Koenraad Elst

Koenraad Elst
Born (1959-08-07) 7 August 1959
Leuven, Belgium
Residence Mortsel, Belgium
Education Doctor of Philosophy
Alma mater Benares Hindu University
Occupation Writer
Website http://koenraadelst.blogspot.ch/

Koenraad Elst (born 7 August 1959) is a Belgian orientalist and Indologist known for his writings on comparative religion, Hindu-Muslim relations and Indian history.[1]


Elst was born to a Flemish Catholic family. Some of his family members were Christian missionaries.[2] He graduated in Indology, Sinology and Philosophy at the Catholic University of Leuven. Around that time, Elst became interested in Flemish nationalism.[3] Between 1988 and 1992, Elst was at the Banaras Hindu University. In 1999, he received a Ph.D. from the Catholic University of Leuven. His doctoral dissertation on Hindu revivalism was published as Decolonizing the Hindu Mind.[3]

Elst, known for his support for the Out of India theory related to Indo-Aryan migration, has also written about multiculturalism, language policy issues, ancient Chinese philosophy and history, and comparative religion.[4] Elst became identified with Hindutva politics during the 1990s, following his support for the Bharatiya Janata Party's position on the Ram Janmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya and in parallel with the BJP's rise to prominence on the national stage.

Indigenous Aryan theories and support for Hindu revivalism

In two books, Update on the Aryan Invasion Debate (1999) and Asterisk in Bhāropīyasthān (2007), Elst has written in support of Out of India, a fringe theory that argues against the academically accepted view that Indo-Aryan migrations into India in the second millennium BCE brought a proto-Indo-European language with them. Elst argues that the migration went the other way and that Aryans indigenous to India migrated out of India, taking Indo-European languages to the middle east and Europe. Elst is one of the few supporters of that theory who uses paleolinguistics in support of the Out of India theory.[5] The Out of India theory is considered to be an extreme view of the origin of the Indo-European family of languages and Elst is thought to be one of its leading proponents.[5][6]

According to Elst, the linguistic data are a soft type of evidence and are compatible with a variety of scenarios, and the dominant linguistic theories turn out to be compatible with an out-of-India scenario for Indo-European expansion. He notes that the substratum data are not in conflict with an Indo-European homeland in India.[7]

Elst is known to be sympathetic to Hindutva, a Hindu nationalist movement.[8] In Ram Janmabhoomi vs Babri Masjid, Elst makes the case for an enduring historical tradition associating the Ram Janmabhoomi site with the birthplace of Rama, the Hindu god/king.[9] The book, which was published by Voice of India, a publication house devoted to furthering the Hindu cause,[3][10] brought attention and praise for Elst from L. K. Advani, the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party.[11]


Elst's work has drawn both praise and criticism. David Frawley called his work on Ayodhya "definitive",[12] K. D. Sethna regarded it as "absolutely the last word".[13] Paul Beliën described him as "one of Belgium's best orientalists",[14] while the anthropologist Thomas Blom Hansen described Elst as a "Belgian Catholic of a radical anti-Muslim persuasion who tries to make himself useful as a 'fellow traveller' of the Hindu nationalist movement",[15] while the historian Sarvepalli Gopal called Elst "a Catholic practitioner of polemics" who "fights the Crusades all over again on Indian soil".[16] The social theorist Ashis Nandy criticized the alleged dishonesty and moral vacuity of Elst.[17]



(Sorted chronologically)

In Dutch


  1. Pipes, Daniel. The Rushdie Affair: The Novel, the Ayatollah, and the West. Transaction Publishers. p. 305.
  2. "The Problem of Christian Missionaries". bharatvani.org. Retrieved 11 December 2010.
  3. 1 2 3 Nanda, Meera (11 July 2009). "Hindu Triumphalism and the Clash of Civilisations". Economic and Political Weekly. 44 (28): 106–114. JSTOR 40279263.
  4. "Koenraad Elst _ The Brussels Journal".
  5. 1 2 Bryant, Edwin (2001). The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture:The Indo-Aryan Migration Debate. New York: Oxford University Press.
  6. Humes, Cynthia Ann (2012). "Hindutva, Mythistory, and Pseudoarchaeology". Numen. International Review for the History of Religions. 59: 178–201. doi:10.1163/156852712x630770. JSTOR 23244958.
  7. Bryant, Edwin. The Indo-Aryan Controversy. 234
  8. Guha, Sudeshna (May 2005). "Negotiating Evidence: History, Archaeology and the Indus Civilisation". Modern Asian Studies. Cambridge University Press. 39 (2): 399–426. doi:10.1017/s0026749x04001611. JSTOR 3876625.
  9. Sethi, Harish (26 January 1991). "Justifying Hindu Hurt.Ram Janmabhoomi vs Babri Masjid by Koenraad Elst. Review". Economic and Political Weekly. 26 (4): 167–168. JSTOR 4397247.
  10. Sikand, Yogesh (Spring 2002). "Hinduism and Secularism After Ayodhya by Arvind Sharma: A Review". Islamic Studies. 41 (1): 166–169. JSTOR 20837185.
  11. Sita Ram Goel, How I became a Hindu. ch.9
  12. Frawley, David (2000). How I Became a Hindu: My Discovery of Vedic Dharma. Voice of India. p. 96. ISBN 9788185990606.
  13. Mother India: Monthly Review of Culture, Volume 58. page 521
  14. Is Islam Dying? Europe Certainly Is
  15. Hansen, Thomas. "The Saffron Wave". p. 262.
  16. Gopal, S., Anatomy of a Confrontation: Ayodhya and the Rise of Communal Politics in India, Palgrave Macmillan, 1993, p.21.
  17. Nandy, A. "Creating a Nationality". p. 5.

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