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Ferdinando SardellaAssociate Professor

About me

I completed my Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Gothenburg in 2010 about the life and thought of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, a modern Hindu revivalist and founder in 1918 in Calcutta of what became known as the Gaudiya Math and Mission. The monograph received the Donner Institute Prize at Åbo Akademi University in Finland and was published by Oxford University Press. I completed a postdoctoral program at Uppsala University (2011-2014) and I am a research fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. My field of research includes Hinduism, South Asian Studies, Bengal Studies, yoga, New Religious Movements and the History and Sociology of Religion. I have conducted field work in India for a total period of two years and I am associated with the Centre for the Study of Society and Religion at Jadavpur University, Kolkata.


I work at present with a mapping of Hinduism in Europe with Prof. Knut Jacobsen from the University of Bergen. Together we organised an international conference in April 2017 called "Hinduism in Europe". This research resulted in two edited volumes with contributions from researchers from several countries in Europe, which is published by Brill in the series Handbook of Hinduism in Europe (2020). I also worked on another edited volume with Lucian Wong from the University of Oxford with the title The Legacy of Vaishnavism in Colonial Bengal, which is published in the Routledge Hindu Studies Series (2020). 


A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • Handbook of Hinduism in Europe  (2 vol.)

    2020. .

    Book (ed)

    Handbook of Hinduism in Europe portrays and analyses how Hindu traditions have expanded across the continent, and presents the main Hindu communities, religious groups, forms, practices and teachings. The Handbook does this in two parts, Part One covers historical and thematic topics which are of importance for understanding Hinduism in Europe as a whole and Part Two has chapters on Hindu traditions in every country in Europe. Hindu traditions have a long history of interaction with Europe, but the developments during the last fifty years represent a new phase. Globalization and increased ease of communication have led to the presence of a great plurality of Hindu traditions. Hinduism has become one of the major religions in Europe and is present in every country of the continent.

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  • Hindu Umbrella Organisations in Europe

    2020. Ferdinando Sardella. Handbook of Hinduism in Europe, 687-710


    During the twentieth century, various unsuccessful attempts were made by certain European Hindu communities to organise forums and umbrella organisations at the national level. That changed in the first decades of the twenty-first century when several such organisations were formally registered, thus providing their communities with a platform for political, social, and cultural interaction and exchange. This chapter focuses on the twelve national umbrella organisations that are members of the Hindu Forum of Europe (HFE) and the challenges they face when interacting with Europe’s secular states, which have been challenged by the growing diversity of their national religious landscapes

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  • Hinduism in Sweden

    2020. Ferdinando Sardella. Handbook of Hinduism in Europe, Vol. 2, 1466-1485


    Sweden’s encounter with Hindu traditions began with the first Swedish Indologists, who translated a number of Indic texts from German or English into the Swedish tongue. Not long thereafter, Swedish language-studies scholars began making their own translations directly from the Sanskrit, and eventually Hinduism itself arrived at Sweden’s shores with the first wave of migrants from South Asia. Today, Hinduism in Sweden is represented by a variety of communities, which can be distinguished according to their unique ethnic, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds. Its presence and cultural impact is made known through a diversity of Hindu temples and organisations, annual festivals such as Rathayātrā and Dīvālī, newly established guru movements, Western converts, and the widespread practice of yoga. Despite certain ongoing challenges, Hindus appear to be well-integrated members of Swedish society who actively participate in all aspects of Swedish culture. Umbrella organisations have been created for the purpose of cooperation and representation as well as for preserving Hindu identity among diaspora communities. One of the primary challenges facing members of the Hindu diaspora concerns the transmission of their various religious traditions to future generations.

    Read more about Hinduism in Sweden
  • The Legacy of Vaisnavism in Colonial Bengal

    2020. .

    Book (ed)

    Bringing together scholars from across the disciplines of social and intellectual history, philology, theology, and anthropology to systematically investigate Vaiṣṇavism in colonial Bengal, this book highlights the significant roles—religious, social, and cultural—that a prominent Hindu devotional current played in the lives of wide and diverse sections of colonial Bengali society. Not only does the book thereby enrich our understanding of the history and development of Bengali Vaiṣṇavism, but it also sheds valuable new light on the texture and dynamics of colonial Hinduism beyond the discursive and social-historical parameters of an entrenched Hindu "Renaissance" paradigm. A landmark in the burgeoning field of Bengali Vaiṣṇava studies, this book will be of interest to scholars of modern Hinduism, religion, and colonial South Asian social and intellectual history.

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  • Vaishnavism in Colonial Bengal: beyond the Hindu Renaissance

    2019. Ferdinando Sardella. The Legacy of Vaisnavism in Colonial Bengal, 1-14


    It is customary to conceive of the manifold Vaiṣṇava trajectories and modalities that find their source of inspiration in Viṣṇu or one of his numerous alternate identities—most commonly, Rāma or Kṛṣṇa—as broadly constituting a cohesive “religious current”. Indeed, the term “Vaiṣṇava” is suggestive of an “overarching” religion. Such an understanding is justified not least by the broad continuity of conceptions of the divine and the somewhat congruent textual and ritual foundations exhibited by the various Vaiṣṇava traditions across several centuries and South Asian regions. It is nevertheless essential to bear in mind that such a unitary construal of Vaiṣṇavism, even if at times articulated in indigenous sources, can only ever be an “ideal view”, one that in reality corresponds to the “aggregation of a multitude of varied traditions”. Any critical approach to Vaiṣṇavism cannot therefore fail to attend to the specificities concomitant with a given Vaiṣṇava expression’s geographical and temporal context. The present introduction discusses the book, which proffers a focused examination of Vaiṣṇavism in one such context. 

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  • Bengali Vaishnavism in Court

    2020. Ferdinando Sardella. Journal of Hindu Studies 13 (1), 54-70


    The events that are the focus of the present investigation relate to a schism within the Gaudiya Math and Mission, a modern traditionalist Hindu religious institution dedicated to the revival of Chaitanya Vaishnava bhakti that was set in motion in 1918 in Mayapur, West Bengal, by the Bengali Vaishnava intellectual Swami Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati (1874-1937). By the time of Bhaktisiddhanta's passing in 1937, the Gaudiya Math and Mission had grown to be a dynamic and influential institution. Bhaktisiddhanta's departure had nevertheless exposed palpable tensions within his fledgling movement that assumed the form of a dramatic crisis of succession that engulfed the institution soon after his passing. This article examines in some detail the first three months of the initial court case that ensued after Bhaktisiddhanta's passing. The material to be examined herein has been acquired from the archives of the Calcutta High Court. These legal documents offer a unique glimpse into the complex inner dy namics of this modern Gaudiya Vaishnava schismatic conflict.

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  • Walther Eidlitz's Embrace of Chaitanya Vaishnavism

    2020. Ferdinando Sardella. Journal of Vaishnava Studies 29 (1), 105-116


    Using the autobiography Journey to Unknown India (1998, reprint) as a primary source, this article briefly explores the conversion experience of Walther Eidlitz, who travelled to India in 1938 in search of spiritual meaning and who eventually came to embrace Gaudiya Vaishnavism while interned by the British during the Second World War. The concluding section addresses Eidlitz’s perspective on the matter of conversion, which downplays the necessity of external social and cultural change while emphasizing the practice of Bhakti-yoga and the study of sacred texts.

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