Online Resources for Indian Studies

With a slow but steady pace, classical Indian studies are making their entrance into the digital era: a number of resources, both for scholarly and non-scholarly purposes, have been made available on the web. Their use is catching on not only among young students, who are “born digital” – just like the textual editions they might, one day, publish online – but also among those old-school scholars who were able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, namely the amazing outcome produced by the effort of the first scholars joining Digital Humanities and Indology.

The following is a (short) list of online resources that I personally find very useful when it comes to Indology.

TEXTUAL SEARCH TOOLS

GRETIL, TITUS, and SARIT contain a wide range of textual sources in South and Southeast Asian languages, all in a machine-readable format. In GRETIL (Goettingen Register for Electronic Texts in Indian Languages) and TITUS (Thesaurus Indogermanischer Text- und Sprachmaterialen) the Indic section is quite rich in terms of languages: GRETIL retrives Sanskrit and Vedic, Pali, Prakrit, New Indo-Aryan (Hindi and Marathi) and Dravidian (Tamil and Malayalam) languages, as well as Old Javanese and Tibetan, and some Sanskrit material from Indonesia. TITUS has similar languages, and includes also Rajasthani and Dhivehi. SARIT (Search and Retrieval of Indic Texts), built as an eXist database, contains limited resources (60 texts in Sanskrit) but is the only one of the three providing metadata for each text.

The functionalities of the three tools are very similar, but each has special features:

  • GRETIL provides a large amount of searchable texts, and its biggest advantage is the possibility to cumulatively download the texts, meaning that you will be to work with them on your computer (don’t forget they are in a machine-readable format, which means that tools such as AstroGrep – for Windows – or TextWrangler – for Mac – will be able to perform searches on this material).
  • TITUS, on the other hand, is more of a web-based resource, that gives you the chance to search within texts at different levels: you can search within a single text, the chapter, subchapter, the sentence, the verse or half-verse that you are looking for; you can also perform wider searches – for instance on the whole Titus corpus of Sanskrit texts – by word index. In this case, if you are looking for the word stambha (pillar) you will get all the occurrences of it within the texts that TITUS offers.

Searching for ‘pillar’ in TITUS

SARIT offers very detailed metadata of the texts it contains, and gives the chance to search both within texts and metadata. Moreover, you are able to check the TEI XML encoding and download the chosen text in PDF or EPUB formats. The SARIT database provides not only the roman-script transliteration of the texts, but in certain instances also the text in Devanagari – a characteristic that neither GRETIL nor TITUS have.

The Cakradatta by Cakrapāṇidatta from the SARIT database

EPIGRAPHIC SEARCH TOOLS

Beside the field of purely literary textual studies, the research field of epigraphy – which happens to be my study-field – has proven to be quite responsive to digital progress. Two of my favorite online tools are:

  • EIAD (Early Inscriptions of Āndhradeśa): this repository presents all its epigraphic material in XML-EpiDoc encoding in an eXist-db platform. It collects primary textual source and metadata for an epigraphic corpus that was previously only studied with pre-digital methods, that of the Nagarjunakonda and Ikṣvāku dynasties (3rd-4th cent. CE). All 173 documents have have been indexed. As such, you can look for a word and get all its mentions within the database. The interface is extremely user-friendly, and by clicking on an inscription of your choice you will get a page that contains:
    • Various pictures of the artifact and close-ups of the inscription
    • Metadata with linked bibliography
    • Edited text of the inscription, that can be displayed in three formats:
      • In its logical form, meaning not in the “line” format;
      • In its physical form, that is how it appears on the stone, meaning in the “line” format;
      • In the XML format, of course exportable and reusable.

You can also have a look at the apparatus, where the editors collected and linked the interpretations of previous editions. The translation and a commentary (i.e., comments on specificities within the epigraphic text) are provided, together with a secondary bibliography. Its sources are linked to the “Bibliography” page of the database, where you can find the texts mentioned throughout and, when applicable, the links to open-access versions of each text.

An interesting feature, although still underdevelopment, is the GIS (Geographic Information System), where a link to a Qgis cloud will most probably show you the findspot/current place of the various inscriptions.

An example of the EIAD interface

  • SIDDHAM – The South Asian Inscription Database: similar to EIAD, the website functions as a repository of epigraphic material from South Asia, that has its focus on the Gupta period (ca 320-550 CE) and on Sanskrit, Prakrit, and Pali languages. On the website, you can skim the material (594 inscriptions) by searching “type” (inscription or object), “place” (both names of places and institutions), “form” (pillar, plate, sculpture, etc.), and “material” (iron, copper, metal, etc). The structure is similar to that of EIAD, presenting pictures of the artifacts, metadata, edition, and XML coding. However, no translation of the text is provided.

This brief overviews shows that a great part of the Indological community is aware of the benefits that digital humanities can produce in the study of ancient Indian languages. Many, I am sure, have already faced the challenges that the mixture of these two disciplines pose, but this is indeed (a fun) part of the game!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: