Professor Alexis G. J. S. Sanderson

Spalding Professor Emeritus of Eastern Religions and Ethics, University of Oxford
Emeritus Fellow of All Souls College, University of Oxford


After a training in Classics Alexis Sanderson began his Indological career as a student of Sanskrit at Balliol College, Oxford in 1969. After graduation he spent six years studying the Kashmirian Śaiva literature in Kashmir with the Śaiva scholar and guru, Swami Lakshman Joo, from 1971 to 1977, while holding research positions at Merton and Brasenose Colleges. From 1977 to 1992, he was Associate Professor (University Lecturer) of Sanskrit in the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Wolfson College. In 1992, he was elected to the Spalding Professorship of Eastern Religions and Ethics at Oxford, and thereby became a Fellow of All Souls College. He retired from that post in 2015. Since then he has been preparing a critical edition, with a translation and commentary, of the Tantrāloka, Abhinavagupta’s monumental exposition of the Śākta Śaivism of the Trika.

Research areas

Early medieval religion in India and Southeast Asia, focusing on the history of Śaivism, its relations with the state and Brahmanism, and its influence on Buddhism, Vaiṣṇavism, and Jainism.

Selected publications

  • The Śaiva Literature. Journal of Indological Studies (Kyoto), Nos. 24 & 25 (2012–2013), 2014, pp. 1–113.
  • The Impact of Inscriptions on the Interpretation of Early Śaiva Literature. Indo-Iranian Journal 56 (2013), pp. 211–244.
  • The Śaiva Age: An Explanation of the Rise and Dominance of Śaivism during the Early Medieval Period. In Genesis and Development of Tantrism, ed. Shingo Einoo
    (Tokyo: University of Tokyo, 2009), pp. 41–349.
  • The Śaiva Exegesis of Kashmir. In Mélanges tantriques à la mémoire d’Hélène Brunner / Tantric Studies in Memory of Hélène Brunner, ed. Dominic Goodall and André Padoux, Pondicherry: IFI), pp. 231–442 and 551–582.
  • The Lākulas: New Evidence of a System Intermediate Between Pāñcārthika Pāśupatism and Āgamic Śaivism. Indian Philosophical Annual 26 (2003–2005), 2006, pp. 143–217.
  • The Śaiva Religion Among the Khmers, Part I. Bulletin de l’Ecole française d’Extreme-Orient 90 (2003–2004), pp. 352–464.
  • Meaning in Tantric Ritual. In Essais sur le Rituel III, ed. A.-M. Blondeau and K. Schipper (Louvain-Paris: Peeters, 1995), pp. 15–95.
  • Śaivism and the Tantric Traditions. In The World’s Religions, ed. S. Sutherland et al. (London: Routledge, 1988), pp. 660–704.
  • Maṇḍala and Āgamic Identity in the Trika of Kashmir. In Mantras et diagrammes rituelles dans l’hindouisme, ed. André Padoux (Paris: Editions du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1986), pp. 169–214.
  • Purity and Power among the Brahmans of Kashmir. In The Category of the Person. Anthropology, Philosophy, History, ed. M. Carrithers, S. Collins and S. Lukes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 1985, pp. 190–216.