Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Mon Dec 11 13:57:41 UTC 2006

 Dear List,

Yesterday I discussed the general background of the Berlin case on the List, but
there is much more to be said, which I will try to cover today or tomorrow
(involving, for example, new B.A.and M.A. rules in Germany, which besides
financial issues are big factors in the proposed closings.) Here is what I said
yesterday about the background:

However, since time is of the essence, last night I wrote a detailed letter to
the Berlin authorities.

We have been told that it would be potentially helpful if other researchers
involved either in Sanskrit, Indology, or other ancient fields that directly
*or* indirectly depend on these fields could do the same. We have set up a
special email address for letters addressed to the German officials at:

 berlinindology at

Any letters sent to this address will be retransmitted to all the appropriate
German officials, with a copy in each case to you. Your letters or names will
NOT be made public.

In my own letter (quite long, in German) I stressed some of the following
points, which I give below in abbreviated English form. I provide this as only
a very crude model, since it gives some background information that you might
not have, that you are free to draw from in any way you want in your own
message. The more personal your notes the better, of course, but you can use or
discard any of the materials in the model (you may also find data that you might
want to use in my post above) as you wish.

See also (in German):

Official meetings are being held this week to further discuss the proposed
closings, so the sooner your notes are written, the better.

 With many thanks and best wishes,
 Michael Witzel


To Whom It May Concern [we will add in the appropriate titles; you'll be cc'd
final copies]:

A few days ago I learned through international channels that there were plans
underway to abolish Indian studies in Berlin. I am writing to you today to ask
that Berlin's world famous Institute of Indology not be   closed.

   [You may of course want to add something briefly about your own background

This request does not apply to modern South Asian Studies, which I understand
are to be continued in some form, but to Classical Philology and Indology.

Classical Indian philology, primarily referring to Sanskrit studies, has been a
mainstay at Berlin since 1821, and even during the communist period after World
War II, the discipline was continued at Humboldt University by Professors Ruben
and Morgenroth. Indology, which depends heavily on knowledge of Sanskrit, deals
broadly with native Indian world views, religion, the history of science, and
art as represented in Sanskrit texts and those of related   ancient languages.
It is impossible to understand modern Indian topics without first mastering
Sanskrit, which lies at the heart of Indian culture.

Sanskrit, which was one of the official languages of India until 1835, is
essential for any understanding of the massive numbers of Indian texts produced
over the last three thousand years in fields including traditional Indian
medicine (Ayurveda) and linguistics, which in its unique indigenous forms (via
Panini, etc.) continue to provide a major stimulus to modern linguistic

Just as every other modern civilization, contemporary India can only be
understood through study (via Sanskrit) of its foundational texts and their
impact in the medieval and modern periods. Knowledge of such studies is even
critical in the Indian political arena, due the unusual stress paid to ancient
history in modern Indian culture. In the national elections of 2004, even
classical philologists were frequently drawn into the political discourse
precisely for this reason.

For many reasons, even in modern studies of India, studies of Sanskrit and
classical Indology play critical roles. Berlin has a proud tradition of
studying Sanskrit that spans nearly 200 years, and many internationally famous
scholars have emerged from its Institute of Indology.

In the early 19th century, introduction of the study of ancient India was one of
the essential points in Humboldt’s reform of German universities. It is critical
that this not be forgotten now that India is coming into its own as a global
power and its economic and political importance is increasing.

It can finally be noted that the reputation of German Indology is
well-recognized in India. The long-standing interest of German intellectuals in
Indian civilization has made Indology one of Germany's best ambassadors to the
country. The closure of Berlin's prestigious Institutes for Indology would be
met with by disbelief both in India and in the global scholarly community.

The preservation of the Institute is also important to help preserve Berlin's
reputation as an international research center. Closure of Sanskrit studies in
Berlin would be especially short-sighted in light of the large collections of
Indian manuscripts in the Prussian State Library, in the Berlin-Brandenburg
Academy, and in the rich holdings of Berlin's Museum of Indian Art. Any such
closure would bring 200 years of a great tradition to an end.

I therefore appeal to you to preserve B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. level courses in
Sanskrit and Indology. To do otherwise would tragically bring to an end one of
Germany's proudest historical institutions.

 Yours faithfully,


 (official position) (address) (email)

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