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Heinrich_Roth

Heinrich Roth

Heinrich Roth (December 18, 1620 in Augsburg, GermanyJune 20, 1668 in Agra) was a missionary and pioneering Sanskrit scholar.

He became a Jesuit in 1639; was assigned to the Ethiopian mission, and arrived at Goa by the land route, via Isfahan. He worked first on the Island of Salsette off Goa, where from time to time he acted as Portuguese interpreter. He was sent on an embassy to one of the native princes, and finally reached the empire of the Great Mogul, where, as rector of the residence at Agra, he was involved in the persecution under Shah Jahan.

Here the French explorer, Francis Bernier, learned to know and appreciate him as one versed in expert knowledge of the philosophy of religions in India. In 1662, Roth revisited Europe by the land route via Kabul to obtain new recruits for the mission, and returned to Agra in 1664. Roth shares with his fellow Jesuit, Johann Ernst Hanxleden, the fame of being among Europeans the pioneer Sanskrit scholar, and of having compiled the first Sanskrit grammar. During his stay in Agra, he succeeded in persuading some Brahmins to teach him Sanskrit and, after six years of study, he obtained complete mastery of it. He was the author of the description of the Sanskrit alphabet published by Athanasius Kircher in his "China illustrata.

Roth's works, most of which were published by his friend Kircher, are:

  • Relatio rerum notabilium Regni Mogor in Asia, which contains the first information concerning Kabul which had reached Europe (Straubing, 1665, Aschaffenburg, 1668);
  • Iter ex Agra Mogorum in Europam ex relatione PP. Joh. Gruberi et H. Roth in Kircher, "China illustrata" (Amsterdam, 1667), pp. 91 sqq.;
  • Itinerarium St. Thomae Apost. ex Judaea in Indiam, and Dogmata varia fabulossissima Brachmanorum, ib., 156-162;
  • Exactissimum opus totius grammaticae Brachmanicae cujus et rudimenta is [Roth] primus Europae communicavit in Romani Collegii S.J. musaeum (Amsterdam, 1678), p. 65;
  • a letter (Rome, 1664) in Welt-Bott, I (Augsburg, 1726)
  • 35 manuscript-letters and relations in the Royal Library, Brussels, Nos. 6828-29, fol. 415.

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