FRAL - Franco-allemand en sciences humaines et sociales

« Perso-Indica » : the Persanisation of Indian Learning (13th-19th centuries) – Pers-Ind

« Perso-Indica » : the Persanisation of Indian learning (13th-19th centuries)

Persian and Indian Cultures: The Creation of a New Intellectual Environment in South Asia

Hindu or Persian Knowledge? The Corpus of Persian Texts on Indian Culture

Several factors have contributed to erasing the translation movement of Indian sources into Persian from the main events of the intellectual history of South Asia and the Muslim societies during the pre-modern period. Colonial historiography has created the view which considers Muslim political hegemony in India as one of the main reasons for the «decline« of Hindu knowledge; the idea that Islam and Hinduism are completely different and incompatible civilizations, runs throughout the history of contemporary South Asia and remains very popular in the media. This project re-examines these issues by looking at the «forgotten« corpus of Persian texts on Indian knowledge composed in South Asia between the 13th and 19th centuries. The network of researchers associated to this project have realized the first multidisciplinary study of this corpus: it reveals that the Indo-Persian translation movement constitutes one of the largest movements of knowledge transfer that took place between different Asian civilizations in the same periods. Persian becomes a new means of expression of Hindu knowledge and for over seven centuries this trend of studies creates a new Persian variant of Indian knowledge, produced and transmitted by Muslims scholars as well as by many generations of Hindu Persian-speaking scholars. The re-discovery of this corpus opens new important perspectives for the study of the interactions between Muslim and Hindu societies in South Asia, during pre-colonial and colonial periods.

The Field Research and The Digital Tools of Analysis of the Corpus of Texts

The research missions carried out in India, the analysis of the collections of Persian manuscripts kept in India, Asia and Europe, allowed us to discover many new primary sources and to obtain important and unique copies. In parallel, a new approach for the study of Persian sources has been developed with Perso-Indica, a peer-reviewed online publication linked to a database generating multiple cross-level analytical options. This format combines different digital tools which allow for a shift of paradigm in the ways of analyzing and presenting a corpus of Persian texts and their authors in the longue durée. It enables to conduct precise and complex analyzes of the historical, political and social environments associated with the corpus, through the processing of textual and prosopographic metadata which produces indexes and graphs of the main entities, contexts and forms of expression. It allows the cross-referencing, comparison and representation in different forms (diagrams, maps) of the range and evolution of the different entities (sources, authors/translators, contexts, etc.) over the period and it contributes to explaining, also for non-specialist readers, the big mass of data presented in the articles of Perso-Indica.

Main Results of The Project

One hundred and thirty-six articles and entries of Perso-Indica have been published online ( and are accessed by thousands of users every year. Three international conferences which took place in Delhi (2015), Paris (2016) and Bonn (2018), as well as the project’s workshops, have looked at several key issues in an interdisciplinary and comparative approach. New interpretations of the production and chronology of this corpus, as well as of the interactions between Hindu scholars and Persian textual culture, have emerged from these works. These activities have also lead to the creation of the largest transnational network of researchers working in this emerging field of studies.

Pers-Ind is a research project in the field of humanities coordinated by Fabrizio Speziale (EHESS, Paris). The German side is coordinated by Eva Orthmann (University of Göttingen) and the project involves a network of European, Asian and American researchers. The project started in October 2014 and was completed in March 2018. It has received a funding of € 190.008 from the ANR for an overall cost of € 470.108.


« Perso-Indica » : the Persanisation of Indian Learning (13th-19th centuries)
This project will examine the history of Persian texts on Indian culture and aims at offering a new epistemic vision of the history of contacts between Muslim culture and non-Muslim scholarly traditions. The research has been developed from the hypothesis that the production of Persian texts on Indian culture cannot be reduced to a minor or unrelated series of single efforts. Rather it constituted a process comparable to other major translation movements between different civilizations. Concurrently, the project aims at analysing two additional hypothesis. First, this trend of studies did not only constitute a process of translation, but also of transformation, appropriation and Persianisation of knowledge. Second, the appropriation process was a symmetric activity that allowed Indian scholars to acquire the forms of expression of the Persian culture. To test this hypothesis, the project proposes a new approach to the study of Persian sources by the creation of Perso-Indica, an online academic publication, based on a electronic survey of Persian sources on Indian learning written between the 13th and the 19th centuries. This approach will enable methods of quantitative analyses of Persian text corpora through the creation of tools for processing textual and prosopographic metadata that produce dynamic indexes of the main entities, contexts and forms of expression. As an encyclopaedia of the Persian literature on Indian culture, Perso-Indica intends to become the first major reference work for this field of studies. Its approach will not be merely descriptive, and Perso-Indica aims above all at offering critical analyses of these texts. We will especially pay attention to the methods of translation, ways of understanding the source knowledge, the transmission of the texts and the formation of a bilingual lexicon. These questions will also be dealt with in a book dedicated to the analysis of the translation process in the symmetric context of the Persianisation of Indian learning and the Indianisation of Persian culture.

Project coordination

Fabrizio SPEZIALE (Mondes iranien et indien UMR 7528)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


Mondes iranien et indien Mondes iranien et indien UMR 7528
IOA Institut für Orient- und Asienwissenschaft

Help of the ANR 190,008 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: September 2014 - 36 Months

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