NALINI BALBIR - French Indologist

Published: 16.08.2007
Updated: 03.01.2011

Although there is no established institution for Jaina Studies in France, Paris (but also Strasbourg) has always been one of the most important centres of Jain scholarship since the inception of the study of Jainism outside India. Since the days of Guerinot in the late 19th and early 20th century, a significant number of Indologists made important contributions to this field. (Renou, for example, visited the Terapanth acarya Tulsi in the 1950s.) During the last four decades it was Professor Colette Caillat who carried the torch of Jaina studies at the Sorbonne, together with her chief disciple and colleague Professor Nalini Balbir, who I have the great pleasure of introducing tonight as the distinguished invited speaker for the 4th Annual Jain Lecture at SOAS.

Dr Balbir is currently Professor for Indian Studies (Études indiennes) at the Sorbonne Nouvelle (University of Paris-3), and since the year 2000 also Directeur d'Etudes for Middle-Indian Philology at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris (Section des Sciences historiques et philologiques). As a trained philologist, her main areas of research are Sanskrit, Pali, Prakrit, Theravada Buddhism, Jainism, and Hindi language and literature of the 20th century.

She started her career as a Teacher of French, Latin and Greek in secondary schools (1977 to 1980), before completing her PhD in Indian Studies (Études indiennes) with the edition and annotated translation of the Danastaka-katha, a book of Jain narratives in Sanskrit, which was published in 1982. Between 1982-1988 she was a Research scholar in the National Centre of Scientific Research, where she completed her DLitt in Indian Studies with a magisterial work on the notoriously complex Jaina Avasyaka literature which was published in 1993 under the title Avasyaka Studien, to name only a few from her most well-known amongst numerous other publications. In recognition of her outstanding contributions to classical and modern Indian philology she became Professor of Indian Studies at the Nouvelle Sorbonne in 1988.

Although I know that she does not want to be typecast as a Jainologist, since she is equally versatile in Buddhology and a very active member of the Pali Text Society in London, and has contributed to many other fields of study (she has even conducted some fieldstudies), Nalini Balbir is already regarded as an institution of Jain scholarship herself. Since 1983 she is editing one of the most important Indological journals, the Bulletin d'Etudes Indiennes, which contains probably the highest percentage of articles on Jainism of any academic journal outside India.

As usual at such occasions, I will not give-in to the temptation of reading out Nalini's 10 page-long publication list to you, since I have talked already much too long. Instead, I will simply hand over to Prof Balbir and invite her to deliver the much anticipated 4th Lecture on Jainism with has the title "Thoughts on the meaning and the role of the Svetâmbara Canon in the history of Jainism".

Excerpt of Dr. Peter Flügel's Introduction Of Professor Nalini Balbir


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      1. Acarya
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      3. Colette Caillat
      4. JAINA
      5. Jaina
      6. Jainism
      7. London
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