Jan Gonda

Dutch Indologist

1905   -   1991

country of citizenship: Kingdom of the Netherlands
native language: Dutch
language of expression: Dutch, French, Hindi, German, English, Arabic, Javanese, Malaysian
educated at: Utrecht University
occupation: linguist, university teacher

Jan Gonda, (14 April 1905 – 28 July 1991) was a Dutch Indologist and the first Utrecht professor of Sanskrit. He was born in Gouda in the Netherlands and died in Utrecht. He studied with Willem Caland at Rijksuniversiteit, Utrecht (since 1990 Universiteit Utrecht) and from 1932 held positions at Utrecht and Leiden. He held the positions of Chair of Sanskrit succeeding Caland from 1929, as well as of Indology from 1932. He published scholarly articles on Indian Sanskrit and Indonesian Javanese texts for sixty years. In 1952, he published his monumental work on Sanskrit in Indonesia. His contributions to philology and Vedic literature has been oft-cited.Gonda is recognized as one of the twentieth century's leading scholars of Asian language, literature and religion, particularly on texts and topics related to Hinduism and Buddhism. He wrote with ease and elegance in Dutch, English and German, and had a breath-taking range of interests from the ancient literature of Indonesia and India to comparative religion and philology. Like many Orientalists of the 20th century, Gonda never visited Asia. However, his lack of field experience was more than compensated for by his encyclopedic knowledge of Indic literature and his profound empathy for the religious culture of Asia. Among his many students was J. A. B. van Buitenen who moved to the University of Chicago in 1961, and Henk Bodewitz succeeded Gonda to the chair of Sanskrit at Utrecht in 1976.Gonda left a bequest to Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, of which he was member since 1957, and in 1992 the Gonda Foundation was set up in his name. The foundation offers publication subsidies and grants to projects relating to Indology, the size of the grants and scope of activities being determined by the return on invested capital. The Gonda Lectures and Gonda Indological Series are also named in his honour.
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