Dr. Aditya Behl ’88, a highly regarded scholar of South Asian literature, died
of internal bleeding on August 22, 2009, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
He was born on December 16, 1966, in Jabalpur, India, and prepared for college at the Doon School in Dehradn, India. At Bowdoin, he was awarded the Forbes Rickard Jr. Poetry Prize by the department of English, the Nathan Goold Prize by the department of classics and the Dorothy Hay- thorn Collins Award for scholarship in his major as a junior. He was a James Bowdoin Scholar, and graduated summa cum laude with highest honors in classics. He was a member of Alpha Rho Upsilon fraternity. He earned a master’s degree in religious studies in 1989 and his doctorate in the history of religion in 1995, both at the University of Chicago. He taught in the department of South and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, until 2001, when he accepted a position as a visiting professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He was appointed an associate professor in 2002. He was devoted to building the field of study as a teacher of Urdu and Hindi literature and the medieval cultural history of South Asia, as a mentor of graduate students and as the undergraduate chair, graduate chair and three years as department chair. His academic focus was on the Indo-Muslim literature and culture of South Asia, particularly Sufi romances, but his scholarship ranged broadly across the history, religion and literatures of the subcontinent and the fields of literary theory and religious studies. He published a translation, with Simon Weightman, of Madhumalati: An Indian Sufi Romance in 2000, and in 2009 had completed a translation of the “Mrgavati” and large parts of a study on Sufi romances to be called Hindavi Sufi Romances, Shadows of Paradise: An Indian Islamic Literary Tradition. Weeks of his death, he wrote a major review essay on Sanskrit literature, “Sanskrit’s Hidden Gold,” which was featured on the cover of the Times Literary Supplement. He was known for his work in Persian and Urdu but also worked in Sanskrit, French, Greek and Hindi. He is survived by his parents, Colonel and Mrs. Sushilk Behl; and a sister, Aradhna Behl.