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Indology I (Classical Indology)

Study graduation:Magister (expiring from WS 07/08)
Application required:No
Start of studies:WS and SS, recommended due to the beginning of the "Sanskrit I" language course in the WS
Normal period:9
Language certificates:English; Reading skills in another modern foreign language
Teaching language:German

Philosophical Faculty


Content of the course

In research and teaching, Indology deals with the languages, literatures, cultures and religions of the Indian subcontinent (today: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives). At the South Asia Institute (SAI), various specialty disciplines are represented in this region (history, political science, ethnology and geography of South Asia), and Indology is divided into two independent subjects:

  • Indology I (Classical Indology)
  • Indology II (Modern Languages ​​and Literatures of South Asia - Modern Indology)

Each of these subjects can be studied as a major or as a minor and can be combined with other subjects represented at the South Asia Institute or with further Magister subjects. If “Modern Languages ​​and Literatures” (Indology II) are chosen as the main subject, the study of “Classical Indology” (Indology I) is compulsory as a minor subject. Languages ​​are of primary importance within Indology, as they provide access to cultural sources and thus to an understanding of the culture of South Asia. The two most important language groups of the Indian subcontinent are the Indo-Aryan and the Dravidian language families, with the first family being directly related to the European languages.

The Indo-Aryan language group can be divided into four language periods: Vedic Sanskrit, Classical Sanskrit, Central Indian languages ​​(Pali, Prakrit), New Indian languages ​​(Bengali, Hindi, Marathi Urdu, etc.). The Dravidian language group includes the following four main languages: Canarian, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu. In its linguistic history, Tamil also differentiates between several language periods such as Old Tamil, Middle Tamil and modern Tamil.

During your studies, participation in events in the other subjects represented at the SAI (ethnology, geography, history and political science of South Asia) is sometimes recommended and sometimes mandatory. A stay abroad in South Asia is of great benefit both for the study of Classical Indology and the study of Modern Indology. The branch offices of the SAI in New Delhi, Kathmandu and Colombo can help organize such a stay.

As a rule, the degree is completed with the master’s examination, in which the ability for independent scientific work is to be demonstrated. In individual cases, a doctorate can then be sought, for which new scientific results must be submitted.
Individual specialist study advice before or at the start of your studies is strongly recommended. This provides information on the institute's main research areas and projects, study requirements (language skills in English and another modern foreign language sufficient to read and understand scientific texts), study planning, subject combinations, examination requirements, career opportunities and other questions.

Classical Indology (Indology I)

Classical Indology is essentially concerned with the research of texts in ancient and central Indian languages ​​(Vedic, Sanskrit, Pali, Prakrit) and, in individual cases, with old language levels of newer Indian languages. Vedic, which is close to Old Iranian, is the language of verses, sayings and prose of old Indian priestly texts, the Veda. This text group is around 1750 to 500 BC. originated and forms one of the oldest religious writings in the world. From the Vedic, the Pali (the language of a Buddhist canon), the Prakrit (including the language of the literatures of Jainism) and the classical Sanskrit with its extensive and varied literature developed. Religious texts (e.g. hymns, prayers, sacrificial books, ascetic secret doctrines, ritual compendia), epic and mythological works, philosophical treatises, scientific textbooks on grammar, medicine, astronomy, legal theory, mathematics, architecture and much more have been written in Sanskrit. Often these are very old texts, the meaning of which extends far beyond India: for example the Rig Veda, the Upanishads, the grammar of Panini, the Bhagavadgita, the code of Manu, the Yoga Sutra or the dramas of Kalidasa.

Although classical Sanskrit is largely a literary language, it is neither extinct nor obsolete for contemporary studies. This is due to the prestige of Sanskrit as the language of the often dominant Brahmin class and the pronounced conservatism of Indian cultures. Sanskrit ritual texts, for example, are still used in the rites of passage or new Indian adaptations of Sanskrit texts are written, and many newer Indian languages ​​also draw a large part of their vocabulary from Sanskrit. Above all, however, the contents expressed in the Sanskrit texts are indispensable for an understanding of the continuity and change in the religions and societies of South Asia. This applies not only to the high religions of Vedism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, but also to the interplay with folk and tribal religions or Indian Islam.

Classical Indology in Heidelberg is therefore both philology and the history of religion and cultural studies, dealing with texts, but also with texts in contexts. It contributes to the development and preservation of historical documents and testimonies as well as to the discussion of general religious, social, linguistic, art or literary theories and problems. Relevant theories on basic religious-scientific concepts such as ritual, magic, sacrifice, gift, asceticism have been developed on the basis of Indian material. Conversely, an understanding of the complex Indian material without knowledge of these theories is mostly shallow. According to this understanding, classical Indology does not stand on the fringes as an exotic subject committed to romantic heritage, but in the middle of neighboring social and cultural studies. The SAI with its specialist departments offers unique opportunities for this interdisciplinary approach in Germany.

The curriculum provides for the main course to focus on the following areas:

  • Sanskrit philology (languages ​​and literatures; recommended minor: Modern Indology)
  • Ethnoindology (history of religion and field research; recommended minor subjects: Ethnology of South Asia and / or Modern Indology)

The regional focus is currently on Nepal, Orissa, Benares and Tamil Nadu.


Structure of the course

In the basic course, there is a thorough training in the ancient and central Indian languages, primarily Sanskrit. This acquisition of linguistic competence means a very high amount of work in the first semesters. In addition, lectures, introductory seminars and exercises will introduce you to Indian religions and literatures as well as Indian aids and methods. After the two-semester Sanskrit course of six semester hours per week, easy to moderately difficult Sanskrit texts from various literary genres are read and analyzed. A cyclical range of courses ensures that the students get to know important basic texts and subject areas in the course of their basic studies.

The main course provides an introduction to the other ancient and central Indian languages ​​and deepens the reading and analysis of selected texts. Since numerous Indian primary sources have still not been developed, i.e. neither edited nor translated, students in the main course are often included in the current research - with the result that there is no cyclical, school timetable here, but exemplary methods, problems and tasks of the Subject to be treated. This circumstance requires a high degree of readiness for independent familiarization with whole areas of Indology. At the same time, students have to take part in advanced seminars in which primary sources and secondary literature are analyzed on the basis of the above-mentioned theories. In these seminars, presentations and written work are compulsory.

Research priorities

Classical Indology in Heidelberg is primarily concerned with religiosity in South Asia within the framework of the major religions of Hinduism and Buddhism, with particular emphasis on social and cultural aspects. Another focus is on researching texts in their context, especially on rituals, classical legal systems and philosophy.
The regional research focus is on Nepal and South India.



There is an admission freeze in the first semesters. Enrollment in a higher semester is possible without prior application. Information on enrollment can be found here.
Special regulations apply to foreign applicants. Information is available from the International Office of the University of Heidelberg (Seminarstrasse 2).

Subject combinations

The possible subject combinations result from the subject catalog.
Reference is made to the help of a course counseling service even before the start of the course.

Study and examination regulations

Intermediate examination regulations
Examination regulations

Examination Board

The respective examination board or examination office is responsible for crediting, recognition and examination questions. For more information, please contact the relevant academic advisory service.

tuition fee

The general tuition fees are € 500.00 per semester. In addition, a fee for the student union and an administrative fee must be paid.

Academic advice

Anand Mishra, M.A.
In Neuenheimer Feld 330, room 307
Tues. 2 p.m. - 4 p.m. and by appointment
Tel .: +49 (0) 6221-54-4907>
Email: [email protected]


South Asia Institute
Classical Indology Department
In Neuenheimer Feld 330
D-69120 Heidelberg

Office: Room 313
Tel .: +49 (0) 6221-54-8817
Fax: +49 (0) 6221-54-6338
Email: [email protected]
Internet: www.sai.uni-heidelberg.de/abt/IND/index.html
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