Aurel Stein
  The Sanskritist
  Manuscript Treasures
  Kashmiri Scholarship
  Interface of Scholarship
  The Adopted Home
  Unfinished Tasks
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Supported by:
  Heritage Lottery Fund, Cambridge.
  Bodelian Library, Oxford.
  Nityanand Shastri Library Collection, Delhi.
  Kashmir Bhavan Centre, Luton.
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Pivot to Interface
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Destiny and ambition had marked Aurel Stein for a fulfillment of his life’s aim. During the decade he held the post of Registrar, Punjab University and the Principal, Oriental College, Lahore, between 1888 to 1899,Stein also established his credits as an outstanding Sanskrit scholar with the publication of the Sanskrit edition of the Rajatarangini followed by its masterly English translation with commentary and indices and the catalogue of Sanskrit manuscripts of the Maharaja Ranbir Singh library, Jammu. The achievements of these works were a result of what he called as “joint efforts” with “the Sanskrit Savants of Kashmir”. Yet Stein’s instinct invited him to embark on an archaeologist’s career. His spirit was kindled by the mix of Alexander Csoma’s archaeological explorations and his great teacher Georg Buhler’s inquisitive fire as an orientalist to study Sanskrit literature of ancient India.

However, the days of his Lahore stay came to close as a result of his planning to begin a self chartered career of an archaeologist. By May 1900, Stein was on road to Khotan but not before he had given a racy impetus to the interface of collaboration between Western orientalists and the Kashmiri scholars that was initiated by his mentor and teacher Buhler in 1875 and carried further by his own labours in Kashmir from 1888 to 1899.

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Report of Third Journey of Exploration in Central Asia
(copy with annotations by Aurel Stein presented to Nityanand)
Nityanand Shastri Library Collection

The saga of knowing Kashmir’s past history and its language, literature and other antiquarian objects was on the threshold of gaining a new dimension with a new twist for next four decades. In view of his close contacts with Kashmiri scholars, Aurel Stein became a pivot reference in Kashmir to many western orientalists who subsequently came to Kashmir or worked on its language, literature and history.

As a result, of this veritable status which Stein acquired, there is no name in the long literary history of modern Kashmir which appeals more strongly than him. It was his judgement that Kashmiri scholars like Mukundram, Govind Kaul, Sahajabhatta and Nityanand were to collaborate with other Western counterparts on vast literature of Kashmiri and Sanskrit texts. Subsequent to having himself moved to another field of oriental studies i. e. the Central Asian explorations, Stein became the lone European scholar to whom almost all other western Indologists and Indophiles referred the matter of their inquiries for seeking local help of Kashmiri scholars. Such names included Sir George Grierson, Professor Maurice Winternitz, Professor J. Ph. Vogel, Professor Franklin Edgerton and Dr K. de. Vreese. And in turn it was Pandit Nityanand who became Stein’s closest ally to forge the interface of scholarship between the West and Kashmir.

The journey appears to have begun quit early and almost continued till the very end.

“I hear from Roth very rarely but it is probably my fault for not having time to correspond about things that interest him. I can not indulge in Vedic and Avesta studies and must restrict myself to helping colleagues and patrons in Europe by procuring manuscripts and other materials when opportunities arise. I have done this quite often, for example for Bukhardt in Vienna who is working on the Kashmiri language, a study for which I could never spare time.” - Aurel Stein.

(in a letter dated May24, 1892 to his brother, Ernst Stein.) Stein Mss, Bodleian Library, Oxford.

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