Philosopher, Indologist (1760 – 1833)
Demetrios Galanos was the first and most renowned Greek Indologist and Brahmin, having spent 47 years of his life in India, researching and translating the Hindu culture and religion as well as popularizing their philosophy.
Galanos was born in Athens. He studied Greek philology, theology and music in Athens, Mesolonghi, Patmos and Constantinople before settling in India in 1786 after invitation by a wealthy Greek merchant from Calcutta to work as a teacher for his children. Galanos studied the Hindu religion and philosophy, especially the Vedas, learned Sanskrit, Persian and a number of other Eastern languages.
In 1793 he settled in the holy city of Benares where he became a Brahmin and lived an ascetic life of meditation and virtue alongside the other Brahmins. He was honoured as a sage and a saint by the Brahmins and the peoples alike.
His life-long work consists of translations of the Hindu philosophy, including the Vedas from Sanskrit to Greek. He compiled dictionaries of Greek-English-Sanscrit language, lexicons and books on their mythology. His books were donated to the Academy of Athens, which created the Library of the University of Athens, 4 years prior to the University’s foundation using his collection. In return to the knowledge he acquired from the Indians, Galanos, being a Greek philologist and philosopher, disseminated the Greek philosophy to them to the point where he was called the “Plato of his time”. The Greek mythology and the Greek philosophers, such as Pythagoras and Isocrates, became known to the Indians thanks to Galanos.
Galanos became the first European Indologist ever recorded in history; his works introduced the Hindu studies in Europe, which were unfamiliar prior to his contribution. Although he never returned to Greece after his departure to India, he kept contact with his family and friend in Greece, who kept him updated on the events of the Greek War of Independence. He died in Benares, where he is buried, 3 years after learning of the independence of Greece.
- “Galanos, Demetrios”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens, 1946. Print.
- Kargakos, S.Ι., 1994, Δημήτριος Γαλανός ο Αθηναίος (1760-1833)-ο Πρώτος Ευρωπαίος Ινδολόγος, Gutenberg. Athens. Print.