Indira Viswanathan Peterson CV

January 2014

David B. Truman Professor of Asian Studies, Mount Holyoke College, U.S.A.

Place of Birth: New Delhi, India

Citizenship: U.S.

Home: 13 Burnett Avenue, South Hadley, MA 01075
Tel: 413-533-0644

Office: Asian Studies Program, Mount Holyoke College
50 College Street, South Hadley, MA 01075, U.S.A.
Tel: 413-538-2376
FAX: 413-538-3218



  • Ph.D.* Sanskrit and Indian Studies, 1976, Harvard University, U.S.A.
  • A.M.* Sanskrit and Indian Studies, 1974, Harvard University, U.S.A., *under the name Indira V. Shetterly
  • B.A. Honors; English Literature, 1971, Ruia College, Bombay, University, Bombay, India


  • 2005-
    David B. Truman Professor of Asian Studies
  • 2008-2012
    Five College Fortieth Anniversary Professor, Five College Consortium of Western Massachusetts
  • 2006-2007
    Chair, Asian Studies Program
  • 2004-
    Professor of Asian Studies, Asian Studies Program Mount Holyoke College
  • 2002-2004
    Professor of Sanskrit and Indian Literature, Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures, Columbia University
  • 1995-2002
    Professor of Asian Studies, Asian Studies Program Mount Holyoke College
  • 2006-2007, 2000-2002, 1992 -1995, 1988-1989
    Chair, Asian Studies Program, Mount Holyoke College
  • 1988-1995
    Associate Professor of Asian Studies, Asian Studies Program Mount Holyoke College
  • 1982-1988
    Assistant Professor of Asian Studies, Asian Studies Program Mount Holyoke College
  • 1981-1982
    Associate Professorial Lecturer, Department of Religion, The George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
  • 1976-1979
    Five College Assistant Professor of South Asian Studies and Sanskrit, The Five-College Consortium of Western Mass. (base: Amherst College).


(years of formal instruction in parentheses)
Tamil (mother tongue, research, 12), English, Sanskrit (12), Hindi (13), Marathi (3), German (2), Russian (1), French (speaking, reading, writing, and research); (ancient) Greek (reading, 1)

Research Interests and Areas of Specialization

Areas of Specialization

Classical Sanskrit literature, classical, medieval and modern Tamil literature, early modern Marathi texts, Hinduism, translation, comparative literature, European-Asian culture contact, German-Indian cultural exchanges (18th and 9th centuries), South India’s cosmopolitan social and cultural history (classical, medieval, early modern and modern), and South Indian performing arts and classical music.

Current Research (1995 –present)

"Literature and culture in South India : 1685-1835". Study of literary and performative texts in Sanskrit, Tamil and other languages, and contact among diverse linguistic communities in the shaping of culture in the region of South India, and especially in the Maratha-Tamil cultural center of Thanjavur (Tanjore), in the 18th- 20th centuries. See list of publications and of forthcoming and projected monographs, including “Drama, the Court, and the Public in Early Modern South India”, supported by a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship for 2013-‘14.

Selected Major Publications (books) (articles and reviews are not listed; for complete list of publications, see "List of Publications")

  • 2010 The Great Temple at Thanjavur: A Thousand Years 1010- 2010. George Michell and Indira V. Peterson. Mumbai: Marg.
  • 2008 Performing Pasts: Reinventing the Arts in modern South India. Indira Viswanathan Peterson and Davesh Soneji, eds. Delhi: Oxford University Press.
  • 2007 Tamil Geographies: Cultural Constructions of Space and Place in South India. Martha A. Selby and Indira V. Peterson, eds. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007, pp. 59-86. SUNY Series in Hindu Studies, Wendy Doniger, ed.
  • 2003 Design and Rhetoric in a Sanskrit Court Epic: The Kiråtårjunâya of Bhåravi. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003.
  • 2001 Editor, Indian Literature (600 B.C. to the 20th century), The Norton Anthology of World Literature, 2nd Edition, New York: W.W. Norton, 2001.
  • 1995 Editor, Indian literature (600 B.C. to the 20th century), in the Expanded Sixth Edition of The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. New York: W. W. Norton, 2 volumes, 1995. Instructor's Guide, 1995. Maynard Mack, et al. , eds. Responsible for selection, headnotes,  annotation, ancillary materials (maps, timelines), and Instructor's Guide.
  • 1990 Poems to to Siva (Reprint, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass).
  • 1989 Poems to Siva: The Hymns of the Tamil Saints. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989. Princeton Library of Asian Translations. Translation of 270 poems from the Tèvåram, a collection of Tamil àaiva hymns from the sixth to the eighth centuries, along with a study of the hymns with reference to the contexts of Tamil literature, devotional religion (bhakti), temples, hagiography and musical performance. (Reprint, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1990).

Completed manuscripts, monographs in progress, and forthcoming publications

  1. Arjuna and the Hunter (The Kiråtårjunâya of Bhåravi).
    First complete English translation of a 6th century Sanskrit court epic, forthcoming in the Murty Classical Library of India, Harvard University Press.
  2. Monograph (manuscript under consideration)
    Scholar-king of Tanjore: Serfoji II and the Shaping of Indian Modernity (provisional title):
    Under consideration for publication. Biography of a remarkable cosmopolitan intellectual and pioneer of modernity in colonial India.
  3. “Drama, the Court, and the Public in Early Modern South India”
    Monograph in progress, with the support of a Guggenheim Fellowship, 2013-2014.
  4. Chapter 21, “Literature, Art and Aesthetics”
    Indian Literature from 800 B.C. to the 17th century. Introductions and selections. Sources of Indian Tradition, Revised edition, Volume 1, Columbia University Press.
  5. Imagining the World in Eighteenth-century India: The Kuõavañci Fortune-teller Dramas of Tamilnadu.
    Monograph focusing on my study and translation of "Kuõavañci " ("fortune-teller") dance dramas in Tamil and other languages, in relation to the polyglot and cosmopolitan cultural history of early modern South India. (for other works in progress, see “List of Publications”).
  6. Editorial Board (2004 ff.): Revision of Sources of Indian Tradition (see 3 above).

Fellowships and Grants

  • 2013-2014 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship
  • 2005-2006 Mount Holyoke College Faculty Research Fellowship and Research Assistance grant
  • 2002 Rockefeller Foundation Residency in Bellagio, Italy, for completing a translation of a Tamil drama “The Wandering Fortune-teller of Kuõõålam” (Kuõõålak kuõavañci, 1715) of Tirikäìaråcappak Kaviråyar
  • 1999-2000 Mount Holyoke College Faculty Fellowship for Sabbatical Research
  • 1998 Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Michigan, short-term Library research grant
  • 1995-1996 National Endowment for the Humanities Research Fellowship
  • 1995-1996 ACLS - Social Science Research Council Senior Research Fellowship
  • 1993 Mount Holyoke College Faculty Grant for research in India and Germany
  • 1990-1991 Alexander Von Humboldt Fellowship for research at the Südasien-Institut of Heidelberg University, Germany.
  • 1989-1990 NEH Travel to Collections Grant for research at Harvard University as Visiting Scholar in the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies.
  • 1986-1987 Mount Holyoke College Faculty Fellowship. American Institute of Indian Studies Senior Research Fellowship.
  • 1985 Mount Holyoke College Faculty Grant, with Mark A. Peterson, for developing a computer tutorial program for Sanskrit (Devanågarâ) script.
  • 1979-1980 National Endowment for the Humanities Research Fellowship.
  • 1978 Miner Crary Memorial Fellowship for Faculty Summer Research, Amherst College.
  • 1975-1976 Giles Whiting Fellowship for dissertation research, Harvard University.
  • 1967-1968 American Field Service International Scholarship for one year of (high school) study in the U.S.A.

Prizes and Awards

  • Five College Fortieth Anniversary Professorship, 2008-2012
  • David B. Truman Endowed Chair in Asian Studies, Mount Holyoke College, 2005 ff.
  • Meribeth E. Cameron Faculty Award for Scholarship, Mount Holyoke College, 2001


In addition to courses in Hinduism (Introduction, sacred narratives, religion and the performing arts, sacred epics, bhakti poetry), Sanskrit language and literature, and Indian literature (classical and modern; e.g., narrative literature) in translation and in English, I have taught courses on a range of themes, in several academic departments, including Religion, Art, Women's Studies, and Classics: classical Indian aesthetics in relation to literature and the fine arts; women in India; Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore; nineteenth century Indian intellectual history; Greek and Indic mythology; Indo-European linguistics, Indian epic poetry, the cultural politics of colonialism in India. I have led Five-College Consortium Interdisciplinary courses and conducted freshman tutorials, and have also taught in Mount Holyoke College's teamtaught interdisciplinary First Year course in Humanities ("Pasts and Presences in the West"), and the first year seminar “Stories and Story-telling in India”. I supervise and examine undergraduate theses at Mount Holyoke and the Five Colleges, and I have organized many lectures and performance events in collaboration with Five College colleagues.

Ph.D. Committees

Supervised and examined the Ph.D. theses of Josna Rege, English Department, U.Mass, 1995, and Mahasweta Sengupta, Department of Comparative Literature, U.Mass, Amherst, 1990. Served as external reader and examiner for a number of Ph.D. dissertations (e.g., A. Gardner Harris, University or Texas (Ph.D. 2008), B.Balasubramaniyan, Madras University, 2005, Amanda Weidman, Anthropology, Columbia University, 2001, Siri Ramaswami, Art History, University of Hong Kong, 2000, Richard Weiss, University of Chicago, 2003, Lisa Mitchell, Anthropology, Columbia University, 2003). Supervisor and Sponsor, David Mellins, Ph.D (2004), Department of MEALAC, Columbia University.

Examiner and Committee Member

A. Gardner Harris, University of Texas, Austin, Ph.D. 2008, Michael Linderman, University of Pennsylvania, Ph.D. 2009, Perundevi Srinivasan, Ph.D. 2009, George Washington University; Dheepa Sundaram, Ph.D. 2013 University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Anna Seastrand, Ph.D. 2013, Columbia University, and Elaine Fisher, Ph.D. 2013, Columbia University.

Membership and Activity in Professional Organizations

  • Chair, A.K. Ramanujan South Asia Translation Prize Committee of the Association for Asian Studies 2011-2012
  • American Council for Learned Societies Fellowship reviewer 2011
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship Reviewer 2012
  • South Asia Book Reviews Editor (Humanities), The Journal of Asian Studies, 1998-2001
  • South Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies, 1995-1998
  • A.K.Ramanujan South Asia Translation Prize Committee of the Association for Asian Studies, 1995 - 2000. (Chair, 1997 ff.)
  • Member, American Oriental Society, Association for Asian Studies (AAS), Conference on Religion in South India, Society for South Indian Studies, International Association for Tamil Research, World Sanskrit Association, European Association for Modern South Asian Studies.
  • Organizer and chair of panels, and paper presenter and discussant, at national and international meetings of the above (1976-present ), and the University of Wisconsin Annual Conference on South Asia.
  • Committee Member of the Section on Religion in South Asia at the American Academy of Religion, 1989-1991.

Invited Lectures*

At universities, museums and other institutions in the U.S., India, U.K., West Germany and the Netherlands, including the Museum of Natural History (New York), the Franckesche Stiftungen, Halle, the Universities of Chicago, Washington, Berkeley, the Yale Art Gallery, the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (Pune) and the Universities of London, Cambridge, Heidelberg, Marburg, Munich, Moscow, Leiden, and Tübingen, Max Mueller Bhavan, Chennai, Indian Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Thanjavur, The Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, Delhi University, Central University, Hyderabad, and The Nehru Museum and Library, Delhi, Government Museum, Chennai, Museum of Fine Arts, Texas, Sackler Gallery, Washington, D.C., Lindenau-Museum, Altenburg, Germany, Music Academy of Madras.

*not a complete list

Recent Distinguished, Keynote Lectures, organizer of conferences

  • “The Monuments of King Serfoji II: European Sculpture & Architecture at the Thanjavur Maratha Court”
    International Women’s Association Annual Endowment Lecture Goernment Museum, Madras, Chennai, India Friday, January 11, 2013.
  • “Shiva and the Goddess in Myth and Poetry”
    Keynote address for “Manifestations of Shiva: Hinduism’s Great God in Myth, Art and Poetry”, a symposium I organized for Samskriti Houston and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Saturday, December 1, 2012
  • Convenor and academic organizer, “Manifestations of Shiva: Hinduism’s Great God in Myth, Art and Poetry”, symposium sponsored by Samskriti Houston and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Saturday, December 1, 2012.
  • “Scientific Dialogues in Colonial India: King Serfoji II and the European Enlightenment”. Jackie Pritzen Distinguished Lecture, The Five College Consortium of Western Mass. Mount Holyoke College, Thursday, March 29, 2012.
  • “The Lovesick Lady and the Wandering Kuravanji Fortune-teller: Representing women in an Indian Dance-drama genre” University of California Davis The Second Annual Indian Studies Lecture, University of California Davis, Departments of Religious Studies, Comparative Literature, History, English and Music, and Program
    in Middle East / South Asian Studies, Davis Humanities Institute Thursday, May 5, 2011.
  • “Scientific Dialogues in Nineteenth-century Tanjore: King Serfoji II’s Initiatives in Enlightenment and Indic Knowledge Systems.”
    Keynote address for “Tamil and Tamil Akam at the Crossroads”, an International conference held by the French Institute of Pondicherry, The University of California Davis Humanities Institute, and the University of California Department of Comparative Literature, Pondicherry, India, December 17, 2010.
  • “A Home for Sarasvati in South India: Cosmopolitanism, Learning and Literature at the
    Thanjavur Maratha Court’”
    Keynote address for the conference: “Literature and the Arts at Maratha Thanjavur 1675-1855: A Confluence of Cultures”, a conference I organized for Samskriti Houston and the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, July 10, 2010.
  • Convenor of the conference: “Literature and the Arts at Maratha Thanjavur 1675-1855: A Confluence of Cultures”, sponsored by Samskriti Houston and the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, July 10, 2010.
  • “Religions and Cultures in Conversation: The Tamil Protestant Poetry of Vedanayaka Sastri”
    Inaugural Lecture, South Asian Religions Distinguished Lectureship, Faculty of
    Religious Studies, McGill University, Montreal, Canada.
    Friday, March 6, 2009

Other Professional Activities

  • Editorial Board (2004 ff.): Revision of Sources of Indian Tradition, Volume I, Columbia University Press.
  • External evaluator of scholarship for candidates for tenure and promotions at universities in the US and abroad.
  • Reviewer of book manuscripts for University and trade publishers, including Columbia University Press, Oxford University Press (New York), Princeton University Press, Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press (Delhi), Wesleyan University Press, State University of New York Press.
  • Evaluator of Heidelberg chair of Modern Indology, 2006.
  • Convenor of the conference “Love and the Erotic in Indian poetry and performing arts”, Mount Holyoke College, March 2007.
  • Convenor, Barbara Stoler Miller Conference, Columbia University and Barnard College, Feb. 20-22, 2003, on “Performing Pasts, Imagining Futures: Nationalism, Globalization and the Performing Arts in Modern South Asia”.
  • External reader and Ph.D. examiner for the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Harvard University, Columbia University, University of Madras, Hong Kong, and others.
  • Fellowship evaluator for the National Endowment for the Humanities, American Institute for Indian Studies, ACLS, and the Social Science Research Council.
  • Referee and reviewer of manuscripts for academic presses and journals, and reviewer of books for journals.
  • Outreach lecturer at high schools and South Asian arts and culture organizations.
  • Organizer, "Indian Women" Film Series, Mount Holyoke College, 1995.
  • Co-organizer, Five College South Asia Lecture Series, 1997-1998.
  • Evaluator of the Southern Asian Institute, Columbia University, 1999.
  • Honors Examiner, Swarthmore College, 2000.
  • Member, Women's Studies Steering Committee, Mount Holyoke College, 1984-1995.
  • Member, Graduate Faculty, Comparative Literature, University of Massachusetts, 1986 –
  • Alumnae College and Reunion lectures and master-classes, Mount Holyoke College (most recently, 2008-2012)
  • Mount Holyoke Art Museum lectures: In connection with the exhibition “Petals and
    Plumage: Indian Textiles” (2005) (lecture title—“The Song of the Seven colored shawl: Cloth in Indian myth and poetry’; and “Cooking for the Gods” (concert and lecture,

Exhibition and Catalog

  • "Faces of the Goddess: Folk Images of Female Divinity in India", The Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, South Hadley, MA., 1988 (co-curator, with Georgana Foster, collector). Author of the Exhibition Catalog.
  • Academic organizer and Keynote Speaker,
    “Manifestations of Shiva: Hinduism’s Great God in Myth, Art and Poetry”, A symposium sponsored by Samskriti Houston and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Saturday, December 1, 2012
  • Academic Organizer and Keynote speaker for the conference: “Literature and the Arts at Maratha Thanjavur 1675-1855: A Confluence of Cultures”, sponsored by Samskriti Houston and the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, July 10, 2010.

Concerts of South Indian classical Music (vocal)

In the U.S.A. and India (1977 - present) Recorded in concert by WGBH Radio, Boston, 1977 (World Music Program).