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The Sanskrit Studies Podcast

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In-depth explorations into the field of Sanskrit Studies. Featuring candid conversations and interviews with scholars of Sanskrit across the disciplines of Indology, Linguistics, Religious Studies, Philosophy, History, and more. Hosted by Dr. Antonia Ruppel.
16 Episodes
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My guest this month is Robert Zydenbos, who is Professor of Modern Indology at the LMU Munich. (Full disclosure: we thus are colleagues!)His first point of contact with Indian languages and philosophies was through Collier's Encyclopaedia. It introduced him to such ideas as rebirth, a concept found in various traditions (see e.g. here, here or here)His first degree was in Indian Studies at the University of Utrecht, at an institute that developed into a centre of Tantric Studies and that has in the meantime been closed.  His teachers included Jan Gonda, T. Goudriaan , Henk Bodewitz,  Leen van Dalen , George Chemparathy, Kamil Zvelebil, Sanjukta Gupta, Karel van Kooij. He did his PhD and much subsequent work in Mysore, where he frequently visited the university and the Oriental Research Institute; and whereas his early interest in Jainism brought him to Karnataka, he also studied religious currents such as Vīraśaivism and Mādhva Vaiṣṇavism. Through his close acquaintance with Bannanje Govindacharya, he began working on Madhvācārya and his writings, also those concerning the Bhagavadgītā. (The article he mentions may be found here.)He would use the SSPRG, the Sanskrit Studies Podcast Research Grant, to learn Old Javanese. For anyone interested in learning about Sanskrit  for the first time, he recommends Pierre-Sylvain Filliozat's Le sanskrit/The Sanskrit Language.
My guest this month is Professor Saroja Bhate, former Professor of Sanskrit and Head of the Department of Sanskrit and Prakrit Languages at Pune University, who has published prolifically on Vyākaraṇa.Her first contact with Sanskrit was through the recitation of stotras. She was educated at Pune University and at Ṭiḷaka Mahārāṣṭra Vidyāpīṭha, and among her teachers were Pundit Vāmanaśāstrī Bhāgavata, T. G. Mainkar and S. D. Joshi.Among the texts she read during her studies are the Rāmāyaṇa, Mahābhārata including the Bhagavadgītā, Meghadūta, Raghuvaṃśa, plays by Kālidāsa and Viśākhadatta, Śiśupālavadha, Kirātārjunīya as well as selections from the Brāhmaṇas and the Upaniṣads.The linguistic texts she mentioned include Pāṇini's Aṣṭādhyāyī, the Brahmakāṇḍa, a portion of Bhartṛhari's Vākyapadīya, the Paramalaghumañjūṣā, texts from the Cāndravyākaraṇa and Kātantra traditions,  and the works of Nāgoji (or Nāgeśa) Bhaṭṭa, such as the Paribhāṣenduśekhara. The modern linguists she mentioned are George Cardona and Paul Kiparsky.Her advice for those embarking in the field includes learning languages and studying Mīmāṃsā, Nyāya, manuscriptology, and symbolic logic.
My guest this month is Patrick McCartney. His written work, on Sanskrit-speaking villages, Sanskrit in the Indian census, the popular use and the politics of Yoga (and many other topics), is very conveniently linked to here. His Yogascapes project has its own website. The Himāl article on Spoken Sanskrit he mentions is linked to here.His videos, including his 'A Day in our Ashram' and the videos on his search for the Sanskrit-speaking villages, are available on his YouTube channel.You can read more about the Sanskrit programme at Australia National University here. (And of course there is the SSP interview with the wonderful McComas Taylor, the heart of Sanskrit at ANU.)The article on the 'Sanskrit Boulevard' from the Hindustan times is here; this is a related article. Read more about M. N. Srinivas and the concept of Sanskritisation. If you are interested in the SOAS- based Haṭha Yoga Project, their website is here; this is a brief introduction to pole yoga or Mallakhamba. The books Patrick recommends for people interested getting into the field are Asko Parpola's Roots of Hinduism and Sheldon Pollock's Rasa Reader.
My guest this month is Mr Prakrit, Andrew Ollett, who teaches at the University of Chicago  Perhaps his most well-known publication is the book 'Language of the Snakes', which you can download for free here.Among his teachers were Eleanor Dickey,  Gary Tubb and Sheldon Pollock (whose book 'The Language of the Gods in the World of Men' Andrew mentions)He talks about his work comparing the language of Theocritus with that of Prakrit poetry, about the work of Mātṛceṭa and Aśvaghoṣa , about the rock inscription of Rudradāman, and the influence that the Sātavāhana courts had on Prakrit. Among the languages and language forms he mentions are Vedic, Pali, Apabhraṃśa, Gāndhārī and Old Gujarati or Rajasthāni .  Among the Prakrit texts he talks about are the Gaha Sattasai (and its recent translation by Khoroche and Tieken), the Setubandha, the works of Kundakunda, the Rasikaprakāśana by Vairocana,  the Jain niryuktis ascribed to Bhadrabāhu, and the use of Prakrit in Sanskrit plays.You can find out a little more about Madhav Deshpande's book Sanskrit and Prakrit: Sociolinguistic Issues here.For his Sanskrit Studies Podcast Research Grant Project, Andrew will work on Kannada. He recommends A. K. Ramanujan's Speaking of Śiva, the Daśakumāracarita in Isabelle Onians' translation,  Tamil Sangam poetry and especially the Kuruntokai, and suggests you go read Bhavabūti's Uttararāmacarita right now. (And I apologize for the sounds of my cat beating up his toys in the background!)
My guest this month is Wendy Doniger. Read more about her and her many wonderful books here and here. She was educated at Radcliffe, the only part of Harvard then to admit women, and at Oxford. She has taught at SOAS, but has spent most of her career at the University of Chicago's Divinity School, on the Committee on Social Thought, and in South Asian Languages and Civilizations.Among her teachers, she lists Daniel Ingalls at Harvard, Robert Zaehner at Oxford, and in India, Ali Akbar Khan, from whom she learnt to play the Sarod, and the Purāṇic scholar Rajendra Chandra Hazra.Among the many texts that find mention today are the Kāmasūtra,  Kālidāsa's Kumārasaṃbhava (and that same story as it appears e.g. in the Śivapurāṇa), the story of Nala from the Mahābhārata, and among Professor Doniger's own books, The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology, Dreams, Illusion and Other Realities, The Donigers of Great Neck and An American Girl in India, which she talks about here. Read more about Mircea Eliade,  Santiniketan,  the mā niṣāda śloka,  and see the hotel from Gentlemen's Agreement.Among the books Wendy Doniger recommends for kindling our interest in India are The Wonder That Was India, Midnight's Children, A Passage to India, Village India, The Inner Life of Dust, the works of A. K. Ramanujan.Her review of the Goldman translation of The Rāmāyaṇa can be found here.  
My guest this month is the scholar, translator and author Arshia Sattar. You can find her books here and here, and some of her many articles in may places (such as  with Open, the Times of India,  Scroll,  Mint,  and Words Without Borders. Much of her work has been focussing on the Rāmāyaṇa and also the Kathāsaritsāgara.Among her teachers were A.K. Ramanujan, Alf Hiltebeitel and Wendy Doniger. She also mentions Martha Selby, as well as Phil Lutgendorf and his work on the Ramcaritmanas.You can find further interviews with Arshia Sattar here and here, and a conversation between her and Ananya Vajpeyi (our guest last month!)  here.
My guest this month is Ananya Vajpeyi (read more about her and her main publications here). Her current academic home is the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) in Delhi. As you will hear, I did not have a lot of work this time: Ananya only required minimal prompting to tell me the story of her life so far, which spans several countries in three continents and many fascinating encounters in and around academia. Ananya’s many teachers include Arindam Chakrabarti, Madhu Khanna, Robert Young, Alexis Sanderson, Jim Benson, Matthew Kapstein, Patrick Olivelle, David Shulman,  Sheldon Pollock, Gayatri Spivak and Wendy Doniger. She has worked closely with Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Ashis Nandy and Rajeev Bhargava.She studied and did research at Lady Shri Ram College, the School of Languages at JNU, the University of Oxford, the University of Chicago, the University of Pune, Deccan College and the Bhandarkar Institute.Read more about Ferdinand de Saussure and his Course in General Linguistics, the volume resulting from the 'Ideology and Status of Sanskrit conference; about shudras, Shivaji, Ambedkar and Jim Laine; the Murty Library and the controversy around its editor; and about the fellowships at the Kluge Center and at CRASSH. 
My guest this month is Anand Venkatkrishnan, Find some of his work here, here and here, and other interviews with him here and here.Among the teachers he mentions are Sarasvati Mohan, Paul Harrison and Linda HessIf you are interested in any of the texts mentioned in this episode, perhaps the following links will offer good starting points for the Mahāyāna Sūtras and especially the Rāṣṭrapālaparipṛcchāsūtra, the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, Śiśupālavadha,  Mālatīmādhava, Naiṣadhīyacarita and Mṛcchakaṭika.Learn more about the wonderful language that is Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit, and about the various philosophical/intellectual movements mentioned: Vedānta and especially Advaita Vedānta, Mimāṃsā, Bhakti, and Intellectual History.
My guest this week is Madhav Deshpande. Read more about him here and here.  Take a look  here for a list of many of his publications and here for his Sanskrit textbook, In talking about his early life, he mentions the stotras of Śaṅkara, and the upanayana and sandhya cermonies. (And yes, I know I managed to bungle those pronunciations a bit in the podcast! )Among the many places of education in Pune, there are Deccan College and Fergusson College (see also here), which have been affiliated with Pune University (also here). Read more about traditional pāṭhaśālas here, and watch a video here . Among the many academic luminaries mentioned in this interview, there are S. D. Joshi,  J. A. F. Roodbergen, R. N. Dandekar, Paul Thieme, George Cardona, Ashok Aklujkar,  Ludo Rocher, Henry Hoenigswald, Peter Hook, and Arthur Berriedale Keith. Read more on the Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung. S. D. Joshi's Sanskrit Hamlet can be found here.Much could be linked to  from our discussion about Hinduism and teaching Hinduism; learn more about B. R. Ambedkar; the California Textbook Controversy, Sheldon Pollock's The Death of Sanskrit, the Dismantling Global Hindutva Conference; and the Chinmaya Mission.Unfortunately, there is no public website for Professor Deshpande's Sanskrit poetry yet.
My guest today is Mary Brockington. You can read more about her and her publications here. She read French at Oxford, and lists her teachers Reginald Perman and Mollie Gerard Davies among those who had a great influence on her. Her unique research perspective results from her applying her knowledge of early French texts such as the Roman de Tristran and Old French Epic in general to the study of the Sanskrit Epics, especially the Rāmāyaṇa. This research resulted e.g. in her book The Motif of the Separating Sword in World Art and Literature and articles in The Modern Language Review (here, here and here).Further information about the Dubrovnik Conferences on the Sanskrit Epics and Purāṇas (DICSEP) may be obtained from Ivan Andrijanic  (iandrij108 (at) gmail (dot) com).If you are interested in the texts, both ancient and modern, that she mentions, here is some information relating to the Adbhutarāmāyaṇa (Adbhut Rāmāyaṇa, attributed to the Sage Vālmīki, 2001: trans. Shantilal Nagar (Delhi: B.R. PC)),  the Kashmiri Rāmāvatāracarita  (Rāmāvatāracarita, composed in Kashmiri by Śrī Prakāśa Rāma Kuryagrāmī, 2001: trans.Shanti Lal (sic) Nagar.  Rāmāyaṇa in Regional Languages Series 2 (New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal)), to Otto Jespersen’s Growth and Structure of the English Language (download the book here), Henri Bergson’s Le rire, and Mary and John Brockington’s Rāma the Steadfast.The poem by Alexander Pope that Mary quotes can be found here, and you can read about the (apparently very useful!) torture that is explication de texte here (see also the French version) and here.If you want to know more about how Rāma and Sītā appear in British education, you can find a general overview here (search the text for 'Rama') and a pdf of the actual syllabus here.
My guest this week is Professor John Brockington, about whom you can read more here and here. This contains many of his publications as well as a complete publication list.The main focus of Professor Brockington’s research has been on the Rāmāyaṇa. You can find the complete pdfs of the critical edition he mentions here.In addition to publishing his own work in studies such as Righteous Rāma (see details in the bibliography mentioned above) or The Sanskrit Epics, he has a long-standing and highly productive collaboration with his wife Mary (the guest on our next podcast!) which has led, among many other things, to their beautiful translation Rāma the Steadfast as well as their extensive Rāmāyaṇa Research Archive.Together, they both worked on the Epic and Purāṇic Bibliography hosted at the University of Göttingen. If you are interested in finding out more about the Purāṇas, this is a good place to start; similarly with this link on the god Viṣṇu’s ten incarnations (or avatars).Read more about the International Association of Sanskrit Studies of which Professor Brockington is Honorary Vice President, and the World Sanskrit Conference organised by the IASS.If, like our host, you are too young to remember the fascination with India caused by the Beatles, this Rolling Stone article gives you a taste.The books John suggests for anyone interested in Sanskrit and especially the Ramayana are the Udātta Rāghavam, Julius Lipner’s The Hindus, A. L. Basham’s The Wonder that was India , Philip Lutgendorf’s The Life of a Text, Danuta Stasik’s The Infinite Story and From Lanka Eastwards.
In this episode, I speak with Professor Dominik Wujastyk, Singhmar Chair in Classical Indian Society and Polity at the University of Alberta at Edmonton. He is the Principal Investigator at the Suśruta Project. You can find some of his publications here; this is his entry at Penguin.Early influences on Prof. Wujastyk included the philosophy of P. D. Ouspensky and George Gurdjieff, and the SES.Among his teachers at Oxford were Richard Gombrich, Thomas Burrow, Alexis Sanderson (see also here), Robert Zaehner, and later Bimal Krishna Matilal. Among his fellow students was Anne-Marie Gaston (see also here), a performer of Bharatanatyam.During and after his PhD, he worked at the Wellcome Library.Sanskrit centres at Pune in India include the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI) and the Centre of Advanced Study of Sanskrit (CASS) at the University of Pune. Perhaps foremost among the scholars he met ae S.D. Joshi and Pandit Vaman Balkrishna Bhagavat.Find out more about the Caraka Project at the University of Vienna and download one of its main results here.Here are a few very general links to some of the fields Prof. Wujastyk mentions as good areas for doctoral research these days, Yoga and Tantra. Read more about the temple he discusses in this context here.This is a useful general introduction to Vyākaraṇa, the Sanskrit study of grammar.These links are not meant to be exhaustive, but can serve as the basis of your own searches if you are further interested.
Our third interview is with Professor Michael Witzel of Harvard University, one of the greatest Veda scholars of our time. You can find his Wikipedia page here, his Harvard page here, and many of his publications here.Given Michael Witzel's long career and many incarnations, there are quite a few things to link to: – Details on the Nepalese-German Manuscript Cataloguing Project– Relating to Vedic Studies, there is the Viśvabandhu Vedic Word Concordance; digitized Vedic (and Sanskrit) dictionaries are available e.g. at the Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries site. The publisher's sites for Witzel and Goto's introduction to the Rigveda are here and for Thomas Oberlies' 'Der Rigveda und seine Religion' here. Jamison & Brereton's recent English-language translation of the Rigveda is here, this is their 'The Rigveda: A Guide', and the website for their constantly growing online commentary can be found here.You can download the article with the map detailing places in Mahārāṣṭra where manuscripts remain to be discovered.This is Michael Witzel's ground-breaking book on Comparative Mythology. The translation of the Mayan Popol Vuh that we discuss does not seem to be available online, but WorldCat shows which libraries have it available.This is the edition of the first books of the Maitrāyaṇī Saṃhitā that we mention.
For our second episode, we talk to Dagmar Wujastyk of the University of Alberta. Dagmar tells us about her experiences as a student, her truly international career, and especially also about her impressive AyurYog project. Funded by a prestigious award from the European Research Commission, it explores the 'Entangled Histories of Yoga, Āyurveda and Alchemy in South Asia'.  Listen to her describe these areas in a truly accessible manner, and enjoy finding out more about how she plans to use our 'Sanskrit Studies Podcast Research Grant'!Find the AyurYog homepage here,  the AyurYog timeline here, and the AyurYog alchemy timeline here.Find out more about Dagmar's publications here  and her first book, Modern and Global Ayurveda,  here.  (This book, co-edited with Fred Smith, was written while Dagmar was working with Elizabeth de Michelis at the Dharam Hinduja Institute of Indic Research, University of  Cambridge).Other sources mentioned in this episode include: some of Stephen P. Huyler's alchemical videos (more are available on Facebook), Jason Birch's article Premodern Yoga Traditions and Ayurveda, Christèle Barois' article on the Dharmaputrikā Saṃhitā, and Colleen Taylor Sen's Feasts and Fasts. A History of Food in India. 
In this first episode we speak with McComas Taylor. Hailing from the Australian National University in Canberra, McComas is a pioneer of online Sanskrit teaching and ardent supporter of open-access publishing. He talks to Antonia about how he vowed under a full moon to learn Sanskrit, about his reading the Mahābhārata every day, about the secrets behind his hugely popular online courses, and his brand-new, freely available translation of the Viṣṇupurāṇa. Links to books and pages mentionedMcComas Taylor at the ANUThe Fall of the Indigo Jackal The Little Red Book (online version | pdf download)The Joy of SanskritThe Vishnupurana
In-depth explorations into the field of Sanskrit Studies. Featuring candid conversations and interviews with scholars of Sanskrit across the disciplines of Indology, Linguistics, Religious Studies, Philosophy, History, and more. Hosted by Dr. Antonia Ruppel. Subscribe now where ever you listen to Podcasts, and join us this summer for our debut episodes! 
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