Bodhisatta vs. the Big Stick

The Cambridge Shorts scheme allows University of Cambridge researchers to work with artists and filmmakers to make films that are creative, accessible and engaging.

Charles Li, researcher at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Cambridge, has collaborated with film-maker Eleonora Mignoli to make Bodhisatta vs the Big Stick, a short film looking at one of most popular of the Jātaka tales: a  story about one of the past lives of the Buddha as a bodhisatta, named Mahosadha.  The film, part of which is filmed at the Ancient India and Iran Trust,  features an interview with Margaret Cone, who has been writing a Pāḷi-English dictionary for over 30 years.

The film can be seen on the Cambridge University YouTube channel here:


RAS Sinor Gold Medal for Inner Asian Studies 2016 awarded to Nicholas Sims-Williams

The Royal Asiatic Society have announced that the triennial Denis Sinor Gold Medal for Inner Asian Studies will be presented to Professor Nicholas Sims-Williams in 2016.

Professor Sims-Williams is Research Professor of Iranian and Central Asian Studies at the Department of the Languages and Cultures of Near and Middle East, SOAS, whose research interests include Iranian and Central Asian philology, and Christian and Manichaean texts from Central Asia. He is Chair of the Ancient India and Iran trust in Cambridge.  The Royal Asiatic Society says: “The Society is pleased to be able to honour the contribution that Professor Sims-Williams has made to Inner Asian Studies by the conferment of this medal”.

The Sinor Medal was inaugurated in 1993 thanks to a generous  endowment by Professor Denis Sinor, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Central Asian Studies at Indiana University and a tenured lecturer at Cambridge University between 1948 and 1962.  He was one of the world’s leading scholars for the history of Central Asia.

From Anatolia to Aceh: Ottomans, Turks and Southeast Asia

The British Academy-funded research project Islam, Trade and Politics across the Indian Ocean, which ran from 2009 to 2012 adminstered by ASEASUK (Association of Southeast Asian Studies in the UK) and the BIAA (British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara), set out to investigate all aspects of links between the greatest Middle Eastern power – the Ottoman empire – and the Muslim lands of the Malay archipelago in Southeast Asia over the past five centuries. The project culminated in a conference held in Banda Aceh in 2012, as well as a travelling photographic exhibition produced by the British Library which toured the UK (and included a two week installation at AIIT), with a Turkish version which travelled to Istanbul and Ankara, while Indonesian versions were displayed in various venues in Aceh and in Jakarta at the Bayt al-Qur’an & Museum Istiqlal. Now one of two books arising from the project has just been published – From Anatolia to Aceh: Ottomans, Turks and Southeast Asia, edited by Andrew Peacock and Annabel Teh Gallop – as the auspiciously-numbered 200th volume in the series ‘Proceedings of the British Academy’, published by Oxford University Press.

TJ-15076_From Anatolia to Aceh copy

The prince and the pir: dervishes and mysticism in Iran and India, British Museum, until 8 July 2015

This small display at the British Museum (Room 34, until 8 July) presents works on paper and objects exploring depictions and attributes of Sufi dervishes from the 16th to the 19th centuries.

The relationship between a ruler and his spiritual adviser in the Islamic world has historically been an important one. In the Persian-speaking contexts of Iran and India, a holy man known as a pir or shaykh often provided spiritual guidance. After the 12th century, many of these practised Sufism, a form of Islamic mysticism, whose devotees believe that the best way to know God is through the wisdom of one’s heart. Sufis are known for their renunciation of material things. However, they did not necessarily withdraw from the world, and many were connected to social and political institutions. The negotiation of power and authority between princes and Sufis could sometimes become tense or hostile, but it could also lead to mutually beneficial interactions.

This display presents diverse images of Sufis, from begging, wandering dervishes to legitimisers of princes’ reigns. Works produced in Iran and India between the 16th and 19th centuries range from album and manuscript pages to objects used in daily life.

Admission: free.

 Courtier visiting a holy man in a cave. Page from a manuscript of the Matlaʿ al-Anvar of Amir Khusraw Dihlavi. Ink, opaque watercolour, and gold on paper. Iran, Qazvin, 1500s.

DR ÜNVER RÜSTEM: Cambridge Lecture in Islamic Art, Pembroke College, 12th March – 5pm

The second Cambridge Lecture in Islamic Art will take place on THURSDAY 12th MARCH (please note that the date has been changed from that originally advertised). The speaker will be DR ÜNVER RÜSTEM, Fari Sayeed Visiting Fellow in Islamic Art at Pembroke College.  His talk is entitled “A BAROQUE OF ONE’S OWN: EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY OTTOMAN ARCHITECTURE ON THE WORLD STAGE”.

The lecture will be held at 5 pm in Room N7 at Pembroke College, Cambridge. Light refreshments will be served. All are welcome

Lecture by Dr Karim Lahham at Cambridge Muslim College, 11th March, 6.30pm

Cambridge Muslim College Public Lecture

Wednesday 11th March, 6.30pm

Gandhi, Islam and the Principles of Non-Violence (Ahimsa) and Attachment to Truth (Satyagraha)

Dr Karim Lahham

This lecture will mainly explore the influence of Islamic practices on the nature and development of Gandhi’s satyagraha movement, and his own avowed appropriation of the Prophet of Islam’s exercise of patience and righteousness in the face of overwhelming odds during the pre-Hijra Meccan period.  Gandhi’s partnership furthermore with the Pathan leader, Badshah Khan, cemented the presence of Muslim satyagrahis at the heart of the Indian independence struggle.  The first organised army committed to non-violence was a Muslim one, known as the Khudai Khitmatgar, personifying the true nature of Gandhi’s understanding of ahimsa. This is contrary to the popular understanding and image that Gandhi’s struggle was mainly Hindu in character and origin, and that the Muslims were but part players in the wider movement implemented and set in motion by him.  This will be looked at in the context of Gandhi’s notion of satyagraha (attachment to truth) which was widely implemented in the differing spheres of craftsmanship, agriculture and social service exemplifying that the independence movement was not political in nature alone but incorporated all spheres of the human condition in an attempt to bring back dignity, self-reliance and above all integrity to the human soul.

Dr Karim Lahham, Barrister of the Inner Temple, London, read law at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, and completed a doctorate in Islamic Studies at Pembroke College, Cambridge. He also has a Masters from the Royal College of Art.

Venue: Cambridge Muslim College                                                        14 St Paul’s Road, Cambridge, CB1 2EZ

For more information, contact:

Tel: 01223 355235 Email:


Ünver Rüstem, Cambridge Lecture in Islamic Art, 12th March, Pembroke College Cambridge, 5pm

URustem CLIA Lecture

Lecture by François de Blois, Ancient India and Iran Trust, Cambridge, Friday 6th March, 5.30pm

Friday 6 March, 5.30pm

François de Blois, University College, London

Sasanian royalist ideology and Zoroastrian millennialism.

François de Blois has published widely on Semitic and Iranian languages and on the history of religions in the Near East in pre-modern times. Notably, he contributed to the multi-volume work Persian Literature, which had been initiated by C.A. Storey and published by the Royal Asiatic Society. He served as Professor of Iranian Studies at Hamburg University from 2002 to 2003. Currently he is a research fellow at University College London where he is engaged in a major project on al-Biruni’s Chronology and other Arabic texts on non-Islamic calendars. He is also a teaching fellow for Aramaic and Middle Iranian languages at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He has been a frequent contributor to the Encyclopaedia of Islam.

All welcome. Refreshments from 5pm.

Ancient India & Iran Trust
23 Brooklands Avenue, Cambridge CB2 8BG

Tel: +44 (0)1223 356841

Lecture by Vesta Curtis, Ancient India and Iran Trust, Cambridge, Friday 20th February, 5.30pm

Friday 20th February, 5.30pm at the Ancient India & Iran Trust, Cambridge

Vesta Curtis, British Museum

The power and purpose of iconography in Ancient Iran

Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis is Curator of Middle Eastern Coins at the British Museum. She is responsible for the Museum’s collection of pre-Islamic Iranian coins (from the third century BC until the middle of the seventh century AD), which includes both Parthian period and Sasanian coins. She is Joint Director of the International Parthian Coin Project, The Sylloge Nummorum Parthicorum (SNP), and Joint Editor of the SNP series. She was involved in The Sasanian Coin Project, a collaborative project with the National Museum of Iran in Tehran (now successfully completed) and is the author, editor and co-author of many publications, including Persian Love Poetry, The Sasanian Era, The Rise of Islam, From Persepolis to the Punjab and The Age of the Parthians.

All welcome. Refreshments from 5pm.

Ancient India & Iran Trust
23 Brooklands Avenue, Cambridge CB2 8BG

Tel: +44 (0)1223 356841

Cambridge Lecture Series in Islamic Art, Pembroke College Cambridge, 10 February 5.30pm

The inaugural talk of the Cambridge lecture series in Islamic Art will be held today, 10 February 2015 at 5:30 in the Nihon Room in Pembroke College, Cambridge, followed by a reception.
The speaker is Prof. Doris Behrens-Abouseif of LSOAS.
The title of her lecture is “Mamluk diplomacy: shared material culture and self-image”

All welcome.