From the archives

Some unexpected recent discoveries at the Ancient India and Iran Trust were two preserved leaves from the bodhi or pipal tree (ficus religiosa).

Bailey misc 1_6According to Professor Bailey’s note, he discovered the leaf on 29 May 1941 in Professor Rapson’s copy of Ausgewählte Erzählungen in Māhārāshṭrī, edited by Hermann Jacobi, Leipzig, 1886 (AIIT A11G 7). The leaf is inscribed, presumably by Professor Rapson himself,  “Bo Tree (Peepul) / Temple of / the Tooth / Kandy / Nov. 1914.”

Professor Edward Rapson (1861-1937) began his distinguished career as a numismatist in the department of coins and medals at the British Museum in 1887. In 1906 he left to become Professor of Sanskrit at Cambridge and was succeeded on his retirement in 1936 by Harold Bailey. One of Rapson’s most important works was the decipherment and edition with Auguste M. Boyer and Émile Senart of the Kharoshthi documents discovered by Stein at Niya in Central Asia. This was a subject dear to Bailey’s heart, indeed his volumes are so well-used that they are in a somewhat sad condition.

HWB_Rapson_1936Edward Rapson and Harold Bailey in 1936  (AIIT Bailey archive)

The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is a Buddhist temple in the city of Kandy, Sri Lanka. It is located in the royal palace complex of the former Kingdom of Kandy, and houses the relic of the tooth of the Buddha, brought to Sri Lanka, according to legend, in the 4th century AD by Princess Hemamali, hidden in her hair.

P1585Lithograph by Jonathan Needham (fl.1850-1874) after Charles D.C. O’Brien of ‘The Malagawa Temple, Kandy’ in Sri Lanka, dated 1st January 1864. This print forms plate 2 of ‘A series of fifteen Views of Ceylon illustrative of Sir J.E. Tennent’s work, from sketches made on the spot by Capt C. O’Brien, late Assistant Surveyor General, Ceylon’ London, 1864 ( British Library P1585). Public domain

The bodhi or pipal tree (ficus religiosa) is regarded as sacred in that it was the tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. The tree symbolizes enlightenment and peace while its bark, fruit and, especially, leaves are believed to have medicinal properties and are used for the treatment of asthma, diabetes, diarrhea, epilepsy, gastric problems, inflammatory disorders, jaundice and heart disorders.

HW_125_1A Bodhi tree at Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka (AIIT Howard Wilson archive)

The Trust also has a second bodhi leaf in its collections: this one collected by Sir Harold himself in Bangkok in December 1963:

Bailey misc 1_1

Ursula Sims-Williams

‘Photography and the Archaeological Survey of India 1855-1900′: John Falconer, 8 May, 5.30pm, Ancient India and Iran Trust, Cambridge

Friday 8th May, 5.30pm

John Falconer, Curator of Visual Arts, British Library

‘Photography and the Archaeological Survey of India 1855-1900′

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

tel: 01223 356841  e-mail:

All welcome.  Refreshments from 5pm.


Reminder: The Chronology of Early Islam, 7 May, 5.30pm, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Cambridge

Francois lecture


Wright Lecture Series: François de Blois: The Chronology of Early Islam – 7 May, FAMES Cambridge

Francois lecture


Easter Term Lectures 2015 at AIIT

Easter Term 2015 Lectures AIIT

Kutar Memorial Lecture, Thursday, 30 April 2015, 6pm, Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS: Leon Goldman

The Department for the Study of Religions, SOAS

in association with The World Zoroastrian Organisation

presents the 18th Dastur Dr Sohrab Hormasji Kutar Memorial Lecture

to be given by Dr Leon Goldman  (SOAS) on

The Path of Justice: Rašnu and the Cosmography of the Rašn Yašt”

Thursday, 30 April 2015, 6:00 p.m.

Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS, Russell Square, London

The lecture is followed by refreshments

All welcome

Abstract: In the Zoroastrian tradition, the concept of ‘justice’ is represented by the divine judge, or Rašnu, an overseer of ordeals and a judge of the deceased. The Avestan hymn known as the Rašn Yašt depicts Rašnu’s sphere of judicial activity as extending to the far reaches of the universe. This richly illustrated talk charts Rašnu’s path across the universe and argues that the cosmographic scheme which the hymn describes reveals a complex set of numerical and spatial patterns.

About the speaker: Dr. Leon Goldman is a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow at SOAS, University of London. Holding a B.A. (Hons.) in Indian Religions and Sanskrit from the University of Queensland (Australia) (2004) and an MA specializing in Iranian and Zoroastrian Studies from SOAS (2008), he was awared a PhD at SOAS in 2012 for his doctoral thesis on an edition with translation and commentary of the Avestan Rašn Yašt. A published edition of this work is forthcoming. His postdoctoral research project is devoted to the little studied Sanskrit version of the Yasna liturgy, attributed to the Parsi priest Neryosangh Dhaval who is believed to have lived in Gujarat around the 12th century, C.E. Dr. Goldman’s research interests include Indian and Iranian religions, in particular Zoroastrianism, as well the Avestan, Sanskrit, and Middle Persian languages.





Lecture by Margaret Cone, Ancient India and Iran Trust, Cambridge, Friday 24th April, 5.30pm

Friday 24th April, 5.30pm

Dr. Margaret Cone

The Joys and Sorrows of Pali

Margaret Cone has been writing a Dictionary of Pali for the last 30 years. With two volumes published and further parts in preparation, it has been described as “a truly significant publication for both Pali studies and Buddhist studies more generally” and is likely to remain the principle lexical resource for scholars working with Pali texts for some generations to come. In this talk Dr. Cone will discuss this remarkable project and some of its most significant – and at times daunting – challenges.

All welcome. Refreshments from 5pm.

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

Tel: +44 (0)1223 356841


Cambridge Lectures in Islamic Art: Moya Carey, Pembroke College Cambridge, 30 April, 5.30pm


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.