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For a period of 1800 years from 600 BCE to 1200 CE, India dominated global higher education, with at least seven major centers – Taxila, Nalanda, Valabhi, Vikramshila, Odantapuri, Jagaddala, and Somapura, spanning the breadth of the Indian Subcontinent. In this university ecosystem, nearly twenty major innovations occurred during this period. This talk will focus on how three of these major innovations – 1) the physical layout of the campus, 2) the intellectual form of scholarly argument, and 3) the organizational form, traveled from India to Central Asia, Iran, Iraq, and ultimately Europe. As we shall demonstrate – it is (literally!) a tale out of Arabian Nights. We will present the evidence from archaeology and primary texts in Sanskrit, Pali, Arabic, Farsi, and secondary interpretive sources in many modern languages. We will highlight deep linkages and transmissions at the civilizational level.

Speakers: Shailendra Raj Mehta, President and Director, MICA, Ahmedabad, and Vice-Chairman, Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, India, and Parimal G. Patil. Professor of Religion and Indian Philosophy, Committee on the Study of Religion, FAS, Chair of the Department of South Asian Studies

Dr. Shailendra Raj Mehta currently holds the positions of President and Director at MICA, located in Ahmedabad, India. He has previously served as Chairman of the Board of Management, and Acting Vice-Chancellor at Auro University and Provost/Vice Chancellor at Ahmedabad University. Dr. Mehta has taught at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIM-A) and Purdue University and has conducted extensive research in Entrepreneurship, Industrial Organization, Information Economics, and Experimental Economics, with a particular focus on the design of institutions. His BA and MA are from Delhi University (St. Stephen’s College and Delhi School of Economics, respectively), his MPhil is from Balliol College, Oxford, and his PhD is from Harvard. 

Dr. Parimal G. Patil is a professor of Religion and Indian Philosophy at Harvard University, where he has been teaching since receiving his PhD from the University of Chicago in 2002. His primary interests are in the history of philosophy and its relevance to disciplinary work in Philosophy, South Asian Studies, and the Study of Religion. He focuses on Buddhist philosophy in India, the Old and New Epistemologists, Indian traditions of physicalism and skepticism, and contemporary Anglo-American philosophy of religion. His books include Against a Hindu God  (Columbia 2009) and Buddhist Philosophy of Language in India (Columbia 2010), co-authored with my colleague Lawrence J. McCrea.

Moderated by Martin Puchner, Byron and Anita Wien Professor of Drama and of English and Comparative Literature, Harvard University