The India Institute e.V. MUNICH founded – 1929


The achievements of German Indology of the 18th and 19th century remain milestones in the relationship between India and Germany, and referring to the University of Bonn as “Benares on the Rhine” was perfectly justified during the first half of the 19th century. One man who participated in shaping the German and European picture of India – “India, what can it teach us?” – was born in Dessau in 1823: Friedrich Max Müller, who to this day remains the namesake of Indian Goethe Institutes, Max Müller Bhavans. During the same period of time, the Wittelsbacher dynasty supported artists and intellectuals in Bavaria and members of the dynasty travelled to India. The first permanent chair for Sanskrit was installed in Munich in 1868 by King Ludwig II

The Indian independency movement was founded in 1885 and had since in various ways striven to win moral and financial, and to some extent military, support for the struggle for national independence. A military-political expedition during World War I that began in Turkey and was meant to explore Egypt and Afghanistan was accompanied by volunteers from India who had been captured by Germany as soldiers of the British forces.

After World War I, connections between India and Germany’s communist parties and the Soviet Union were formed and years later, according to the secret treaty between Russia and Germany, India still belonged to the soviet area of interest. On the 14th of November 1927, Motilal Nehru, who was at the time the Indian National Congress’ official ambassador and leader of the Indian Freedom Party, was received in Berlin’s Federal Foreign Office. He was accompanied by his son, Jawaharlal, who would later become Prime Minister. They had attended the congress of oppressed peoples in Brussels and were on their way to Moscow. During their stopover, they asked the German Government for assistance in their struggle for a free India. Their urging resulted in the establishment of the first Indian Information bureau outside of the Indian subcontinent. This discrete Indian embassy was located in Berlin and managed by A.C.N. Nambiar. During World War II, Nambiar assumed the diplomatic mission of the National Independence Movement of India under Nataji Aubhas Chandra Bose, a freedom movement that declared war on Great Britain and the United States in 1942.


Both the centuries old cultural and historic background of Germany’s interest in India and the political environment of the Indian independency movement were decisive for the establishment, and in the aftermath, many Indian figures were involved in the Institutes work.

The Indian information bureau was inaugurated on the 15th of February 1929 and the anticipated establishment of a culture bureau came into reach. In 1925 “Die Deutsche Akademie”, the German Academy, had been founded in the Maximilianeum in Munich. At the request of Prof. Dr. Karl Haushofer of the University of Munich, the academy’s administration decided to resume the task of advancing cultural cooperation between India and Germany in 1928. The “India Institute – Indischer Ausschuss” was founded as a non-governmental organization and a branch of the German Academy. Prof. Dr. Karl Haushofer, board member of the German academy, was appointed chairman and Dr. Franz Thierfelder, also from the German academy, was appointed director. Prof. Dr. Taraknath Das, advocate and pioneer for Indian independence, was vice-chairman and cofounder. Due to his political activities, he had had to leave India in 1906 and moved to the United States, from where he followed India’s independence movement for fifty years. During one of his many visits to Germany between 1924 and 1934, he advised Dr. Haushofer to establish an India institute within the German academy, of which he was an honorary member. During the Third Reich, with which he did not wish to identify, he stayed in the United States and died in New York in 1958.


The India Institute’s establishment was founded in the reciprocal interest between India and Germany: India’s fight for independence and Germany’s enthusiasm for India. This is why from the beginning, its aim was to unify and creating access to knowledge on the rich and diverse culture of India as well as information on the political and economic development of the Indian subcontinent for an interested public in Germany and especially in Bavaria. India was the first country to recognize the Federal Republic of Germany in 1951 after the western powers. A.C.N. Nambiar was appointed the first ambassador of the Indian Republic in Bonn.

One noteworthy task that the India Institute had set itself in its early years was the granting of scholarships to selected Indian and German students. The German Academy provided the financial base for this as well as for the awarding of foundations and scholarships. During these early years, the Humbolt-Stiftung already participated in the granting of extra scholarships. Between 1929 and 1938, the India Institute funded about 100 Indian Students and aspirants. One of these was Dr. Triguna Charan Sen, who acquired his doctor’s degree in hydro-electrics at the Technichal University of Munich and later became vice chancellor of the Jaghaypur-University of Calcutta. Another character to be mentioned is Alfred Würfel, who later received the “Padma Shri” decoration and became a lecturer at the Hindu-University of Benares with funding from the Institute in 1935. He immediately began to study Indian languages, especially Sanskrit. After he had given language courses for years during the war, he later made an extraordinary diplomatic career and became the cultural attaché at the German embassy in New Delhi.

The first „Conference of Indian Students in Germany“ was consolidated by the institute with the assistance of Taraknath Das in October of 1935. The institute supported the creation of Indian coalitions which provided the opportunity to build close relationships to Germans. A “Hindusthan Students Club” was founded in Munich by former scholars, which was later proactive in creating a central organization of all Indian student councils in Germany.

The India Institute encouraged a lively exchange between German and Indian professors and scientists. The most popular lecturer at the University of Munich, the physicist Arnold Sommerfeld, held well-attended lectures at Munich’s universities as well as at the institute. He was in close contact to the Indian Nobel prize laureate Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman, who visited him in Munich in 1928 and was appointed honorary member of the institute. Another honorary member was J.C. Bose. Albert Einstein and Pandit Nehru got along well, and the Indian physicist Satyendra Nath Bose (1894-1974), who was later vice chancellor of the Vishwabharati University and president of the National Institute of Science in India, translated Einstein’s theory of relativity to English at the age of 22 and explained it to his students at College in Calcutta. In conjunction with his own research, he contacted Einstein personally, and one result among others is the Bose-Einstein-condensate. It emerged from the two scientists’ joint theory and could not be proven until 1995.

Among the Institute’s Indian guests was Rabindranath Tagore, who became an honorary member. Naturally, Taraknath Das and his wife had become honorary members. With the Institute’s help, his book India in “World Politics” was published in German by the Callwey-Verlag. Even Hon. Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, who was president of congress twice, was one of the first honorary members of the Institute. The Mahabaratha by Sir Biren Roy, a guest of the Institute who had held a lecture in 1936, was published by the Insitute in German in the 1960s.

The information bureau in Berlin was closed in 1932. The German academy was dissolved by the occupying powers in 1945. The India Institute was reinstated in 1946 and could resume its work due to the support of New York’s Taraknath Das foundation. The institute was the only organization to engage with the Indian realm. After the currency reform, Dr. Thierfelder could again contribute to the Institute and assumed the chairmanship with Dr. Taraknath Das as his temporary delegate. Due to the relationships and friendships that extend over Bavaria and Germany, the founding fathers’ goals could be reactived.

Again, there are known names to be found among the members: Prof. Dr. Helmuth von Glasenapp, head of the Institute for Indiology and comparative religious studies at the University of Thübingen. Consul general a.D. Wilhelm von Pochhammer, Bremen. Prof. Dr. K. C. Chaudhuri, director of the Institute of Child Health, Calcutta. Business enterprises were among the active members again as well.

The first president after the renaming and registration of the association as “Indien-Institut e.V.” in Munich on the 26th of April in 1960 was Paul H. Edler von Mitterwallner, board member of Krauss-Maffei, first Hon. consul general of the Repulic of India. During the early years, the Indien-Institut was located in the Indian consulate general in the Preysing-Palais on Odeonsplatz. Both facilities were funded by Krauss-Maffei and Siemens until 1970. After the consulate moved to the Wiedemayerstraße 41, the Institute began to hold its meetings in the Münchner Künstlerhaus, among others. Paul von Mitterwallner deputized successors: in early 1971 Alfred Brocke and later Prof. Dr. F. Wilhelm, Indologist at the University of Munich, who both had to work on several addresses.

The publisher, India enthusiast and expert for Indian art, Robert Gedon, was appointed Hon. consul general of India in 1971 and donated his well-known and travelled indo-asian collection of sculptures to Bavaria in 1977. After years of the institute’s wandering, he finally succeeded in binding the Indien-Institut to a fixed location. Owing to the understanding of former director Prof. Dr. Walter Rauning, it was befittingly located in the Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde, the museum for ethnology. Even today, the choice of venues is sometimes reminiscent of the Institue’s addresses during its earlier years.

Robert Gedon assumed the institute’s chairmanship in 1982 and officiated until his death in 1989. The institute’s direction was vacant until 1993, when the former German ambassador in India, Dr. Hans-Georg Wieck assumed chairmanship. New diplomatic tasks led to his relocation to Berlin in 1999, and Brigitte Gedon assumed the institute’s direction.

During the following years, the following persons became honorary members of the institute: S.K.H. Duke Franz von Bayern; Maestro Zubin Mehta, music director of the Bavarian State Opera, the respectively officiating consul general of the Republic of India in Munich as well as the last Hon. consul general of India in Munich, Prof. Dr. h. c. Horst Teltschik and Dr. Gerhard Jooss, former member of ThyssenKrupp AG’s managing board, and members of the German-Indian advisory group. Sind 2002, Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg have a professional consulate general in Munich, which thankfully works in close contact with the institute.

The complimentary managing board is competently staffed. It consists of: Dr. Andreas Lindner, expert on India, the Indologist Prof. Dr. Jens-Uwe Hartmann, Dr. Christine Kron, director of the ehemals Völkerkunde Museum, Mr. Sanjay També, Mrs. Petra Wagner, Mr. Peter Wiegand and Mr. Jürgen Weilandt.

Today, the numerous programs offer a wide variety of subjects and activities. They range from earthquake relief in Gujarat in 2001 with a fund-raiser attended by the Bavarian state government, as well as a charity concert by the Bavarian state opera under the guidance of Maestro Zubin Mehta hosted with our assistance to the Bavarian youth award hosted by out institute, and the authentic confrontation with all questions concerning tradition as well as modern issues and their answers by international experts.

The Indien-Institut is a charitable organization without state funding, financed by tax deductible membership fees and funding contributions as well as donations. It is backed and supported by well-known personalities who remain open-minded towards the unifying work about India and a still pending cultural funding through Bavarian companies and business enterprises that are commercially connected to India. The Indien-Institut will continue to do everything in order to impart knowledge about this country, its culture, religions, science, economic development and society – the world’s largest democracy.