PROF. DR. LUDWIG ALSDORF (1904-1978) was probably the most versatile among Western Indologists of the 20th century. His many-sided interests in Indian Studies comprised Vedic and Classical Sanskrit texts as well as Buddhist Pali literature and Jaina Apabhramsa in which he had specialized. His dialects of the Asoka inscriptions to modern vernaculars like Hindi and Urdu which he combined with a living knowledge of the historical, religious, artistic and literary development on the subcontinent, gave him a rare universality. The comprehensiveness of his academic activities was complemented by his mastery of the most subtile philological method which enabled him to see and discover what was often overlooked by others. Prof. Alsdorf’s warm and scholarly personality was permeated by an intensive dynamism which manifested itself in his zest for adventure and scientific achievement.
The booklet is meant to commemorate a great German scholar and to acquaint a wider public with his academic work in the field of Indian Studies.
PROF. DR. KLAUS BRUHN was born in
Hamburg and pursued Indian Studies at
the university of his hometown with Prof.
W. Schubring and Prof. L. Alsdorf. Since
1966 he is Professor of Indology at the
Institute for Indian Philology and History
of Indian Art of the Free University of
Berlin (West). Among his publications are
(1954) and The Jina Images of Deogarh
(1969). He is co-editor of the Indological
series Indologia Berolinensis. Along with
A. Wezler he compiled the Commemoration Volume for L. Alsdorf “Studien zum
Jainismus und Buddhismus" (1981). Prof.
Bruhn has specialised in Jaina literature,
Jaina art and Indian iconography.
MAGDALENE DUCKWITZ was born in
Bremen and studied Indology under Prof.
J. Nobel (Marburgj and Prof. L. Alsdorf
(Berlin, Munster and Hamburg). She joined
the German Foreign Service in 1953 and
spent 35 years in India until her retirement
in 1988 as Cultural Attache of her country's
Embassy in New Delhi. She is co-editor
of German Scholars in India Vol. I & II
(1973 & 1976).
PROF. DR. ALBRECHT WEZLER was born in
Munich and did his doctorate in Indology
under Prof. P. Thieme at Tubingen University. In 1972 he succeeded Prof. L.
Alsdorf as Head of the Institute for the
Culture and History of India and Tibet at
Hamburg University. Among others, he is
the author of Paribhasa, as well as of a
specialised study on Panini. Prof. Wezler
edited L. Alsdorf's Kleine Schriften and is
co-editor of the journal "Studien zur Indologie und Iranistik" (Studies in Indology and
Iranistics). Specialisedin Sanskrit grammar,
linguistics and Indian philosophy, Prof.
Wezler is also in charge of the Nepal-
German Manuscript Preservation Project
LUDWIG ALSDORF (1904-1978) was one of the most active and
competent exponents of recent German Indology. He has made
lasting contributions to various branches of Indian studies-
we mention only Jainism, Buddhism and Veda. But he has also
studied and described Indian history and civilization as a whole.
The greater part of his writings is meant for the specialist. But
he was also fully aware of the need to inform a wider public.
L. Alsdorf's researches are deeply rooted in the tradition of
German scholarship but he was too original a thinker to conform
to any established pattern. His range of interests was wide and
his activities were manifold.
The numerous articles and reviews from his pen had been
published in a great number of European and Indian journals.
In order to bring this material together, his collected articles
were published in 1974 on the occasion of his 70th birthday.
This was to be followed by a Felicitation Volume published
five years later and presented to him on his 75th birthday. L.
Alsdorf's unexpected death in 1978 made it necessary to change
these plans. As a consequence, a Commemoration Volume
was published in 1981, three years after his death.*
The concept of this brochure originated in the course of the
work on that volume. The basic idea was to give broad information on all the aspects of L. Alsdorf's work both to the learned
general public and to co-specialists who had no adequate access
to his own writings. Under the circumstances, the present book-
let could not be quite uniform in all its parts. Furthermore, it
shows here and there the traits of an experiment. The editors
are nevertheless confident that it will help to focus attention on a
great scholar and at the same time encourage later Indologists
to utilize L. Alsdorf's writings to their fullest possible extent.
The publication is a digest which consists of several parts
different in character and contributed by various scholars. For
a number of reasons it proved necessary to supply for most chapters additional informations of one type or the other which might
have been presented as foot-notes, prolegomena, etc. It seemed,
however, simpler to collect this material in the "Editors' Note"
instead of providing the various parts with supplements of
(1) The Obituary on pp. 5-13 is the revised English version of
the original German text (Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlandischen Gesellschaft [Journal of the German Oriental Society],
Vol. 129. 1979, pp. 1-7). Basically it is a "reprint", and not an
article specially written for the present publication. We have to
add, that work on the Critical Pali Dictionary is being continued:
fascicle II 10 was published after Alsdorf's death, still carrying
his name. Fascicles II 11-12 (uparima-uposathakiriya uposathakumara-ulumpa) have been published since then and 13 is
under preparation. The Editor-in-Chief for fasc. II 11 foil. is
K.R. Norman. The obituary included in IT 11 (also by K.R.
Norman) describes in detail Alsdorf's work for the Critical Pali
(2) The Bibliography on pp. 15-31 is mainly a reprint (pp. V
foll.) from Ludwig Alsdorf, Kleine Schriften ed. by A. Wezler
( = Glasenapp-Stiftung Vol. 10, Franz Steiner Verlag GmbH,
Wiesbaden 1974). As far as this was technically possible, we have
replaced the German captions by their English equivalents. Two
supplements have been added under Nos. IV and V. For the
purpose of easier referencing we have provided the titles with
numbers running from 1 up to 161. These numbers have been
used extensively for the sake of reference in our digest ("Bibl.
No.1" etc.). Books etc. edited by Alsdorf -sometimes with considerable sacrifices of time and energy - have been left unnumbered.
The page numbers of the Kleine Schriften (e.g. "S.464" in the
case of Bib I. No. 11), indicating inclusion into the original volume,
have been retained.
(3) The Chronology on pp. 33-34 shows the distribution of
Alsdorf's writings over the full period of his academic activity
(1928-1978). We have made a formal distinction between original contributions (standing first) and reviews (added at the
end). For reasons which require no explanation we have included
here and in the two following parts (Bibliography of Reviews,
Reviews Reprinted) Varuna I-II and Critical Pali Dictionary II
5-10-two instances of editorial activity-into the survey. The
Chronology can also be used in order to identify incomplete
references to Alsdorf's writings (provided the reference contains
the year). However, the Chronology invariably mentions the year
of publication which may be later than the year quoted in a reference (e.g. compare Bibl. No. 14).
(4) The Bibliography of Reviews on pp. 35-44 helps to trace
criticisms but also gives an idea of the influence Alsdorf's writings
had. Before the fifties, reviews appeared mainly in German
language. Later on reviewing was international.
Alsdorf's more general publications appeared under rather
different conditions during and after World War II. We are refer-
ring mainly to Indien (1940), Deutsch-indische Geistesbeziehungen
(1942), Indien und Ceylon (1943), Vorderindien (1955), and
to his contribution for the Geschichte Asiens (1950, Bibl. No. 55).
For the Nazis, India had both theoretical and practical importance: Nazi ideologists had adopted the myth of the Aryan race,
and political circles attached importance to the opposition against
British rule under Subhas Chandra Bose (see p. 6). As a consequence, there was a need for information about India, and
Alsdorf's publications filled this gap. His book Indien was even
translated into Italian (Bibl. No. 51), Italy then being Germany's
closest ally. Alsdorf's publications were widely reviewed in con-
temporary journal literature. But neither did Alsdorf make any
concessions to the ideology of the Third Reich nor were all the
reviews very political. Much of the reviewing was routine work
in the form of short summaries and glosses, All this was possible
because Alsdorf was needed as a specialist and because his writings
reflected an element of nationalism (as it was not uncommon in
those days even amongst the critics of the regime) which can be
described in his case as a combination of German and Indian
nationalism. Alsdorf took pride in Germany's contributions to
Indology and he felt that India should become a free nation with
Hindi as its national language. Under the circumstances, some
scope was left to discuss even political subjects in a normal
manner.---After the end of World War II, the international
scene changed radically and in the new context experts for Third
World countries were needed more than ever. Besides, there was
a growing demand in Germany and elsewhere for better contacts
between the specialist and the public. Alsdorf was (in the field of
Oriental Studies) one of the few academic teachers in Germany
who left the ivory-tower of purely scholarly activities, both by
way of his writings and by public lectures. As a consequence, the
.response to his activities, as reflected in journals, was very positive.
It must be added that his book Vorderindien also evoked academic criticism and discussion as can be seen in the list and in the
two reprints (pp. 51-53 and pp.81-82).
The Bibliography of Reviews also calls for a few technical explations. Reviews have been traced for all independent publications, viz. Bibl. Nos. 1-14 (except Nos. 5 & 8). Apart from
this section, R.P. Das has considered Bibl. No. 55 and the two
projects mentioned already (Varuna 1-2 and Critical Pali Dictionary). No. 55 is only a part of the relevant volume Geschichte
Asiens (History of Asia), and therefore the reviews of this volume
should not be expected to dwell upon Alsdorf's essay. By contrast,
reviews of other collective publications (felicitation volumes,
etc.) have not been included. Let us, therefore, add at this place
that Alsdorf answered one such review in his writings. J. Nobel
had criticized Alsdorf's paper Bibl. No. 48 in his review of the
Winternitz Felicitation Volume of which it formed a part (J.
Nobel, Deutsche Literaturzeitung 1936, S. 1129-30). Alsdorf not
only referred to this critical remark in his Apabhramsa-Studien
(Bibl.No.3), in fact - to quote A. Mette - these studies were partially conceived as an answer to Nobel's criticism (p. 88). ---In
the case of Vorderindien (Bibl, No.9) the Bibliography of Reviews
is based mostly on material collected by the publisher and kindly
lent to R.P. Das by Mrs. Mechthild Alsdorf (Gottingen). A few
clippings could not be identified and a few notes (meant for private use in libraries but not for publication) have not been
listed. -- Needless to add that a bibliography like this - even if
prepared with utmost care - can never claim to be quite complete.
It must also be mentioned that "review" is a formal definition.
Much criticism, often very competent, occurs outside the traditional reviews. -- An asterisk before the title indicates that a
review has been reprinted in the present digest. Whenever re-
prints have been published elsewhere (e.g. H. Lommel on Varuna I)
we have put the asterisk in parentheses.
(5) The Reviews reprinted on pp. 45-82 (seethe list in the Table
of Contents) were selected on the basis of the Bibliography prepared by R.P. Das, In the case of three scholars (C. Caillat, J.W.
de Jong, K.R. Norman) we have reprinted reviews covering two
of Alsdorf's publications. In a number of cases the English reviews
were so short that we had to select, for fuller information, French
and German reviews. In the case of O. von Hinuber's review of
Critical Pali Dictionary II 6-10 we have only included the introductory portion but not the long list of observations on individual
articles (from ahatanapannatti up to uparidhare). One review
(J.W. de Jong on Bibl. Nos. 13-14) has been reprinted for a second
time, and Bibl. No. 13 has been considered twice (c. Caillat:
Nos. 13/12; J.W. de Jong: 13-14).
(6) A photograph showing Alsdorf in his later years has been
published along with the obituaries in Zeitschr. d. Dtsch. Morgenland. Ges. 1979 and Critical Pali Dictionary II 11. Our frontispiece shows Alsdorf in earlier years (by courtesy of the. Osterreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften [Austrian Academy of
Sciences]). The photograph between pp. 4 and 5 (by courtesy
of Mechthild Alsdorf) recalls past days. We see Alsdorf together
with Prof. Jetly and Muni Punyavijaya on his second visit to
Jaisalmer in 1951. Alsdorf had Seen many parts of India but the
medieval beauty of the city in the desert with its rich collections
of Jaina manuscripts was amongst his most lasting impressions.
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