Literatures, Languages & Cultures

In memoriam: Paul Dundas

Julian Ward reflects on the passing of our friend and colleague Paul Dundas, Sanskrit expert and author of The Jains.

It is with great sadness that colleagues in Asian Studies report the sudden passing of Paul Dundas on Wednesday 5 April at the age of 70. 

Photo of a statue of Mahavira, 24th Tirthankara of Jainism
Mahavira, 24th Tirthankara of Jainism. Paul's book The Jains, first published in 1992, remains the most authoritative introduction to Jainism

Paul studied Sanskrit and Prakrit as an undergraduate at the University of Edinburgh and as a postgraduate at the University of Cambridge. He took up a teaching post in Sanskrit at Edinburgh in 1976: he would stay here for the rest of his career.  

Of his numerous academic achievements, he is best known for The Jains, first published in 1992, which remains the most authoritative introduction to Jainism to the present day. Other important publications include History, Scripture and Controversy in a Medieval Jain Sect (2007), and a translation of Māgha's Śiśupālavadha (2017).

Along with John Brockington, initially, and Peter Bisschop, latterly, Paul ensured that the Sanskrit department punched well above its weight, providing major contributions to a succession of research appraisals. His membership of the Council of the Pali Text Society, and the Prakrit Jñānabhāratī International award that he received in 2019, together serve as testimony to his exceptional erudition. Following his retirement, Paul continued to work on several research projects

Helping generations of students

In spite of his many scholarly achievements and his international renown, Paul remained modest and wholly without airs and graces. He was always willing to take on other roles within the department, including a stint as head of Asian Studies.

For many years he acted as Director of Studies and Personal Tutor, helping generations of students, including two who would go on to become colleagues.  

Above all, we his colleagues will remember Paul as a great companion. Whether discussing the relative merits of Mozart and Bruckner or bemoaning the parlous state of the Hibs defence, he was always urbane, well-informed and full of lively chat. He was a true friend and a wonderful colleague.  

Our thoughts are with his partner, Rowan Flett.