South Asia

History of South Asian Religions

The study of South Asia at CERES encompasses a wide array of subjects. Ranging from early Buddhism in Gandhara to living Jain communities in the West, or the relationship between Christians, Muslims and Jews in Kerala, the spectrum of time periods, regions and religions covered is broad. Research on the rich landscape of religious traditions at CERES converges towards two key systematic foci: the relationship between religion and materiality on the one hand, and the encounter between religious traditions on the other. Thematically, the history of Buddhism in Gandhara and of Jainism have become privileged fields of inquiry. CERES hosts several projects dedicated to these fields, gathering a unique expertise, and making it a key institute for research on the material culture from Gandhara and Jainism in both historical and contemporary periods.

Religion and Materiality

Buildings, books, sculptures, pilgrimage sites, music, performances, social networks, all are material and immaterial objects entangled in religious practices and belief-systems. Their role in religious experience and the communication thereof is manifold. They may be perceived as manifestations of the transcendent, as visual expressions of religious semantics or as a medium facilitating communication between worldly and otherworldly spheres. They may foster the encounter between religious groups, allow negotiating religious identities or provide a forum for religious discourses. While the academic field of religion and media has gained increasing attention in the last decades, we reflect on the relationship between religion, material, and immaterial objects as a specifically South-Asian phenomenon.

Encounter between religious traditions 

Continuing a long-standing experience in the study of the mutual permeation of religious traditions established through the KHK [], research on South Asia explores the dynamics of encounter, entanglement, and exchange between religious groups, may these be Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Christian, Muslim, or Jewish. The encounter between these religious traditions is understood through a bottom-up approach deeply rooted into the analysis of case studies both in historical periods and in the contemporary world.


Located at the crossroads of Asia, the historical region of Gandhara was once a vibrant Buddhist centre. At CERES, we focus the material culture that centuries of archaeological research have uncovered to reconstruct the history of Buddhism in the region, and we examine the relevance of the Buddhist heritage in present-day Pakistan.

(© 3D modelling of a Bodhisattva statue, Dir Museum, Chakdara (photo: Călin Suteu, DiGA/KPDOAM))


Research on Jainism at CERES covers both historical and contemporary periods. It is particularly interested in the changes and transformations of traditions of Jains in the diaspora. It combines an Indological perspective with methods from the sociology of religion, art history and media studies.

(© Digambara muni at the Digambara mandira at Konījī, Madhya Pradesh (photo: Tillo Detige))

Studying South Asian Religions

Explore the history of South Asian religions with us! Enrol for an introductory course on Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism and stay to unravel their rich history from ancient to modern periods. Our expert lecturers combine philology and art history to create a vibrant learning space

Director and Coordination

Photograph of Prof. Dr. Jessie Pons

Prof. Dr. Jessie Pons


Universitätsstr. 90a
44789  Bochum
Office 1.04
+49 234 32-22955

Research Associates

Photograph of Dr. Serena Autiero

Dr. Serena Autiero

Universitätsstr. 90a
44789  Bochum
Office 2.15
+49 234 32-21975
Photograph of Dr. Cristiano Moscatelli

Dr. Cristiano Moscatelli

Universitätsstr. 90a
44789  Bochum
Office 1.14
+49 234 32-21975
Photograph of Dr. Patrick Felix Krüger

Dr. Patrick Felix Krüger

Universitätsstr. 90a
44789  Bochum
Office 3.14
+49 234 32-21958

PhD Candidates

Photograph of Percy Arfeen-Wegner

Percy Arfeen-Wegner

Universitätsstr. 90a
44789  Bochum
Office 1.09
Photograph of Tillo Detige

Tillo Detige

Universitätsstr. 90a
44789  Bochum
Office 3.14

Student assistants


Melissa Rogalski

Universitätsstr. 90a
44789  Bochum

Stepan Musharov B.A.

Universitätsstr. 90a
44789  Bochum
Office 1.12

Our Projects


Digitization of Gandhāran Art

The DiGA project will digitize (2D and 3D) and catalogue a corpus of 1,791 Buddhist sculptures from Gandhara currently kept …

Linked Data Methodologies in Gandhāran Buddhist Art and Texts

The working group brings together scholars, curators, and Digital Humanities specialists around the theme of Linked Data Methodologies applied to …

Subproject B04

The Human Body as Metaphor of the Divine: Anthropomorphism in South Asian Religious Traditions

The subproject gives attention to metaphors as constitutive of the emergence and development of two divergent dynamics in Hinduism, Buddhism …

Research Focus "Missionary Collections"

CERES researchers, together with colleagues from museums and other universities, are studying the material dimension of cultural and religious contacts …

Jainism in the West

Jain Communities in Europe between internal Self-Insurance and strategic Self-Representation

Jainism is the third religion, along with Buddhism and Brahmanism ("Hinduism"), that originated in ancient India and continues to exist …

Research Section for Jainism

Jainism, together with Buddhism and Hinduism, is one of the three religions which originated in ancient India. In this regard, …

Dynamics of Text Corpora and Image Programs

Representations of Buddhist Narratives along the Silk Route

The network of long distance trade routes through Central Asia designated by Ferdinand von Richthofen as "Silk Road" have provided …

Digitization of Gandharan Artefacts

The project DiGA (Digitization of Gandharan Artefacts) proposes to conceptualise the digitization of a corpus of Buddhist sculptures …