February 2, 2016

University Receives $3.5 Million Grant For the Study of Sanskrit

Last week, the College announced a $3.5 million grant from Guru Ramakrishnan (M.B.A. ’88) and his wife Anupama to advance the study of Sanskrit. The grant will go toward the establishment of the Anupama and Guru Ramakrishnan Professorship in Sanskrit Studies, which will support an existing faculty member who specializes in studying Sanskrit.

Guru and Anupama Ramakrishnan also fund the Guru and Anupama Ramakrishnan Endowed Scholarship Fund for Indian Students at the Booth School of Business. They noted in an article published by UChicago News that UChicago’s long history of commitment to the study of Sanskrit and its vigorous program in Sanskrit education were important factors in choosing to fund a chair of Sanskrit study at UChicago.

The donation is also a part of the UChicago Campaign: Inquiry and Impact, which aims to raise $4.5 billion by 2019 to support programs, research, students, and many other endeavors across all departments and schools at the University.

Gary Tubb, senior Sanskrit scholar at the College and faculty director of UChicago’s new center in Delhi, will be the first professor to hold the chair position. Tubb noted that an endowed chair provides financial support and stability, paying for the expenses associated with the chair and guaranteeing that funding is available in the future for a professorship in Sanskrit. He also commented that there is freedom in what the donations will fund.

“The donors are people who are quite familiar with Sanskrit, with its history, and with the history of texts available in Sanskrit. They’re also people who understand how Sanskrit is taught and understand that the professors at universities who teach Sanskrit need to be able to teach it in the ways that they think that it should be taught best. So the gift sets up a chair in Sanskrit but it doesn’t dictate that it be used in any particular topics within the area of Sanskrit or for any particular people. That’s the decision of who’s actually put in the chair, which is made by the University.”

The establishment of a chair in Sanskrit studies does not change any of the responsibilities a Sanskrit professor holds, including teaching and conducting research. However, Tubb also hopes to use this grant to expand study abroad programs in India.

Sanskrit, the oldest literary language of South Asia, is a language deeply intertwined with history—Hindu scriptures, the literature of Jains and Buddhists, and many philosophical, scientific, historical, and poetic works are written in Sanskrit.

It is also the longest-taught South Asian language at the University of Chicago, having been offered since the institution’s founding in 1892. The College’s extensive program of education in Sanskrit includes first- through fourth-year Sanskrit courses, advanced and upper-level classes, and many other opportunities such as studying at the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s South Asian Summer Language Institute or at the American Institute for Indian Studies program in Pune, Maharashtra. The University also has extensive library resources pertaining to South Asia in Regenstein Library, including over 720,000 books, journals, government documents, and films from various parts of the South Asian subcontinent.

The announcement of the grant coincides with two major anniversaries for South Asian studies this year: the 50th anniversary of the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations and the 60th anniversary of the Committee on Southern Asian Studies.

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