Culture forms an integral part of Indo-German relations. Both countries have a long history of cross-cultural exchanges. What’s Up, Germany? highlights how deep these ties run.
India and Germany’s association is ancient. The first Germans to come to India were missionaries. Way back in 1706, Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg arrived in Tranquebar. He bought a house, mastered Tamil within three months and set up the first Tamil printing press in 1712. Recognising his house as an important monument of Indo-German heritage, the German government contributed ₹36 lakh to convert it into a museum. Another missionary scholar, Hermann Gundert, translated the Bible into Malayalam and compiled a bilingual dictionary in 1872. He happens to be German novelist Hermann Hesse’s grandfather!
Sanskrit and German have common origins. Numerous German scholars have done extensive research in Sanskrit studies and Indology. The missionary Heinrich Roth was the first German scholar to learn Sanskrit and even went on to write a Sanskrit grammar book in Latin in 1660. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Max Müller, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Gottfried Herder, Alexander and Wilhelm von Humboldt, and the Schlegel brothers translated and studied many texts, including the Rig Veda, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita.
INDIA ON THE MIND
In modern times too, German authors have brought Indian culture to Germany. Thomas Mann, author of Buddenbrooks, was fascinated by India’s mythology and scriptures, as is evident in his 1941 novel The Transposed Heads: A Legend of India. Hermann Hesse was influenced by Buddhism and penned the widely acclaimed novel Siddhartha (1922) in English. While living in Kolkata, Günter Grass wrote Show Your Tongue—an allusion to the Goddess Kali’s tongue—in 1988.
PROMINENT GERMAN CULTURAL ORGANISATIONS IN INDIA
Max Mueller Bhavan: In India, the Goethe-Institut is known as Max Mueller Bhavan. Named after the German indologist Max Müller, this cultural institute of the Federal Republic of Germany promotes knowledge of the German language and fosters cultural cooperation. There are currently six Max Mueller Bhavans in India, located in Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi and Pune.
German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD): It is the largest funding organisation in the world supporting the international exchange of students and scholars. DAAD New Delhi, established in 1960, promotes academic exchange between Germany and India, provides information about education in Germany and grants scholarships.