ROTH, Heinrich

ROTH, Heinrich. Dillingen 18.12.1610 — Agra 20.6.1668. S.J. German Missionary and Precursor of Indology. Son of Konrad Roth, a lawyer, grew up in Augsburg. Studies at Dillingen and Innsbruck Jesuit College. Joined S.J. in 1639, in 1641-45 taught at Munich, then studied theology at Dillingen and Ingolstadt. Ordained priest in 1649 and left for India, travelling on land way via Turkey and Persia to Goa (arrived 1652). After some further travelling he settled in Agra in 1653 and 1659 became the principal of the Jesuit Collegium there. In 1662 left together with Grueber to Rome (arrived 1664) in order to obtain new missionaries, met there the fellow-Jesuit A. Kircher and gave him material on Indian languages and religion. Then visited Germany and lectured on Mughal Empire. Sent back to India, he arrived at Agra in 1666. He was supposed to set up a mission in Nepal, but died before going there.

HR knew Persian, Kannaḍa, Hindustani and Sanskrit. According to Kircher (p. 162), he had learnt Sanskrit during six years “per quendam Brachmanem summa benevolentia sibi devinctum et jam ad Christi fidem suscipiendam inclinatum.” His table of Devanāgarī alphabet published by Kircher (p. 162f.) was one of the first ever published. Unlike other early works, it kept the phonetic order devised by Indian grammarians. These five plates, entitled “Elementa Linguae Hanscret”, contain the alphabet with vowel combinations and some ligatures, and as an example the Pater Noster in Latin (!). On pp. 157-162 is “Decem fabulosae Incarnationes Dei”, an illustrated account of the ten Avatāras. He also wrote a Sanskrit grammar (1660), the manuscript of which was kept in Rome.

Publications: contributions in —> A. Kircher’s China monumentis … illustrata. Amsterdam 1664.

Relatio rerum notabilium Regni Mogor in Asia. Straubing 1665, also Aschaffenburg 1668.

Grammatica Linguae Sanscretanae Brachmanum Indiae Orientalis: ed. as The Sanskrit Grammar and Manuscripts of Father Heinrich Roth, S.J. (1620–1668). With an introduction by A. Camps and J.-C. Muller. 25 p. 158 facs. pl. Ld. 1988.

a manuscript travel account in Rome; letters.

Sources: *R. Hauschild, Der Missionar P.H.R. aus Dillingen und die erste europäische Sanskrit-Grammatik. 23 p. SSAW 115:6. B. 1972; *C. Vogel, “Qua ratione saeculo XVII Henricus Roth linguam Hindustanicam litteris latinis scripserit”, StII 13-14, 19??, 311-320; *C. Vogel, “An old letter from Surat by German Jesuit H.R. (1620–1668)”, ABORI 68, 1987, 609-619; *Vogel, N.D.B. 22, 2005, 106f.; Zachariae, WZKM 15, 1901, 313-320; Briefly D.B.E. 8, 1998, 412; Wikipedia with further references.

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