Research in India is a great option

About the department


With three professorships for the customers of South Asia, one professorship for Tibetology and two teaching positions, Hamburg is one of the largest departments in Germany with a focus on Indology and Tibetology.

Research and teaching are broadly based in the Department of Culture and History of India and Tibet. They include dealing with cultural, religious-historical, historical and social-historical topics. Research into these areas requires a thorough knowledge of the primary sources in a number of relevant Indian languages ​​and Tibetan.

One aim of teaching is to convey cultural continuities on the basis of historical considerations and to sharpen the understanding of diachronic changes.

There are five major areas of focus in research and teaching:

1. Classical Indology / Sanskrit

The main focus of research in ancient and medieval India is: Indian religious traditions with special consideration of Buddhism from its beginnings to later tantric developments, as well as Indian philosophy and Sanskrit literature, the latter encompassing the entire spectrum from the epics and Puranas to towards courtly art poetry. The focus of language training is on Sanskrit. Pali and other Central Indian languages ​​are also offered.

2. Classical Indology / Tamil

Since the winter of 2017/18, the language options - meanwhile only in Europe - also include Tamil, the literary language of South India, with text witnesses from more than 2000 years from the Master level. Classical Tamil is at the center of research and teaching, although training in the modern language is also required as much of the relevant secondary literature is written in modern Tamil. (Thanks to the Tamil diglossia, however, acquiring the modern written language is not enough to speak Tamil.) When dealing with South Indian sources, which allow us to understand cultural and historical processes in almost all areas, multilingual skills are indispensable, at least Tamil and Sanskrit, ideally in combination with the other Dravidian languages ​​Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu. Accordingly, Tamil is the ideal second language option for Sanskritists who want to work through South India, while the long-term interaction of Tamil and Sanskrit in the South definitely calls for Sanskrit as the second language for any Tamilist dealing with premodern sources.

3. Tibetology

The focus of Tibetology in Hamburg is on research and teaching in the field of Buddhist philosophy, religion, intellectual history and intellectual culture of Tibet on the basis of a historical-philological development of primary text sources and ideas. The traditionally close cooperation with the Indology department, which is strongly Buddhologically oriented in Hamburg, offers an additional advantage for the professional orientation and emphasis on Tibetology in the department. The imparting of a solid knowledge of classical Tibetan and the application of certain research methods (especially the historical-philological) is an essential basis of the course. Learning modern Tibetan is also an important part of the training.

4. Buddhist studies

Buddhism has been around since the 5th century BC. an important part of the religious, philosophical and cultural history of South Asia and has exerted significant influence on the intellectual history of Asia beyond India. In order to be able to understand Buddhism in its original forms, the linguistic basics must first be acquired in order to be able to understand the texts ascribed to the Buddha and their interpretations. The focus is on the Indian languages ​​Sanskrit, Pali and hybrid forms of Sanskrit, which are strongly interspersed with Buddhist linguistic peculiarities. Only the linguistic access enables these source texts to be historically contextualized and thus to understand the Buddhist teachings in their full content. The dynamic developments of the various schools of Buddhism over the course of history - from early Buddhism to the various forms of Mahayana Buddhism to later Tantric forms - with their rich texts are the focus of the course. Knowledge of classical Tibetan and Chinese are beneficial, because many of the texts written in India were translated into these languages ​​early on and are now a valuable aid for understanding and interpreting the early sources.

5. Modern South Asia, currently only represented by an editor

In the area of ​​modern South Asian studies, the focus is on working with primary sources from the last hundred years. Literary texts, film and media are viewed from a wide variety of theoretical points of view: literary criticism, linguistic, social and political science. A special focus of work is the research of cultural phenomena in a broad historical, cultural and religious context. The focus of language training is on the New Indian languages ​​Hindi and Urdu. In addition, Bengali is also offered from time to time.

There are close research contacts with the other departments of the Asia-Africa Institute as well as with universities and other scientific institutions in Paris, Pondicherry, Budapest, Oxford, Berkeley, Napoli, Delhi, Lahore, Tokyo and Tsukuba.

The department has a specialist library with first-class collections in the fields of Jainism and Buddhism (including Tibetan canonical texts), but also very good holdings in the areas of Sanskrit and Tibetan literature as well as in the Dravidian languages.