The Institute of South and Central Asia consists of three seminars and the specialisations are complementary in that two seminars focus upon the region of South and Central Asia – the Indological Seminar (Indian languages and cultures, Indonesian) and the Seminar of Mongolian and Tibetan Studies (Mongolian languages in Mongolia and China, Tibetan).
Besides languages and literatures, the basic orientation in both teaching and research is the history and culture of the individual regions. In all topics the basis of the study is the language, without which the culturally different regions can be neither successfully understood nor interpreted. We also underline the use of general methodological disciplines (linguistics, history, literary science, anthropology), which, together with mastering the relevant language (and its varieties) opens up wider opportunities for professional development both in research and in practice.
In the sphere of research important sources of knowledge include not only the written literary tradition, but in some regions also the oral tradition, which is developed to a very high level through our systematic field work. We have excellent experience with international co-operation and we meet with good responses from our target countries. We publish the results of our research in the form of monographs (cf. list of publications) and also in two international journals which we publish, Pandanus and Mongolo-Tibetica Pragensia.
In Bohemia, the study of Indian languages, which in Europe has a tradition of more than two hundred years, gradually grew from a purely philological specialisation (Sanskrit) as a part of comparative Indo-European studies into a broadly conceived specialisation oriented on culture, history, cultural history, literature and linguistics. Though the knowledge of tradition, of the sources of modern culture, modern religions and literatures continues to be an integral part of Indological studies and research, our Indology, in the same way as Indology abroad, gradually turns its attention more and more to the present.
This change in the contents and methods of Czech Indology was especially brought about by Professor Vincenc Lesný (1882-1953) and his contemporary Professor Otakar Pertold (1884-1965), who in the first half of the 20th century prepared the ground for the rise of modern Czech Indology. It was thanks to them that after World War II, their pupils were able to develop the study of modern Indian languages (Hindi, Bengali and also Dravidian languages, particularly Tamil), and of modern literatures, religions and history.
Paradoxically, the period of the so-called normalisation after 1968, brought the teaching of all Indian languages with the exception of Hindi to a halt. Two eminent representatives of Czech Indian Studies, Kamil V. Zvelebil and Ivo Fišer, left the country, and other scholars and teachers, Dušan Zbavitel, Vladimír Miltner a Hana Preinhaelterová were prevented to work in their respective fields. This caused a significant break in educating new generations of Indologists at least for twenty years. It seemed that the normalisation regime did not wish to develop professional studies of languages and cultures of a subcontinent, whose population was nearing one billion.
After 1989, there was a significant change.
It was possible that in spite of a radical reduction of the number of posts in the Oriental Institute of the Academy of Sciences, some former workers could return to the Institute.
At Charles University the Institute of Indian Studies was re-established. In the last decade the Institute has been offering also Romani and Indonesian, besides Indian languages. Thanks to the new conditions it was possible to resume the older traditions. The University strives to create good conditions so that our Indology can develop in the international context and that our students may combine their purely philological studies with the studies of modern humanities.
Indonesian studies in Prague cover the study of Indonesian language, history and literature, as well as politics of Indonesia in the wider context of the southeast Asia region. Apart from ethnology oriented seminars in general, students also get acquainted with the theory of culture and international communication, with special focus on the Indonesian culture.