Indological Programme

Slot 1: 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:

Slot 2: 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 (ivaevá, 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.

Slot 3: Readings in Buddhist Sanskrit: Selected passages from the Mahāvastu (14.00-15.30)

Vincent Tournier (Leiden)

Course outline

The Mahāvastu is an extensive part of the Basket of Monastic Discipline (Vinaya-piṭaka) of the Mahāsāṃghika-Lokottaravādin school, which was strongly established in the North and Northwest of the Indian subcontinent and played an important role in the development of Buddhism in those regions. The text serves as a narrative companion to the disciplinary sections of the Vinaya, and consists essentially in a complex and extensive biography of the Buddha. It was composed during a long period of time, of around half a millennium (ca. 1st-6th century CE), and incorporated a quantity of disparate materials, so much that the editio princeps prepared by Émile Senart at the end of the 19th century fills more than 1300 pages.

The Mahāvastu not only provides a mine of information for the reconstruction of the doctrines of the Lokottaravādin schools, it is also fascinating from a linguistic point of view. Indeed, together with the other texts from the same Vinaya that have come down to us, it is written both in prose and in verses, in a characteristic mixture of Middle-Indic and (quasi-)Sanskrit forms that came to be called "Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit" by Franklin Edgerton. The Mahāvastu, therefore, is an ideal text to gain some experience in the heterogeneous language employed in many other Buddhist texts.

This course aims at introducing students to the peculiar church language of the Lokottaravādins, and at training them in the historical-philological study of Buddhist sources preserved in Indic languages. We shall read selected portions of the Mahāvastu, edited anew from manuscripts much older than those collated by Senart. The chosen sections will include both prose and verses, in order to familiarize the participants to typical features of canonical prose, and to analyse the interaction of the constraints of the metre with the flexibility of the language. Provided the students are interested, we might dedicate time to reading directly from the oldest manuscript of the Mahāvastu, written in old Newārī script from the 12th century. Passages of the text will be chosen to appeal to those interested in the study of Indian Buddhism, in order to convey the cosmology and sacred history of the Lokottaravādin circles, and their conceptions of the Bodhisattva, his path, his goal.

The course is intended for students of Indology or Buddhist Studies and it requires a good knowledge of either classical Sanskrit or Pāli. The texts we will read in class will be distributed beforehand.

Those who have questions concerning the course may write to me at the following address:

Slot 4: Readings in the Purāṇas: manuscripts and critical editions (16.00-17.30)

Peter Bisschop (Leiden)

Course outline 
This course provides hands-on experience in working with Sanskrit manuscripts and making a critical edition. We will discuss portions of two draft editions of Purā ṇic texts and also read directly from the manuscripts themselves. We will focus on the following two texts, which each come with their own specific text-critical problems.

1. A Vārā ṇ asīmāhātmya attributed to the Matsyapurā ṇa. The text survives in a unique 12th/13th century palm-leaf manuscript written in old Nāgarī script and in a modern paper apograph. The text is as yet unpublished.

2. The original Skandapurā ṇa. The text has come down to us in three recensions: 1) a Nepalese recension, surviving in three old Nepalese palm-leaf manuscripts written in Licchavi script; 2) the Revākha ṇḍa recension, surviving in an old Bengali manuscript; 3) the Ambikākha ṇḍa recension, surviving in a group of relatively recent Devanāgarī manuscripts and one Bengali manuscript. The publication of the critical edition of the Skandapurā ṇa is in progress. We will read a section that has not been published yet.

The main aim of this course is to introduce and illustrate issues of textual criticism in Sanskrit Purāṇic lite rature. To this end, we will pay specific attention to reading manuscripts, setting up a critical apparatus, reporting variant readings and making 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 my last year’s course on Early Śaiva Literature and by students who have not yet read any of the texts involved. I will distrib ute the selected passages of the texts and the manuscripts we are going to read beforehand.

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