South Asia InstituteNepal as Focus of Heidelberg Asia Research

Press Release No. 74/2022
19 July 2022

South Asia Institute of Heidelberg University has maintained a branch office in Kathmandu for 35 years

The South Asia Institute (SAI) at Heidelberg University began its activity at Heidelberg University six decades ago. As part of the anniversary events, the SAI is holding a Nepal Day on 21 and 22 July to celebrate the 35 years of its branch office in Kathmandu. To mark this occasion, a high-ranking delegation from Tribhuvan University, Nepal’s oldest university, and Kathmandu University is visiting Heidelberg. Prof. Dr Bernhard Eitel, Rector of Ruperto Carola, and his counterpart Prof. Dr Shiva Lal Bhusal will sign an agreement extending the existing cooperative relations between Tribhuvan University and Heidelberg University. Ram Kaji Khadka, Nepal’s ambassador to Germany, is also expected to attend.

View over Patan, the third largest city in Nepal, with the Royal Palace

Prof. Dr Rahul Mukherji, Executive Director of the South Asia Institute, underlines that Nepal has become a focus of Asia research at Heidelberg University. “It is unique worldwide with its concentration of disciplinary and regionally specific competences, research activities and projects.” 30 staff members in Nepal and Heidelberg are currently involved in the work. Research on Nepal is particularly visible within the “Transforming Cultural Heritage” Flagship Initiative, with which Heidelberg University brings together different disciplines for the exploration and practical handling of cultural heritage. For example, the Nepal Heritage Documentation Project is a growing open-access online database containing descriptions, photos, inscriptions and architectural drawings of Nepal’s threatened historical monuments, e.g. temples, monasteries and palaces. A project based in the Geography department is investigating irrigation farming in the Himalayas and the importance of socio-hydrology for Nepal.

The Nepal Day is starting with the ceremonial signing of the agreement in the Old University. In the South Asia Institute, which is part of the Centre for Asian and Transcultural Studies (CATS), the members of the Nepali delegation will then meet with the Heidelberg academics and colleagues from Germany and Europe. The ambassador of Nepal will bring a greeting. Besides the presentation of current Nepal projects, a discussion is planned with Dr Niels Gutschow, honorary professor at Heidelberg University. For 60 years, Prof. Gutschow has been travelling to Nepal for several months each year to do research in architectural history. The programme on 21 and 22 July also features two lectures: Prof. Dr Sagar Raj Sharma from Kathmandu University will report on the socio-economic and ecological challenges his country is facing. Prof. Dr Martin Gaenszle from the University of Vienna will review the changes in research conditions in Nepal; when the Heidelberg branch office opened in Kathmandu in 1987 he was its first director. The Nepal Day will conclude with a panel discussion on future forms of cooperation between Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu University and Heidelberg University.

The South Asia Institute, founded 60 years ago, is the oldest institution of its kind in Germany, and was designed as an interdisciplinary centre for research and teaching. It has seven professorships in the fields of Development Economics, Anthropology, Geography, History, Cultural and Religious History of South Asia (Classical Indology), Modern South Asian Languages and Literatures, and Political Science. Here the South Asia Institute links up the social sciences, economics and geography with historical, language and cultural studies. Besides the branch office in Kathmandu there is a branch in New Delhi (India). The SAI also entertains intensive scholarly contacts with Pakistan and Sri Lanka – it has had branch offices for many years in the two countries – as well as, most recently, with Bangladesh.

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