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PM looks for young Indologists

Though 14 wise Germans called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Berlin on Monday evening, he was dismayed to find that they were all very old.

india Updated: Apr 26, 2006 02:38 IST

Though 14 wise Germans called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Berlin on Monday evening, he was dismayed to find that they were all very old. To stem the decline in the number of Indologists (not just in Germany, but around Europe), the PM is keen to launch the Indian equivalent of the British Council around the globe.

Singh is the first PM, perhaps, since Indira Gandhi with an interest in academe and so meets local scholars wherever he goes; one such meeting in Paris is said to have gone off very well. In Berlin, he was particularly interested as this is the land of Max Mueller, a pioneer of Indology. And, after all, Rabindranath Tagore's Jana Gana Mana was sung for the first time in Hamburg.

Though one of the scholars, a Dr Lutze, even sang a Kabir doha on the occasion, Singh was appalled to hear that the number of Indologists in Germany had steeply declined, and that there were almost no young scholars. The scholars asked for more Indian funding of research by German Indologists, and told him that even the German government was decreasing expenditure on Indology, and that even the Max Mueller Bhawans in India were scaling down.

It seems that interest in Sanskrit, literature and social sciences have declined since the 1970s, and especially in the 1990s.

While the PM immediately announced four chairs in Indology for Germans, he told the scholars that India would take greater interest in facilitating the research and teaching of Indian languages in Germany.

His desire to have a British Council-like set-up, explained an aide, was because the ICCR only dealt with arts and culture matters, while the UGC was solely a domestic set-up. The Prime Minister also noted that Indology is stepping up in the USA — there are major Chairs at Harvard, Yale, University of Texas, Columbia and other places. He reportedly felt there was no reason for Europe to lag behind, and so wants to ensure a revival of greater number of Indology chairs here.