101 Years of Sanskrit at Berkeley - Saturday, April 28, 2007

Luis Gonzalez-Reimann reimann at BERKELEY.EDU
Wed Apr 18 02:17:39 UTC 2007

The Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies &
The Center for South Asia Studies, UC Berkeley

Cordially invite you to celebrate

101 years of Sanskrit Studies at Berkeley

April 28, 2007
3:00 pm ~ 6:00 pm
Geballe Room, Townsend Center

Reception to follow

Janet Broughton (UC Berkeley), Robert P. Goldman (UC Berkeley), R. K.
Sharma (Sanskrit Scholar, India), Sally J. Sutherland Goldman (UC
Berkeley), Gary Holland (UC Berkeley), Padmanabh S. Jaini (UC Berkeley),
Som Dev Vasudeva (UC Berkeley), Alexander von Rospatt (UC Berkeley)


A Brief History of Sanskrit Studies at Berkeley

In the millennia old history of Sanskrit, a hundred years is but a
fleeting moment. For Berkeley it is an epoch. The ancient, classical
language of Sanskrit is alive and thriving in Berkeley. This year marks
101 years since the launch of Sanskrit studies at UC Berkeley.

The early beginnings of Sanskrit, the source of most of India's major
languages, and one of the world's great classical languages, at UC
Berkeley can be traced as far back as the late 19th century when Professor
Benjamin Ide Wheeler, a linguist and a student of the Classics, served as
the Chancellor of the young University. Berkeley lore has it that he began
to offer instruction in Sanskrit informally as early as 1897. However, the
official history of Sanskrit in the Berkeley curriculum must be dated to
January of 1906 when Arthur W. Ryder was appointed Professor of Classics
and began to teach Sanskrit along with his other duties.

Ryder was a pioneering and dynamic promoter of Sanskrit studies not only
in Berkeley but in the US as well. Among his extraordinary achievements
are his translations of many Sanskrit works which remain among the most
authoritative today. Under his aegis the first ever staging on US soil of
a Sanskrit play, or indeed any Indian drama, "The Little Clay Cart," a
ten-act epic was performed in 1907 at the UC Berkeley's Greek Theater. The
reach of his influence can also be traced to J. Robert Oppenheimer's
utterance of the line from the Gita, "I am become Death, the destroyer of
worlds" upon witnessing the Trinity atomic fireball in August 1945. Ryder
continued to develop Sanskrit Studies at Berkeley until his death in the
classroom in 1939. The colorful Professor Ryder was such a well known
figure on the Berkeley campus that he became the model for the fictional
Sanskritist-detective Professor Ashwin in Anthony Boucher's 1937 murder
mystery "The Case of the Seven of Calvary,"

After a brief hiatus Sanskrit Studies resumed in a significant way with
the appointment of Murray Barnson Emeneau came to Berkeley to succeed
Ryder in 1940. He was the key person in establishing the Linguistics
Department at Berkeley in 1953. Professor Emeneau trained many students,
including Dr. R.K. Sharma, the founder and first Vice Chancellor of the
Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, an organ of the Government of India. Emeneau
was joined after the war by the great anthropologist David Mandelbaum and
together, in 1959, they established the Center for South Asian Studies.
Today, the Center is the only US Department of Education-funded National
Resource Center for South Asia studies in California. It is committed to
enhancing the knowledge of South Asia and South Asians by both working
with institutions and individuals and by developing financial resources to
support South Asia studies.

In 1973 under the leadership of J. Frits Staal, professor of Sanskrit and
Philosophy, the Department of South and Southeast Asian Languages and
Literatures (later changed to the Department of South and Southeast Asian
Studies) was founded. In it were housed the Sanskrit scholar and linguist,
Professor B.A. van Nooten; Professor of Buddhist Studies, P. S. Jaini; and
Professor of Sanskrit and India Studies, Robert P. Goldman. Today, the
latter with his wife and colleague, Dr. Sally J. Sutherland Goldman and
Professor of Buddhist Studies Alexander von Rospatt constitute the core of
the Sanskrit program which, we hope, will continue to develop and keep the
knowledge of this ancient linguistic heritage alive at Berkeley into the
new century. Currently, the Department of South and Southeast Asian
Studies offers programs of both undergraduate and graduate instruction in
the languages and civilizations of South and Southeast Asia from the most
ancient period to the present. More than fifty faculty members teach
nearly fifty courses related to South Asia at Berkeley.

Center for South Asia Studies
10 Stephens Hall, #2310
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-2310

(510) 642-3608 (Phone)
(510) 643-5793 (Fax)

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