Jolly good fellows

Academic year 2011–2012 gave us one OCHS fellow and three Shivdasani Fellows. The Shivdasani Fellowship exists to enable outstanding scholars of Indian nationality to come and study, write, and teach at Oxford University.

Shivdasani Fellows

Purushottama Bilimoria

Professor Bilimoria is a highly engaging and cheerful individual and it was inspiring to see the amount of ground he covered in six short weeks. He tutored eleven students on a wide range of topics and took full advantage of the facilities Oxford offers. While at the OCHS he authored several papers and prepared a syllabus on ‘Gandhi and the Civil Rights Movement in America 1893-1993’ for a course he will be teaching in University of California- Berkeley.

Purushottama Bilimoria, is Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Studies at Deakin University in Australia and Senior Research Fellow, University of Melbourne. Visiting Professor and Lecturer at University of California, Berkeley and Dominican University, San Anselmo. His areas of specialist research and publications cover classical Indian philosophy and comparative ethics; Continental thought; cross-cultural philosophy of religion, diaspora studies; bioethics, and personal law in India.

Prof. Bilimoria teaches and publishes on Hindu religious philosophies. He also works on political philosophy, pertaining to ethics of rights, theories of justice, capabilities, education and gender issues in third world, particularly South Asian, contexts.

On his stay at Oxford, Professor Bilimoria reports: ‘It was truly like being in a family, and everyone was always so kind, courteous, caring, and going out of their way to do things for a scholar-academic often somewhat new to the environment, and caught up in his own work, and head. I learnt so much, and was able to share so much. The handful of students I tutored and mentored were simply great; I have kept in touch with most. A wonderful place to sit, read, think, and write into the wee-hours of the night; and come downstairs to streets to take in a few breaths of the world around, and gaze at the towering spires of the colleges.’

Professor M Narasimhachary

For Hilary and Trinity terms we were honoured to host Professor Narasimhachary. This is Professor Narasimhachary’s second stay at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies.

Prof. Narasimhachary is a world-class Sanskritist and an excellent teacher. ‘Studying Sanskrit texts under the supervision of Professor Narasimhachary has provided me with the kind of insight into the language that can only be gained from one profoundly rooted in the Sanskrit tradition,’ says student Lucien Wong. ‘The phenomenal breadth of his expertise has allowed me to discover subtle and fertile connections between various texts and ideas that would no doubt have been overlooked without his guidance.’

The spoken Sanskrit clsses given by Prof. Narasimhachary are an excellent complement to the University’s offerings.

‘I find his more traditional, cultural approach to the language to be invaluable and very necessary in order to truly appreciate the language,’ adds another of his students, Bhavishna Modi, ‘The Professor impresses us all with his recitations of verses, no matter what the topic, and despite all his students being at different levels we are all able to benefit from the lessons he teaches. He approaches the Ramayana with such enthusiasm that he leaves us inspired to explore beyond the material discussed in class, and it is exciting to learn the mantras he so memorably teaches! The Centre has provided a wonderful opportunity to the students at the University.’

Professor Narasimhachary is the Founder Professor and Head (Retired), Department of Vaishnavism, University of Madras, India. His specialist subjects include the Pre-Ramanuja Religion and Philosophy, Pancharatra Agama Literature, Telugu and Sanskrit Literature and popularisation of Sanskrit as a spoken tongue. Prof. Narasimhachary received the Certificate of Honour for Proficiency in Sanskrit from the President of India for the year 2004.

While at the OCHS he also lectured on Post-Ramanuja Developments in Shri Vaishnavaism, Readings in Ramanuja’s Sribhashya, and Readings in Kavya.

Professor Parimal Patil

Parimal G. Patil is Professor of Religion and Indian Philosophy at Harvard University, where he is Chair of the Department of South Asian Studies. His primary academic interests are in Sanskrit philosophy and the intellectual history of religion in India. In his first two books, Against a Hindu God and Buddhist Philosophy of Religion in India, he focused on interreligious debates between Buddhists and non-Buddhist philosophers in the final phase of Buddhism in India. Currently, he is working on early modern Sanskrit philosophy, especially the work of the New Epistemologists.

For professional reasons his stay in Oxford was shortened, however he managed a busy schedule of lectures, tutorials, and meetings with old colleagues including Dr Jim Benson, an early mentor who started Professor Patil on his journey into Sanskrit.

We hope to be able to host Professor Patil again for a full term.

OCHS Visiting Fellow

Andrea Acri

We were also pleased to host Andrea Acri, a scholar of Shaivism in the Indian Subcontinent and the Indonesian Archipelago.

‘My one-term stay at the OCHS as a visiting fellow was enriching,’ he says. ‘Of the many research centres and academic institutions I have visited worldwide, the OCHS is the most unique, being characterised by an approach to Hindu studies that beautifully espouses the rigorous academic standards and refined intellectual environment of Oxford to the human warmth and pluralistic attitude of India. I was struck by its atmosphere of genuine friendliness and deep respect for the Hindu culture – an aspect that one cannot always take for granted in today’s academic world. Run by devoted staff members and populated on most days by a host of Oxford undergraduate and graduate students, regular or occasional visitors, and other academics, the Centre was for me much more than a vibrant scholarly hub – it provided me with a truly “home away from home” experience.’

Andrea Acri is from Parma, Italy. He holds a Laurea degree in Oriental Languages and Cultures (Sanskrit) from the University of Rome ‘Sapienza’, and an MA degree in Southeast Asian Languages and Literatures (Old Javanese) from Leiden University (the Netherlands). Before receiving his PhD from the same University in early 2011, he was awarded a J. Gonda Fellowship in Indology at the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS, Leiden). He was then granted an Australia Endeavour Award for Postdoctoral Research and a Visiting Fellowship at the School of Culture, History and Language of the College for Asia and the Pacific, the Australian National University (Canberra).

His other research interests are Hinduism and Indian philosophies, Sanskrit and Old Javanese languages and literatures, and various aspects of the intellectual history of the Indic world. He is the author of Dharma Pātañjala; A Śaiva Scripture from Ancient Java; Studied in the Light of Related Old Javanese and Sanskrit Texts, and co-editor of From Laṅkā Eastwards: The Rāmāyaṇa in the Literature and Visual Arts of Indonesia (KITLV Press, 2011).