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Inscriptions as main documentary sources on the pre-modern Indian endowment system

For numerous areas of historical research on pre-modern India, the surviving sources are extraordinarily sparse. However, the source situation is quite different for research on the phenomenon of "endowment." Thousands of inscriptions from the period 300 B.C. to 1500 A.D. (and beyond) are available, and it may be regarded as a fortunate circumstance that, at least since the first centuries A.D., the overwhelming majority of these inscriptions are found to have been made by a foundation. The relatively good survival situation is not least connected with the nature of inscriptions, which were intended "for eternity" and were therefore affixed to durable materials. Indian foundation testimonies are carved in stone or engraved in metal and written in Prakrit, Sanskrit and proto-regional languages. However, the large number of documentary sources on endowments should not obscure the fact that even they are far from providing information on all aspects of endowments. This becomes especially clear in cross-cultural comparisons with other regions. In this sense, the lecture will deal with what can be learned about foundations from Indian inscriptions and where the limits lie here as well.


Prof. Dr. Annette Schmiedchen is an Indologist at the Institute for Asian and African Studies at the Humboldt University in Berlin. This is also the location of the project she leads ("From Deccan to Arakan") of the ERC Synergy Grant "DHARMA - The Domestication of 'Hindu' Asceticism and the Religious Making of South and Southeast Asia (2019-2025). Her areas of expertise are pre-modern Indian history and Sanskrit epigraphy. She has worked on the epigraphic corpora of the Maitraka and the Rāṣṭrakūṭa dynasties in western and central India and, in particular, on the thematic complexes of religious endowment in Buddhist, Brahmanical Hindu, and Jinist contexts, as well as on issues of ruler representation and legitimation in pre-modern Indian cultural space.
Annette Schmiedchen studied Indology at the HU and also received her doctorate. She completed her habilitation at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in 2009. She also worked as a substitute professor of Indology at MLU. From 2012 to 2017, she collaborated with HU's Institute of Historical Sciences on the intercultural ERC project "FOUNDMED - Foundations in Medieval Societies" based there.





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