- Danielou, Alain
- (1907–1994)scholar of Hindu music and literatureAlain Danielou was an accomplished musician and artist who developed an intense interest in Hindu music and literature. He won a respected status in the West for classical Indian music; he also wrote many popular books that expound Hinduism and Indian culture.Danielou was born on October 4, 1907, at Neuilly-sur-Seine near Paris, France. As the son of an aristocratic family, he spent much of his time in the country being educated by tutors. He occupied his time in the library, learning piano and paint-ing. Danielou’s mother was a devoted Catholic, who founded a religious order; his father was an anticlerical politician. Danielou’s artistic abilities took him to the United States, where he attended school in Annapolis, sold paintings at exhibits, and played piano at movie theaters. When he returned to France he continued to study music under Charles Panzera and Max d’Olonne.In 1932 Danielou began to travel extensively throughout North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia with the Swiss photographer Raymond Burnier. While in India he became fascinated with its tra-ditional culture. He became acquainted with the poet Rabindranath TAGORE, who employed him as director of the school of music in Shantiniketan, Tagore’s university. Danielou later moved to BENARES (Varanasi) and met the Indian music master Shiven-dranath Basu. He remained in India for the next 30 years. During that time he learned both Hindi and SANSKRIT. He was introduced to Swami Karpatri and translated some of his works. Swami Karpatri later initiated Danielou into Shaivite Hinduism (see SHAIVISM) and gave him the name Shiva Sharan. He continued a dialogue over the years with René Gué-non, scholar of Sufism and ADVAITA VEDANTA, on the philosophy of Hinduism. In 1954, he left Benares to become director of the Adyar Library of Sanskrit Manuscripts in Madras (Chennai).Danielou became sympathetic to the Indian independence movement. After India won its inde-pendence from Britain, he returned to Europe in 1963 and devoted himself to the mission of pre-senting a true understanding of Hinduism to the West. He founded the Intercultural Institute of Comparative Music Studies in Berlin and Venice, which he led for decades. Through this institute he organized concerts featuring Asian musicians and began recording traditional Indian music through an arrangement with UNESCO. Danielou is cred-ited with raising the status of Indian classical music in the West to that of a recognized art form.Danielou is best known for his scholarship on Hindu culture. He authored over 30 books on topics ranging from music to religion. In 1971, he published a Brief History of India, which has since been translated and republished in 12 different countries. His works on religion have signifi-cantly shaped the conversation on the relationship between ancient Western culture and Hinduism. In Gods of Love and Ecstasy: The Traditions of Shiva and Dionysus, Danielou illustrates the similarities in rites and beliefs between ancient Greek religion and Shaivism. He claims further that the loss of such rites has left humanity in the West alienated from nature and the divine.Danielou’s books continue to be a source of great influence to those exploring Hindu culture. His works, written in French, have been translated into eight different languages, including English, Italian, and Spanish. He has also written piano arrangements to songs by Rabindranath Tagore.In his later years, Danielou continued inter-preting the music and philosophy of India to the West. In 1981 he received the UNESCO/CIM prize for music and in 1987 the Kathmandu medal. In 1992 he was appointed member of the Indian National Academy of Music, Dance and Theater. He died on January 27, 1994.Further reading: Alain Danielou, A Brief History of India (Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 2003); ———, A Cat-alogue of Recorded Classical and Traditional Indian Music (Paris: UNESCO, 1952); ———, Gods of Love and Ecstasy: The Traditions of Shiva and Dionysus (Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 1992); ———, The Myths and Gods of India (Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 1985); ———, The way to the Labyrinth: Memories of East and West (New York: New Directions, 1987); ———, While the Gods Play: Shaiva Oracles and Predictions on the Cycles of History and the Destiny of Mankind (Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 1987).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.