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Varanasi's 'Mrs India'

Dr Bettina Baumer, born in Austria, has been working in Varanasi since 1967. Unbelievably, she is today a renowned scholar of Sanskrit, Kashmir Shaivism, Indian philosophy and art.

india Updated: Feb 11, 2008 02:48 IST
Prabhu Razdan

She may not have been granted Indian Citizenship rights, but she has been here for 40 years.

Dr Bettina Baumer, born in Austria, has been working in Varanasi since 1967. Unbelievably, she is today a renowned scholar of Sanskrit, Kashmir Shaivism, Indian philosophy and art.

Visit Abhinavgupta Research Library at Bhadaini near Assi Ghat in Varanasi, one finds her busy teaching scholars from India and abroad. But in a traditional Indian (Pandit) style, sitting on the ground.

“I came to India about 40 years ago and got married to India”, says Baumer. “My entire life is devoted to India,” she says, adding,”I came to India as a student in 1967 and taught in Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi’. She has a strong feeling for the Sanskrit language. She has hold on this language to the extent that most foreign students and also from India feel in pride in being students of Dr Baumer.

Interestingly, the teaching is totally free of cost.“ I don’t charge any thing except meagre charges for using library”, she says, adding,` this too I charge for maintaining this library’.

The library is a real treasure of knowledge. There are books which are very difficult to find in the market.” Any one who want to read such books are welcome at the library”, she says,adding, `no book is given outside’.

Baumer, it may be mentioned it may be mentioned has been director of a research institute on Indian art in Varanasi and coordinator of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, Varanasi. Since 1995, she is regularly teaching as visiting Professor at the universities of Vienna, Berne and Salzburg. She was also Fellow, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla.

Baumaer has authored many books in German and a number of books and scholarly articles in Sanskrit and English, including three volumes of Kalatattvakosha : A Lexicon of Fundamental Concepts of the Indian Arts edited by her. She became a disciple of Swami Lakshman Joo in 1986 and has been teaching Kashmir Shaivism and its texts for a number of years.