Religious Foundations: Recent Research on Built Environments in South Asia | online lecture series from 29 Feb to 16 May

Religious Foundations: Recent Research on Built Environments in South Asia is the new online lecture series organised by South Asian Network Ghent.

We will delve into the intricate relationship between religion and the built environment in South Asia. Throughout six lectures, scholars from different disciplines will examine the religious diversity of this region and unravel how these diverse groups have influenced architecture, spatial organisation, and the urban landscape. The series aims to foster a nuanced understanding of how religion, as a fundamental aspect of South Asian societies, has shaped and reshaped the built environment, forging an enduring bond between faith and architecture from antiquity to the present.

All the lectures will take place on Thursdays at 4pm CET.

Programme and registration links

29/02Saarthak Singh (Ghent University), Temple urbanism in North India: case studies from medieval Malwa, 10th-13th centuries


14/03Vera Lazzaretti (ISCTE – University Institute of Lisbon), The Kashi Vishvanath Dham in Banaras: a tale of contorted heritage-making and insecurities in new India


28/03Shalin Jain (Delhi University), Making places and claiming cpaces: Jain religious architecture in medieval Gujarat–3hA


18/04Elora Tribedy (Nalanda University), Crossing the Ocean of Fear: unveiling monastic foundations and medieval transformations of the cult of Tārā in India


02/05Roshan Mishra (Taragaon Museum), Reclaiming Nepal’s heritage


16/05Sara Mondini (Ghent University), Transforming architectural vocabularies, reshaping religious identities: the impact of modern Muslim patronage on the urban landscape of Kerala


Celebration of World Hindi Day 2024

On 10th January students, language instructors, researchers and professors of South Asian studies at the Department of Languages and Cultures celebrated the World Hindi Day 2024 (विश्व हिंदी दिवस 2024) at the presence of Mr. Debasish Prusty, CDA (Chargé d’Affaires) and Mr. Jitendra Rawat, FSPIC (First Secretary Press, Information and Culture) of the Embassy of India, Brussels.

With students’ performances (rigorously in Hindi), classical Indian music and delicious Indian food, Hindi language, which counts over 600 million speakers worldwide, has been the true protagonist of the evening in the beautiful frame of UGent’s Boekentoren.

धन्यवाद, thanks to the Embassy of India and the Department of Languages and Cultures for generously supporting this event!


Hindi in Europe at LinGhentian Doctorials 2023: keynote by Dr Aaricia Ponnet on 20/12

Our very own Dr Aaricia Ponnet will present as a keynote speaker at the 2023 edition of the LinGhentian Doctorials (20-21 December) with a talk titled “Linguistic and diversity”, based on her research experience on Hindi as a minority language in Europe and on how linguistic studies interact with the topic of diversity. Full abstract available here.

Time and venue: 20th December, 9:15-10:00, campus VTC.




Lecture series from 2 October 2023 to 6 May 2024: Dialogues in European Jain Studies

We are proud and excited to present the online lecture series Dialogues in European Jain Studies which illuminates the diverse and innovative research work being done on Jainism and Jains.

The full program is available here.

Each session consists of two thematically linked presentations, and is presided over by an expert on the subject. We hope this set-up will generate conversations, fruitful discussions, and plans for further collaboration between scholars in different parts of Europe and the world.

Dialogues in European Jain Studies is a collaboration between Ghent University, University of Birmingham, and Arihanta Institute.

Lectures take place on the first Monday of the month, at 4pm GMT / 5pm CET

More info and registration at:

26 October – CMSI Lecture | Memory and Politics of Language: Songs of Indentured Tamil Women in Malayan Plantations

On 26 September 2023, Dr Vandana Saxena (Universiti Malaya, Malaysia) will give a lecture titled “Memory and Politics of Language: Songs of Indentured Tamil Women in Malayan Plantations” as part of the lecture series organised by the Cultural Memory Studies Initiative of Ghent University.

Details of the event

Thursday 26 October, 4.30 p.m. – 6.00 p.m.
Location: Camelot meeting room (3.30), Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Gent


Since language is the primary medium for the production and sustenance of memory, whether personal or collective, the politics of language is inscribed in the mnemonic productions of the past. In postcolonial nations, contestations in the arena of memory are embedded within dualisms like colonial language versus indigenous languages, or the debates surrounding the issue of national language and the position of other languages vis-à-vis the national language. How does the politics of language affect and shape the arena of postcolonial memories? And what happens when it encounters the politics of gender and race? This talk will discuss the mnemonic representations of Tamil women plantation workers in British Malaya. Brought as indentured labour from India to work on Malayan rubber plantations, Tamil women plantation workers have been an important part of the colonial and postcolonial Malaysian economy and society. Yet, their histories and experiences are recounted mostly in the English language, either via archival documents of the colonial administration and the memoirs and ‘confessions’ of the British planters in Malaya, or via the accounts of the post-independence Malaysian state, where the gaps and silences of colonial accounts are filled in by state narratives. It is only recently that their own accounts of indenture have attracted attention, with the rediscovery of two volumes of plantation worker songs collected and published in the 1960s. These songs are in Tamil, and one of the reasons why they have been largely forgotten is due to the place of Tamil in Malaysia as a language of the migrant indentured labour community. These plantation songs highlight women’s experiences of migration from India, their life in the plantation, their efforts to create and preserve ‘India’ in Malaya, and their thoughts on British colonialism and anti-colonial movements. These memories, though they exist in the public arena, have been nearly forgotten given the language politics of postcolonial Malaysia as well as the marginalization of the subject on account of gender, race, and class. This talk shall discuss the songs of Tamil women plantation workers as a form of counter-memory that challenges colonial and postcolonial narratives. It shall further discuss the potential of minority-language literature to complicate and politicize colonial and national memory.

For more info click on the event page.



9 – 13 October, Doctoral School: Systems of Representation in Asian Religious and Philosophical Traditions

Between 9th and 13th October, Ghent University will host the Doctoral School “Systems of Representation in Asian Religious and Philosophical Traditions”.

This course is specifically designed for doctoral students specialising in Buddhist studies and related fields which focus on the cultural traditions of Asia. It offers a deep exploration into the working of systems of representation and symbolism within specific cultural frameworks, illuminating their role in shaping existential and ethical attitudes and conveying religious and philosophical ideas. Through such an exploration, students will develop a new conceptual lens with which they shall nuance their understanding of the traditions they study.

Fo the full programme and venue, click here.


Ghent PhD students:


New elective course for MA students: Contemporary Asian Academic Debates

As from the academic year 2023-2024, our department offers a new elective course in English to students enrolled in our MA program: Contemporary Asian Academic Debates, which will grant 3 CRDT.

The lecture series of the first semester will be dedicated to the theme “Animals, Humans and the Environment in Asian Studies”.
For more details about each lecture, check the Ufora page of this course.

The theme of the second semester will be “Interactions between Religious and Political Authority in East Asia: Past and Present”.

Lecturers in charge

Program director

Time and venue

Wednesdays, 10.00-13.00

Classroom 0.2 Blandijnberg 2, Campus Boekentoren/Hybrid



5 October – Ācārya Mahāprajña Annual Lecture – Beyond Life’s End

This year’s Ācārya Mahāprajña Annual Lecture will be held on Thursday 5 October, from 4:30 pm. It will take place in the Faculty Board Room (Blandijnberg 2), but will also be accessible online (see below for registration).

Our speaker Prof. Dr. Claire Maes (University of Tübingen) will discuss the age-old Jain practice of sallekhanā (a form of end-of-life fasting) in light of contemporary medical and legal frameworks.


Beyond Life’s End: Towards an Ethical Evaluation of the Jain Practice of Fasting to Death

In this lecture, I make an ethical argument to consider the Jain practice of fasting to death (known as sallekhanā) as different from suicide. To this end, I bring the Jain fast into conversation with the practice of ‘Voluntarily Stopping of Eating and Drinking’ (VSED), an end-of-life option, available in various countries for competent adults, to hasten the end of life by consciously choosing to not eat and drink. From a medical and legal point of view sallekhanā can be considered a form of VSED. Although differing in terms of intent and historical context, the two practices are similar insofar that they relate to capable and sound individuals who voluntarily forego food and water until death. Showing the critical similarity between VSED and sallekhanā, I argue that the grounds put forward by major medical associations and legal societies to differentiate VSED from suicide are equally applicable to the case of sallekhanā. I contend that the Jain fast needs to be disentangled from the concept of suicide based on the quality of intent, but also because the process is, in theory and for some time at least, reversible, supported by loved ones and members of the larger Jain community, and dependent on the individual’s continuous and prolonged will of renouncing food and water. I also show how medical and legal authorities defend an individual’s right to VSED based on the principles of self-determination, bodily integrity, self-ownership, and respect for persons. I put forward the view to take these ethical principles into account to legally protect a Jain’s right to take the vow of sallekhanā.




Claire Maes studied Indian Languages and Cultures at Ghent University, Belgium, and Indian Philosophy at the University of Mysore in India. She earned her Ph.D. degree in 2015 from Ghent University with a dissertation that examines the influence of Jain thought and practice on the Buddhist monastic community in early India. Soon after, she joined the University of Texas at Austin where she worked for several years at the Asian Studies Department, first as a postdoctoral fellow of The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Program in Buddhist Studies, and subsequently as a Sanskrit lecturer. Since September 2021, she is an assistant professor at the Department of Indology at the University of Tübingen, Germany. Her principal research topics are the Jain understandings of what constitutes a good death and the development of the Buddhist monastic community in ancient India.



Register for on-campus attendance:

Register for online attendance:

This event will be followed by a small reception.