Indology refers to the academic study of the languages, texts, history and cultures of the Indian subcontinent, and as such a subset of Asian studies.

Indology may also be known as Indic studies or Indian studies, or South Asian studies, although scholars and university administrators sometimes have only partially overlapping interpretations of these terms.

Indology would not typically include the study of contemporary economy, government, or politics of South Asia, except insofar as these express issues that are deeply embedded in South Asian history, and may be illuminated by indological methods and insights.


Indology overlaps to some extent with many other areas of study, applying their techniques to the South Asian case. These include cultural or social anthropology, cultural studies, historical linguistics, philology, textual criticism, literary history, history, philosophies and the study of the religions of South Asia, such as the Vedic religion, Hinduism, including Shaivism and Vaishnavism (both of which are versions of what is commonly called "Hinduism"), Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, folk and tribal religions, etc., besides the indigenous forms of Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam in South Asia.

Finally it may include the study of South Asian sciences, arts, architecture, agriculture (vṛksāyurveda), martial arts, etc.

Scholars who call themselves Indologists often place special value on a thorough knowledge of the languages of India, especially the classical languages such as Sanskrit, Pāli, Prakrit, or classical Tamil, or Persian, and they consider a knowledge of one or more of these languages, coupled with a knowledge of the methods of philology, to be a prerequisite for contributing meaningfully to the indological research and a characteristic feature of Indology as a field.

Thus, Indology is the intellectual pursuit of all things Indic, with a focus on the interpretation of the past and its outcomes in the present. Some scholars distinguish Classical Indology from Modern Indology, the former more focussed on Sanskrit and other ancient language sources, the latter making more use of contemporary language sources and sociological approaches.

The term Indology or (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.


Indologie in the Netherlands was the study of history, literature and philosophy of Indonesia. The study prepared Dutchmen for colonial civil service in the Netherlands Indies. It was taught in Delft and Utrecht.


The beginnings of Indology date back to the Iranian anthropologist and historian Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī (973-1048). In his Kitab fi Tahqiq ma l'il-Hind (Researches on India), he not only recorded the political history of India and military history of India, but also covered India's cultural, scientific, social and religious history in detail. He was also the first to study 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.

In the wake of 18th century pioneers like Henry Thomas Colebrooke or August Wilhelm Schlegel, Indology as an academic subject emerges in the 19th century, in the context of British India, together with Asian studies in general affected by the romantic Orientalism of the time. The Société Asiatique was 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 in 1949.

Systematic study and editorial activity of Sanskrit literature became possible with 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 Bohtlingk's edition of Panini's grammar appeared in 1887. Max Müller's edition of the Rigveda appeared in 1849-75. In 1897, Sergey Oldenburg launched a systematic edition of key Sanskrit texts, "Bibliotheca Buddhica".

Professional literature and associations

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'' , Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society , Journal of the American Oriental Society , Journal asiatique , the Journal of the German Oriental Society (ZDMG) , Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Südasiens , Journal of Indian Philosophy , Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, "Journal of Indian and Buddhist Studies" (Indogaku Bukkyogaku Kenkyu), Bulletin de l'Ecole Français d'Extrême Orient , 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.

Prominent Indologists

Famous Indologists include:Deceased


Further reading

  • Heinz Bechert, Georg von Simson - Einführung in die Indologie. Stand, Methoden, Aufgaben - ISBN 3-534-05466-0.
  • Jean Filliozat and Louis Renou - L'inde classique - ISBN B0000DLB66.
  • Grundriss der Indo-Arischen Philologie und Altertumskunde, Berlin und Leipzig, Vereinigung wissenschaftlicher verleger, 1920
  • Bryant, Edwin. The Quest for the origins of Vedic culture. (2001) Oxford University Press
  • Chakrabarti, Dilip: Colonial Indology, 1997, Munshiram Manoharlal: New Delhi.
  • Halbfass, W. India and Europe: An Essay in Understanding. SUNY Press, Albany: 1988
  • Edmund Leach. "Aryan Invasions Over Four Millennia. In"Culture Through Time (edited by Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney, Stanford University Press, 1990)
  • Gauri Viswanathan, 1989, Masks of Conquest
  • Pollock, Sheldon. Deep Orientalism?: Notes on Sanskrit and Power Beyond the Raj. In: Orientalism and the Postcolonial Predicament: Perspectives on South Asia, eds. Carol A. Breckenridge and Peter van der Veer. Philadelphia:University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.
  • Trautmann, Thomas. 1997. Aryans and British India, University of California Press, Berkeley.
  • Vogel, C. (ed.). Literatur und Kultur, zur Geschichte der Sanskritphilologie, Wiesbaden 1977
  • Windisch, E. Geschichte der sanskrit-philologie und indischen altertumskunde. Strassburg. Trübner, K.J., 1917-1920

Publication series

  • Sri Garib Dass Oriental Serie (Sri Satguru Publications)
  • Bibliotheca Indo-Buddhica Series (Sri Satguru Publications),


See also

External links

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