Bilingual Texts from India: Combining Arabic and Persian with Indic Languages


Eva Orthmann


December 14, 2023


India is rich in bilingual texts: they are omnipresent in today’s streets. Turning to earlier centuries, bilingual texts can mostly be found in documents and inscriptions, but also on coins.

The lecture will start with looking at inscriptions. The field of bilingual inscription from India is variegated, with many different languages used. In the context of my talk, the combination of Persian and Arabic inscriptions with inscriptions in Indic languages, most of them in Sanskrit, will be looked at. The earliest of these inscriptions dates back to the year 243 of the Hijra. The talk will show different examples of combinations of the two or sometimes three languages, and will ask for the relation between the languages used. In many cases, one text is not simply the translation of the other, but there are significant differences between the texts. The lecture will give a general overview of the material so far explored, with some statistical data, and will discuss single inscriptions in detail.

In the second part of my talk, I will look at examples of bilingual documents. A collection of bilingual documents from the Qutbshahi dynasty has been preserved, dating back to the 16th-17th century. These are rather early bilingual documents, while much more material remains from the 18th century. The talk will look at the arrangement of the different versions of the text, and will ask for their respective audiences.


Eva Orthmann is Professor of Iranian Studies at the University of Göttingen. She obtained her MA degree in Islamic and Iranian Studies at the University of Tübingen in 1995, followed by a PhD in 2000 at the University of Halle-Wittenberg. She has afterwards worked as assistant professor in Zurich and spent two years as research fellow in Yale. In 2007, Orthmann has been appointed professor of Islamic studies in Bonn where she has also served as director of the Institute of Oriental and Asian Studies at the University. Since 2018, she is the director of the Institute of Iranian studies at the University in Göttingen. In her research, Eva Orthmann’s special interest is in subjects related to the Mughal Empire, occult sciences, especially astrology, and Indo-Persian transfer of knowledge and culture.