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  The band Embryo in India, from "Vagabunden Karawane: A musical trip through Iran, Afghanistan and India in 1979"Filmstill from "Vagabunden Karawane" © Werner Penzel Filmproduktion itd.

Cultural Encounters between South Asia and Germany
The Sound of Faraway Lands

South Asia maintains a long tradition of yearning for German cultural figures and intellectuals. Hermann Hesse's novel Siddhartha, published in 1922, is an expression of this fascination. The book also shaped the South Asian enthusiasm of the 1960s and 1970s. Commemorating the 100th anniversary of Siddhartha, the Goethe-Instituts in South Asia are exploring how South Asia and Germany are projected in the other region in literature, music, film and everyday culture.

About the Project

Conversations on Literature

The german fascination with the Indian subcontinent can be vividly witnessed in the works German-speaking writers with the onset of the 18 century, as well as in the works of writers like Hermann Hesse and Günther Grass. In their texts they not only reflect the general image of India of that time, but also their own cultural paradigms.

There is no understanding without prejudices - so famously argued the German philosopher Karl Jaspers, an admirer of Indian philosophy. In a similar way, one could argue that there is no engagement with another culture without projections. In this literary dialogue series, we invite artists from literature and other fields to explore the role of projections in intercultural encounters. Do we need them at all? If so, are they merely negative, or can projections be productive as well? How do projections manifest themselves in literature?

Upcoming Events

Date: 19 August 2022, 6 PM 
Venue: Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan New Delhi; The event will also be live streamed. Register now

About the Event

The feminist discourse is understood and experienced differently in different parts of the world. This is also reflected in literature. In this conversation with writers and publishers from Germany and India, we will explore how feminism and gender relations are reflected through literature in the two countries. We will discuss ways in which projections, societal norms and global movements have shifted the feminist discourse over time.  


Mithu Melanie Sanyal was born in Düsseldorf in 1971 and is a cultural scientist, writer, journalist and critic. Her non-fiction work Vulva. Das unsichtbare Geschlecht was published in 2009 and Vergewaltigung. Aspekte eines Verbrechens in 2016. She deals with feminist and postcolonial issues in her work. Her fictional debut Identitti speaks to ongoing discussions on race, culture and identity. It will be published in English in July 2022. 
More information: Mithu Sanyal on "New Books in German"

Mithu Sanyal will participate in the event digitally​​​​​​.

Ritu Menon is a feminist, publisher and writer who has been active in the women’s movement in India and South Asia for almost three decades. She is the author and editor of several books and anthologies, including the ground-breaking text Borders & Boundaries: Women in India’s PartitionOut of Line: A Literary and Political Biography of Nayantara SahgalAddress Book: A Publishing Memoir in the Time of COVID; and most recently, ZOHRA! A Biography in Four Acts.


Vangmayi Patakala is currently a National Writer at Mint Lounge, anchoring the books coverage. She has previously worked at The Hindu reporting on art and literary culture. She holds an MS in Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University and an MA in English Literature from the University of Delhi. Her forthcoming work includes a biography of Homai Vyarawalla for children.

The literature series is curated by Mary Therese Kurkalang and Krisha Kops.

Mary Therese Kurkalang © Mary Therese Kurkalang

Mary Therese Kurkalang

As a cultural curator and social researcher, Mary Therese works across the Arts, Culture and Social Sector since 1995, dabbling in writing - poetry, fiction, nonfiction - and also serving on the Advisory Boards of Culture and Social Justice Platforms.

Krisha Kops © Krisha Kops

Krisha Kops

Krisha Kops is a philosopher and author. As a philosophical practitioner, he is responsible for the management of WirHelfen.eu and advises companies. In 2022, his award-winning German-Indian novel Das Ewige Rauschen was published.

"Siddhartha" – A Tale from India?

Hermann Hesse's novel Siddhartha, published in 1922, is part of the tradition of enthusiastic romanticism about India in Germany. The novel also had a formative influence on a later phase of India euphoria, which saw thousands of young people from Europe and the U.S. embark on journeys to India and Afghanistan in the 1960s and 1970s. How did Siddhartha shape the image of India in Germany? On the occasion of 100 years of Siddhartha, contributions on the mutual reception of South Asia and Germany are brought together here - in literature, music, film and everyday culture.

Siddhartha in Translation

The popularity of Siddhartha is prevalent from a large number of translations in the various South-Asian languages.

  • Siddhartha: Sanskrit Translation © Hermann Hesse Society of India
    "Siddhartha" in Sanskrit
    Publisher: Hermann Hesse Society of India
    Translation: L Sulochana Devi (2008)
  • Siddhartha: Malyalam Translation © Kairali Books Kannur
    "Siddhartha" in Malyalam
    Publisher: Kairali Books Kannur
    Translation: R. Raman Nair (1990)
  • Siddhartha: Marathi Translation © Hermann Hesse Society of India
    "Siddhartha" in Marathi
    Publisher: Hermann Hesse Society of India
    Translation: Avinash Tripathi (2007)
  • Siddhartha: Urdu Translation © Fiction House
    "Siddhartha" in Urdu
    Publisher: Fiction House
    Translation: Asif Farkhi
  • Siddhartha: Punjabi Translation © Shilalekh
    "Siddhartha" in Punjabi
    Publisher: Shilalekh
    Translation: Dr. Hari Singh
  • Siddhartha: Telugu Translation © Pallavi Publications
    "Siddhartha" in Telugu
    Publisher: Pallavi Publications
    Translation: Bellamkonda Raghava Rao
  • Siddhartha: Hindi Translation © Hermann Hesse Society of India
    "Siddhartha" in Hindi
    Publisher: Hermann Hesse Society of India
    Translation: Prabakaran Hebbar Illath (2012)
  • Siddhartha: English Translation © New Directions Publishing Corporation
    "Siddhartha" in Englisch
    Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
    Translation: Hilda Rosner (1951)

Onleihe: German-language Literature and Films on India

Musical Bridge Builders

Music has been a continuous agent of interaction between local and international interests, an expression of liquid modernity. Southasia and Germany resonate as cosmopolitan spaces for intercultural transnational exchanges, with live music events and festivals mushrooming since the 1960s. A burgeoning interest can be recapitulated with JISR, a German band that toured South Asia in the late 1960s, with Afghanistan and India as important cultural stops. What once were just palatable teasers are now a regular delight, with music becoming increasingly fluid since the very dawn of the 21st century.

JISR - on tour in South Asia

Jisr is Arabic for “bridge”. The popular international ensemble performs in a wide variety of instrumentations with top-class virtuoso musicians. Rooted in several musical genres, this unconventional musical project builds bridges between Arabian, Afro, jazz, rock and classical music and takes the path of maximum musical variation and improvisation.

In 2016, Ramdan came from Morocco to Munich to study German where he founded the group with two refugee Syrians. Marja Buchard is also a Jisr band member. The multi-instrumentalist is the leader of Embryo, a world music group founded by her father Christian Burchard in 1969, which she took over in 2016 and has continued to lead since his death in 2018.

In March 2022, Jisr will tour South Asia at the invitation of the Goethe-Institut - with stops in Colombo, Karachi, Dhaka, Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore.

JISR © Ali Malak

JISR in South Asia

Marja Burchard

Vibraphon, Keys, Trombone
Marja Burchard

"I had the privilege of listening to music from India live from an early age."

Roman Bunka

Oud, Guitar
Roman Bunka

"South Asian Modal Music has influenced musicians in all genres . I hope to get new impulses through this trip."


The band Embryo was founded in 1969 by multi-instrumentalists Christian Burchard and Edgar Hofmann in Munich. The two are considered to be the pioneers of the so-called Krautrock in the 1960s. The band travelled overland from Germany to India and Afghanistan in 1979. Since then, the band has been intensively involved with Indian, Afghan and also African music. To this day, the band combines jazz with rhythms and instruments from India, Africa and the Arab world.

Marja Burchard, the co-founder of the band Jisr, took over the leadership of Embryo from her father Christian Burchard in 2016.