Alfred John Hiltebeitel (April 10, 1942[1] - March 12, 2023[2]) was Columbian Professor of Religion, History, and Human Sciences at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., US. His academic specialism was in ancient Sanskrit epics such as the Mahabharata and Ramayana, together with Indian religious tradition and folklore.[3]


Hiltebeitel was awarded a B.A. degree from Haverford College, where he majored in religion and minored in English (1959-1963). He attended the University of Chicago Divinity School, where he obtained an M.A. (1966) and a Ph.D. (1973) in the history of religions. His doctoral thesis is entitled Gods, Heroes, and Krsna: A Study of the Mahabharata in relation to Indian and Indo-European Symbolisms.[4]

Hiltebeitel was an editorial assistant for Seabury Press in New York City during 1963–1964, and between 1967-1968 he held a similar post with the History of Religions Journal. He was appointed an assistant professor in religion at George Washington University (GWU) in 1968, and was promoted to associate professor there in 1974. His appointment as professor in religion at GWU came in 1981. In the years following he delivered invitational lectures at universities such as The Sorbonne and the University of Wisconsin, as well as working on academic programs in south India.[4]

He was editor-in-chief of Hinduism for Oxford Bibliographies Online from 2009, and editor-in-chief of the India's Sanskrit Epics: Text and Tradition series for Motilal Banarsidass publishers, as of 2015.[citation needed]

Among his many awards were a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship.[4]


Hiltebeitel has written several books, and acted as editor and translator for several others, as well as contributing numerous papers to academic journals.[4]

In addition, he was director of Lady of Gingee: South Indian Draupadi Festivals (1988), a two-part video that was filmed in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu in 1986. Initially released as two 55-minute episodes with support from several academic institutions, the video has also been released in a shortened form comprising two 34-minute parts.




Hiltebeitel died on March 12, 2023, in Cali, Colombia, where he lived with his wife.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Kitson, Moon, Caitlin, Rachel (May 23, 2023). "Former religion professor, celebrated Hinduism specialist dies at 80". The GW Hatchet. Retrieved June 25, 2023.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ "Alf Hiltebeitel no more". Retrieved 2023-06-25.
  3. ^ "Reading the Fifth Veda: Studies on the Mahābhārata - Essays by Alf Hiltebeitel, Volume 1". Reading the Fifth Veda. BRILL. 27 July 2011. ISBN 9789004216204. Retrieved 2015-02-18.
  4. ^ a b c d "Alf Hiltebeitel" (PDF). George Washington University. Retrieved 2015-02-18.