New Delhi (Sputnik) — The study of Indology is once again gaining traction in Russia and Eastern Europe (formerly the Eastern Bloc). While such developments do not make headlines, such practices go a long way in widening people to people ties.
Russians and Eastern Europeans not only possess goodwill for Indians and vice-versa, but the two sides are also trying to delve deep into their common roots.
It is in this spirit that President of India Ram Nath Kovind attended a roundtable discussion of Indologists at Charles University in Prague on September 8, 2018.
Charles University has the oldest center of Indology in Europe. Speaking on the occasion, the Indian president said Indology has a very old tradition in Prague, starting with the establishment of a chair in Sanskrit at Charles University in 1850. The president said that Indology has not just brought India and the Czech Republic together, but has also had an enormous role in the making of modern India and rediscovering India's rich past. Similarly, in Bulgaria, also visited by President Kovind, Upanishads have been translated into the local language.
The study of Sanskrit is popular in Russia, a fact lesser known to the wider world. In the historical city of St. Petersburg, the teaching of Indian languages and literature at St. Petersburg University began in 1836, when Professor Robert Lenz (1808-1836) of Dörpt University was invited to St. Petersburg to read lectures on Sanskrit and comparative linguistics.
These studies are no longer confined to St. Petersburg and departments of Indology and Sanskrit have emerged across Russia over the past century. Besides Sanskrit and Hindi, there is a growing interest in other Indian languages as well. A unique chair of Indian philosophy named after Mahatma Gandhi has been established at the Institute of Philosophy at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Interestingly, in 2015, the Rashtrapati Bhawan (presidential palace) in the Indian capital New Delhi hosted the first-ever World Indology Conference, the idea of which was propounded by the then President Pranab Mukherjee after his visit to Moscow in the same year. And it is not just philosophy of Hinduism; Russian scholars are also fascinated by Buddhism, which originated in India before spreading to China via current-day Uzbekistan.
"It is a fact that Indology is back in discussion and the faculty is now being looked up with a lot of interest. I am hopeful that it will bring better understanding between traditional friendly countries like India and Russia," renowned Indologist, writer, and retired Indian bureaucrat Achala Moulik told Sputnik.
"I would like to quote from the words of former Indian ambassador to India Late Alexander M. Kadakin who said, 'the time has come to write Imagining both Russia and India and implement the most daring of plans. So dear to us are the flavors, sounds and stories of the past that while cherishing them we should not miss the wonderful chance of taking our relations forward to a higher plateau'," she added.
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