimate acquaintance with prosodic patterns both regular (e.g., verses of eight, eleven, or twelve syllables to the line) and exceptional (e.g., catalectic or hypermetrical verses). Also, the linguistic background of Vedic (i.e., Indo-Iranian and Indo-European) must be taken into account, and therefore comparative evidence will play an important role in our classes.

In addition to all this, the creative  side of language will be highlighted, with greater emphasis than is usual in a course of this character. Examples of rather tricky poetic and rhetorical techniques, ranging from anacoluthon to zeugma (but also other, less well-known literary devices, such as “word haplology”, portmanteau formation, or “mid-word caesura”), will be discussed. All these tricks and artifices which were employed by the word-artist, and can be enjoyed by us, in a quite natural way, even without any knowledge of the traditional terminology testify to the often eccentric inventiveness of the Vedic poet, and, at the same time, may make him attractive to us.

A fairly good knowledge of Sanskrit Grammar and Literature is required in order to follow the classes with profit. Some familiarity with the Vedic language, not necessarily of the Ṛgveda, would certainly increase the students' understanding of the selected texts, and enhance the sensual as well as intellectual enjoyment of a particularly enjoyable kind of poetry.

Participants who wish to prepare for this course may consult two easily accessible works by Arthur A. Macdonell:A Vedic Grammar for Students  (Oxford, 1916; repr. Delhi, 1987, etc.) and A Vedic Reader for Students  (Oxford, 1917; repr. Delhi, 1981, etc.). Those who have questions concerning the course may write to me at the following address:


The Syntax of Vedic Prose (11.30 - 13.00)

Werner Knobl (Kyoto)

The texts we are going to read in this course cover half a millennium of Vedic Prose. They will be chosen from Sahitās (Paippalāda-, Maitrāyaṇī-, Kaha-, Taittirīya-S.), Brāhmaṇas, Āraṇyakas, and Upaniṣads not only for their narrative or discursive interest, but also, and more especially, as examples of Vedic Syntax. Rules concerning word order in verbal and nominal sentences; the suppletive relation between certain defective verbs in the total verbal paradigm; the specific function of tenses and moods in various literary genres and periods of time; particularities of direct speech; the position of particles, pronouns, and vocatives; the ordinary ranking among these; the importance of sentence particles (, vái, etc.) in opposition to word particles (iva, evá, etc.); the distinctive deictic character of demonstrative pronouns; the unique multi-functionality of etád; the difference between adjectival and substantival use of the a- pronoun; and many other syntactical topics.

Participants are expected to have a good knowledge of Classical and, preferably, Vedic Sanskrit. I am confident, however, that even those who have studied Sanskrit for only two or three years may profit from this course; because my explanations will be very detailed (and, if necessary, repetitive). Students should feel free to contact me any time before the beginning of the course, and to make suggestions as to which text or topic they would like me to treat with preference. Here is my private e-mail

In preparation for this course, those who are familiar with German may want to have a look at Berthold Delbrück's Altindische Syntax  (Halle an der Saale, 1888; repr. Darmstadt, 1968 and 1976) or at J. S. Speyer's Vedische und Sanskrit-Syntax  (Strassburg, 1896; repr. Graz, 1974). Those who are not conversant with German could consult Chapter VII “Outlines of Syntax” in A. A. Macdonell's Vedic Grammar for Students  (Oxford, 1916 etc.), pp. 283—368, instead.


Readings in Early Śaiva Literature (14.00 - 15.30)

Peter Bisschop (Leiden) 

Course outline
The study of Śaivism, the religious tradition centered on the teachings and worship of the god Śiva, has seen a surge in the last few decades. In this course we will read selected passages of texts belonging to the early stage of the formation of Śaivism, looking at both lay and ascetic traditions and the interplay between them.
We will consider differences in style and content in the light of the different perspectives offered by the texts. 

The ascetic tradition is represented by the Pañcārthabhāṣya, Kauṇḍinya's commentary on the Pāśupatasūtra, datable to ca. the 4th/5th century. For the lay tradition we will read a passage from the Skandapurāṇa, an old Śaiva Purāṇa, databe to ca. the 6th/7th century. A third group of small texts again belongs to the ascetic tradition, but also sheds much new light on the Pāśupata movement as a whole: a group of ritual texts (the Saṃskāravidhi, the Pātravidhi, the Prāyaścittavidhi and the Ante ṣṭividhi) which have been discovered recently by Diwakar Acharya (Kyoto University).

We will read selected portions of these texts from newly prepared critical editions. Aside from providing an introduction into the development of Pāśupata Śaivism by reading some of its principal texts, a main aim of this course is to introduce and illustrate issues of textual criticism. We will pay specific attention to reading and using the apparatus, discuss variant readings and editorial decisions, and consider the methods and aims of a critical edition. 

The course is intended for students of Indology and requires good knowledge of classical Sanskrit. The course can be followed by students who have done last year’s course on Early Śaiva Literature and by students who have not yet read any of the texts. I will distribute the selected passages of the texts we are going to read beforehand. 

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the course:

Selected Passages of Sanskrit Prose Poetry (16.00 - 17.30)

Csaba Dezső (Budapest) 

"Gadyaṃ kavīnāṃ nikaṣam", "prose is the poets’ touchstone", says the oft-quoted dictum, and certainly several masterpieces of classical Indian literature are found among Sanskrit gadyakāvyas, "prose poems". These works are also arguably the most difficult kāvyas: Albrecht Weber’s old complaint about the Kādambarī being "ein wahrer indischer Wald" has been shared by many readers who were confronted by the dense "undergrowth" of compounds and the "malicious wild beasts in the shape of unknown words". For others (and I happen to belong to this group) the luxuriant complexity of gadyakāvya constitutes its greatest attraction: dazzlingly rich descriptions of nature, urban life or royal courts, ingenious use of puns and other figures of speech, and masterfully crafted long sentences all contribute to the intellectual pleasure of reading Sanskrit prose poetry.

“There is no Sanskrit poet more interesting than Bāṇa, none more original, none greater", says David Smith in the Introduction of his translation of the Kādambarī, and I would find it hard to disagree. During the first week of the course we are going to read extracts from the Fifth Chapter of his Harṣacarita, in which the last hours of king Prabhākaravardhana are described. We shall accompany the young Harṣa on his way through the distraught city and palace to the chamber of his dying father (it is a bit like watching a "long take") and read the last words of the queen mother addressed to her son before she enters the fire, arguably one of the most tragic and moving speeches in Sanskrit literature.

During the second week we shall read selected passages from a less known, but equally brilliant prose poem, the Tilakamañjarī of Dhanapāla, the court poet of the Paramāra king Bhoja. This time the flavour will be the adventurous: we shall move through a colourful harbour, witness the preparations for a naval expeditions and put to sea towards exotic islands.

The course is intended for students of Indology and requires good knowledge of classical Sanskrit. I am going to read, translate and explain some passages myself, especially in the beginning, but all students are most welcome, in fact are invited to contribute and translate themselves. We are going to consult Sanskrit commentaries, and those who read Śāradā script can also follow the text of the Harṣacarita in Kashmirian manuscripts.

Following the example of David Smith, I am going to distribute the text in Roman script with the long sentences broken up into their constituting units, hoping (with David Smith) that in this way “Bāṇa’s difficulty largely evaporates" (though this hope might be slightly bold).

Those interested are most welcome to contact me: