J. A. B. van Buitenen
The Hague, Netherlands

Johannes Adrianus Bernardus van Buitenen (21 May 1928 – 21 September 1979) was a Dutch Indologist at the University of Chicago where he was the George V. Bobrinskoy Professor of Sanskrit in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations. He was one of the world's leading Sanskrit scholars.[2] His interests ranged widely over literature, philosophy and philology, but toward the end of his career he focused primarily on the Mahābhārata.


Van Buitenen studied with Jan Gonda at the Rijksuniversiteit, Utrecht, Netherlands (since 1990 Universiteit Utrecht). He received his doctorate, cum laude, on 23 October 1953 and immediately departed for India where he stayed until 1956 as sub-editor of the " Dictionary of Sanskrit on Historical Principles" project at Deccan College, Poona .[3] From 1959 to 1961 he was Reader in Indian philosophy at Utrecht but found he had little interest in the position or in staying in the Netherlands.[4] As a consequence he happily accepted an invitation to take a position at the University of Chicago and remained there until his death in 1979 at the age of fifty-one. He was appointed associate professor in Sanskrit and Indic studies in 1959 and professor in linguistics in Oriental languages in 1964. After a South Asian languages and civilizations department was formed in 1966, he was chairman for 10 years.[5]

Van Buitenen contributed to the training of several notable scholars in the USA, among them James L. Fitzgerald (Brown University), Walter O. Kaelber, Michael D. Willis, Bruce M. Sullivan (Northern Arizona University) and Bruce Lincoln (University of Chicago).[2]

Van Buitenen was on the board of directors of the American Oriental Society [5] and became a correspondent of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1963.[1]

Amongst many publications he edited and translated the first five books of the Hindu epic, "The Mahabharata". They were published in three volumes by the University of Chicago Press. At the time of his death he was working on the fourth of seven volumes.[5]



Selected articles


  1. ^ a b "J.A.B. van Buitenen (1928–1979)". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  2. ^ a b Richard H. Davis, South Asia at Chicago: a history, foreword by Milton Singer (Chicago: Committee on Southern Asian Studies, University of Chicago, 1985).
  3. ^ Jan Gonda, 'Obituary' in Studies in Indian Literature and Philosophy: Collected Articles of J. A. B. van Buitenen, edited by Ludo Rocher (Delhi, 1988), p. xiii.
  4. ^ Gonda, 'Obituary' in Studies in Indian Literature and Philosophy, p. xv.
  5. ^ a b c J.A.B. van Buitenen – Authority on Sanskrit  Taught at Chicago University – Obituary,  New York Times, 22 September 1979