ERC: The Domestication of ‘Hindu’ Asceticism and the Religious Making of South and Southeast Asia (DHARMA)

Three Principal Investigators Emmanuel Francis (UMR CEIAS, CNRS-EHESS), Arlo Griffiths (EFEO) and Annette Schmiedchen (Berlin, Germany) have, with participation of Florinda de Simini (university “L’Orientale”, Naples), won a major grant from the European Research Council. Funded for nearly 10 million euros, and scheduled to run for 6 years (2019–2025), the project DHARMA: The Domestication of “Hindu” Asceticism and the Religious Making of South and Southeast Asia is one of the 27 projects (among which 4 in social sciences and humanities) selected for funding in the 2018 call of the highly competitive Synergy grant scheme that is part of the European Union’s Research and Innovation Programme Horizon 2020.
The religion known today as “Hinduism” is a major world religion and the main religion of the world’s largest democracy, India. But the history of “Hindu” institutions is not limited to India. DHARMA will study the history of “Hinduism” in comparative perspective, focusing on the period from the 6th to the 13th century. During this period, the Bay of Bengal served as a maritime highway for intense cultural exchange. The resulting process of “Indianisation”, marked notably by the spread of “Hinduism”, of an Indian writing system and of India’s sacred language Sanskrit, touched large parts of South and Southeast Asia.
The Sanskrit word DHARMA can designate the cosmic law that is upheld both by gods and humans. But it is also often used to refer to any of the numerous temple-related foundations made to support this law. The DHARMA project seeks to understand the process of “institutionalisation” of “Hinduism” by investigating the roles of various agents, from kings and noblemen to priests, monks and local communities. It emphasizes social and material contexts of “Hinduism”, which requires a multi-regional, multi-scalar and multidisciplinary methodology, to forge a real synergy of scholarship on premodern South and Southeast Asia.
Our approach will be based on the correlation and contextualisation of written evidence from inscriptions and manuscripts and material evidence from temples and other kinds of archaeological sites. The project will be carried out in four task-forces. Three regional task forces will focus, respectively, on the inscriptions and archaeological sites of (A) the Tamil-speaking South of India (Emmanuel Francis), of (B) Central through Northeastern South Asia into what is today Myanmar (Annette Schmiedchen), and of (C) mainland plus insular Southeast Asia (Arlo Griffiths). A fourth, transversal task-force (D), led by Dominic Goodall (EFEO) and Florinda de Simini, will focus on textual material transmitted in manuscript form. For our operations in Asia, the EFEO regional centres in Pondicherry, Siem Reap, and Jakarta will serve as anchors.
Inscriptions are the main sources for the history of premodern South and Southeast Asia. But they are not all accessible, even less so in a machine-processable format. For the large-scale comparative research that we propose to undertake, making as much as possible of South and Southeast Asian epigraphy available, in a digital database, is therefore a core objective of this project. South and Southeast Asian manuscripts, normally written on palm-leaf, preserve a rich textual archive relevant to the history of “Hinduism”. We will produce editions with translations of texts that have so far remained unpublished, and therefore untapped, by historical research. These include descriptions of religious practices, as well as prescriptions that deal both with lay religiosity and with religious life in temples and monasteries. As for archaeological evidence, we are in an ideal position — thanks to the long-term collaboration between French and Asian archaeologists — to initiate surveys and excavations at sites which are known to be rich in data and which will thus enable us to confront our findings in the inscriptions and texts with the archaeological record. The archaeological operations will be led by experienced French archaeologists in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Indonesia.

Principal investigators
Schmiedchen, Annette PD Dr. (Details) (Cultures and Societies of South Asia)

Europäische Union (EU) - HU als Beteiligte

Duration of project
Start date: 05/2019
End date: 10/2025

Research Areas
Asian Studies

Last updated on 2022-07-09 at 19:08