Ludo Rocher, South Asia Studies

Ludo Rocher, Emeritus W. Norman Brown Professor of South Asia Studies, died October 31. He was 90 years old.

Throughout his career, Dr. Rocher was renowned for being the most active Sanskrit scholar in the United States and a world authority on classical Hindu legal cultures.

Dr. Rocher was born in Antwerp, Belgium. He attended the University of Ghent, where he earned an MA in classics with a minor in Sanskrit in 1948; a JD in 1950; and a PhD in Indic studies in 1952. He also studied at the University of Utrecht and the University of London.

Dr. Rocher was a professor of Sanskrit and comparative philology at the University of Brussels from 1959-1967 and became director for the Center for the Study of South and Southeast Asia in 1961. In 1965, Dr. Rocher became the first non-Africanist to be elected to the Belgian Royal Academy of Overseas Sciences. Prior to his appointments at the University of Brussels, he was a Research Fellow at the Belgian National Foundation for Scientific Research from 1952-1958.

In 1966, Dr. Rocher was invited to Philadelphia by W. Norman Brown, an eminent scholar of Sanskrit and Indology at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Rocher was appointed professor of Sanskrit at Penn’s department of Oriental studies (which became the department of Asian and Middle Eastern studies in 1992). Dr. Rocher served as the chair of the department of Oriental studies from 1967-1975 and again from 1988-1994. He also spent time as chair of the department of South Asia regional studies and director of the National Resource Center for South Asia Studies from 1975-1979.

In 2002, he retired and became professor emeritus of South Asia studies.

On April 1, 1961, he married Rosane Debels, professor emerita of South Asia studies at Penn. In June of 1972, both Dr. Rocher and his wife became American citizens. Together, they were awarded the 2015 Prize of the Fondation Colette Caillat of the Institut de France for two books and their “lifelong, signal contributions to Sanskrit studies and the history of Indology.”

Throughout his career, Dr. Rocher authored almost 20 major books and hundreds of articles and reviews. Notable works include The Puranas, Jimutavahana's Dayabhaga: the Hindu law of inheritance in Bengal, and Studies in Hindu law and Dharmasastra.

He received many prestigious grants during his time at the University of Pennsylvania including a Fulbright-Hays Research Grant in 1969, a NEH Translation Grant in 1986 and a grant from the American Institute of Indian Studies in 1994. He also received the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1986 (Almanac April 15, 1986).

As an eminent scholar and expert in the field of South Asian regional studies, Dr. Rocher held many posts; he was elected vice president of the American Oriental Society from 1984 to 1985, and president from 1985 to 1986. Dr. Rocher also was elected vice president of the American Institute of Indian Studies from 1981 to 1983, and served as Chairman to the Board of Trustees from 1984 to 1985. He was a Fellow of the Asiatic Society and a member of the American Philosophical Society, the Association for Asian Studies, the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, the Vishveshvaranand Vedic Research Institute and the Kuppuswami Sastri Research Institute.

He is survived by his wife, Rosane.