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Dominik Wujastyk wujastyk at gmail.com
Thu Jan 16 22:53:36 UTC 2020

Originally posted by Prof. Michaels, but delayed for technical reasons:

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From: "Michaels, Axel" <michaels at hcts.uni-heidelberg.de>
To: INDOLOGY <indology-bounces at list.indology.info>
Date: Tue, 7 Jan 2020 16:34:56 +0000
Subject: Orbituary Pt. Aithal


*Pandit Dr Parameswara Aithal*

18 January 1934 – 3 January 2020


Pandit Dr. Parameswara Aithal came to the South Asia Institute of the
University of Heidelberg on the recommendation of the London Indologist and
legal historian J. Duncan M. Derrett. Already in 1968, my predecessors
Günter-Dietz Sontheimer (1933-1992) and Hermann Berger (1926 - 2005)
approached him at a conference in Madras. Two years later he arrived in
Heidelberg with his wife, where he remained until his death, although after
his retirement he stayed in India for many months every year until the end.

He was born in Kota (Karnataka) in a traditional family of priests and
Sanskrit scholars. There he also received a traditional training as a
pandit and as a Vedic priest, which included memorizing many texts,
especially the Śrauta, Grhya and Dharmaśastra literatures, but also the
practise of Śrauta and Gṛhya rituals. For further education he attended the
Vani Vilasini Sanskrit School in Saligrama not far from his home for five
years, and Maharaja's Sanskrit College in Mysore, where he graduated with
the highest honours in 1957. In 1961 he received his BA at the A.P. College
of Arts and Commerce in Bangalore, in 1965 his MA at Karnatak University,
Dharwad, and in 1970 his Ph.D. at the same university with the thesis
"Non-Rigvedic citations in the Aśvalāyana Śrautasūtra" (published Varanasi
1986). During his studies he worked as a pandit and curator of the
manuscript collection at the renowned Adyar Library and Research Centre in
Madras until he moved to Heidelberg.

Pt. Aithal made a great name for himself as a researcher, especially
through his work on Vedic auxiliary texts and the publication of manuscript
catalogues. Particularly noteworthy are his critical edition of
*Aśvalāyana-G**ṛ**hyasūtra-Bhā**ṣ**yam* (Madras 1980), *Veda-lak**ṣ**a**ṇ**a:
Vedic Ancillary Literature* (Stuttgart 1991, Delhi: 1993) and *A
Descriptive Catalogue of the Sanskrit and other Indian Manuscripts of the
Chandra Shum Shere Collection in the Bodleian Library *(Oxford University
Press, 1992). A detailed list of his writings can be found here (
and in the volume *The Pandit - Traditional Scholarship in India* (Delhi:
Manohar, 2001), edited in his honour, which appeared after a Heidelberg
conference and contains contributions by Ashok Aklujkar, Johannes
Bronkhorst, Madhav Deshpande, Harry Falk, Monika Horstmann, Christopher Z.
Minkowski, and Albrecht Wezler.

Everybody who experienced Pt. Aithal was deeply impressed by his broad
encyclopaedic knowledge and his high intelligence. He knew how to recite
many texts, including the local encyclopaedias, by heart. His traditional
understanding of Sanskrit grammar was reflected in numerous popular
courses, which he held soon after his arrival in Heidelberg. His students
virtually adored him, as he proved to be a teacher who was tirelessly there
for them. Unforgettable was his great modesty, his human warmth and his
unobtrusive humour.

Pt. Aithal's move from a village in India to Heidelberg was inimitably
captured by Herrmann Berger: „It must have been an unexpected and exciting
change for him to leave India and the idyllic atmosphere of his home in
Karnataka, the Ashram where he spoke Sanskrit as the language of everyday
life, and his training as a Śrauta priest. However, in a remarkably short
period of time he and his family became true Heidelbergers and he was able
to teach his students in excellent German. He fully accepted the Western
approach to philology, at the same time remaining faithful to panditship
and Indian thinking“ (Foreword in the above mentioned volume).

In fact, Dr. Aithal has never forgotten or denied his Indian origins
throughout his life. How fitting, then, are words on the obituary in the
Rhein-Neckar Zeitung: "He lived in several worlds, now he is gone from this

Pt. Aithal leaves behind his lovely wife Yashoda, three children and three
grandchildren, all of whom have settled in Heidelberg or other places in

With the death of Pandit Aithal, the South Asia Institute loses its only
honorary member so far, a highly esteemed, sincere colleague, a great
Sanskrit scholar of the old (Indian) school and a true philanthropist. It
will honour his memory.

Axel Michaels, 7 January 2020

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