South Asia Institute

  • [two students jumping in the air]
  • [city in the clouds]
  • [students in fancy saris]
  • [students performing dance]
  • [Kumbh Mela pilgrims]
  • [students]
  • [street scene through vehicle windshield]
  • [people in program]
  • [riverboat, sunset]
  • [beach scene sunset]
  • [woman looking over landscape]
  • [architecture - elaborate balcony and roof]
  • [Kumbh Mela - crowds and tents in front of mtns]


For eight weeks in 2013, tens of millions of Hindu pilgrims traveled to bathe at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers in Prayag, India, during the Maha Kumbh Mela. Harvard's South Asia Institute coordinated a team of nearly 50 scholars to study this gathering which becomes, temporarily, the largest city in the world.

Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral City (publication expected in 2014) is just one of many interdisciplinary research projects supported by the South Asia Institute (SAI), which has offices in Delhi, Mumbai, Dhaka, and Karachi, in addition to its on-campus presence.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2013, the South Asia Institute's mission is to engage faculty and students through interdisciplinary programs to advance and deepen the teaching and research on global issues relevant to South Asia.

Through a number of programs and partnerships it facilitates scholarly exchanges among Harvard faculty and students, international South Asia specialists, and scholars and public figures from South Asia, and is developing a community of stakeholders committed to building scholarship on South Asia at Harvard and in-region.

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I am extremely grateful to the South Asia Institute for their support.... SAI supported more than the development of a low-cost medical device; it has facilitated the connection of countries and the development of relationships, and has altered the course of my life forever.

~ William Lewis, HMS student

The students of VidyaGyan inspired me, humbled me, and filled me with immense joy. I look forward to watching their bright futures unfold and am so grateful to the Harvard South Asia Institute for allowing me to be a small part of their journey.

 ~ Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, Harvard College '15

The SAI hosts lectures and conferences by distinguished academic, governmental, and business leaders whose work contributes to a better understanding of the challenges facing South Asia; supports multidisciplinary research programs and workshops on campus and in-region; provides grants to Harvard students for language study, research, and internships in-region as well as travel and research grants to Harvard faculty; offers fellowships for visiting scholars from South Asia; and has recently released released its inaugural publication, Health in South Asia, which presents a broad range of ways in which people find solutions to public health problems in South Asia.

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I am honoured to have been selected as the first Aman Fellow.... It provided me an opportunity to take advantage of Harvard’s resources for my research and to connect with leading academics and researchers in the world. I discovered new avenues for my research and I will be following these leads in my academic career.

~ Muhammad Zahir, Archeologist, inaugural Aman Fellow

[pic of elephant head]

Special thanks to Meena Hewitt, Executive Director, Meghan Smith, Communications and Outreach Coordinator, and Nora Maginn, Program Manager, for information, video, and photos for this feature.

(Posted May 2014.)