Prof. Lokesh Chandra was born in 1927 at Ambala in the Haryana state of India in an illustrious family of educationists. His father Prof. Raghu Vira, was a scholar and thinker of world renowned who made signal contributions to the understanding of Asian culture and to India’s linguistic development. Under his guidance, Prof Chandra studied Sanskrit, the Classical language of India and its derivatives Pali and Prakrits, besides Classical Greek, Latin, Chinese, Japanese, Avesta of the Parsis, Old Persian and other languages of cultural importance. In 1943 he helped his father in the translation of a “Chinese Dictionary of Indian Geographical Names” which was compiled in 517 AD from Chinese literature and accounts of travelers.
Prof. Chandra studied several Indian languages like Bengali, Uriya, Gujarati, Kannada, Tamil and Malayalam. During his university days he collaborated with his father in the scientific terminology for Indian languages in Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Botany, Zoology and their ramifications.
He earned Master’s Degree (M.A.) in 1947 from the Punjab University at Lahore. During 1948 and 1949 he critically edited the Gavamayana portion of the Vedic work Jaiminiya Brahmana with the help of newly discovered manuscripts. Prof. Chandra spared no labour and time to restore this text to its original purity. In recognition of these contributions he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Literature and Philosophy by the State University of Utrecht (Netherlands) in 1950.
In 1954, he completed a critical edition of the entire text of the Jaiminiya Brahmana. From 1955 to 1960 Prof. Lokesh Chandra prepared a “Tibetan-Sanskrit Dictionary” in 12+7 supplementary volumes which is the first comprehensive lexicographical effort to understand Tibetan literature and culture whose sway extended into the remotest inhabitations of Higher Asia.
Prof. Lokesh Chandra has edited several volumes of Tibetan historical texts including history of Samye, the first monastery of Tibet and study on 19 Mongolian polymaths, besides “The Golden Annals of Mongolia” by Tsawa Tamdin.
His three-volume “Materials for a History of Tibetan Literature” brings into view the vast dimensions of the intellectual life of the Land of Snows and the Mongolian steppes through the march of centuries.
Prof. Lokesh Chandra collaborated with his father Prof. Raghu Vira and completed the “New Tibeto-Mongol Pantheon” in 20 volumes providing a wealth of information on the unexplored aspects of the iconographic art of trans-Himalayan Asia as far as Siberian and Volga regions.
Starting with an understanding of the most ancient of India’s spiritual expression enshrined in the Vedic tradition, Prof. Lokesh Chandra has moved on to the interlocution between India, Tibet, Mongolia, China, Korea, Japan, South East Asia, and the Philippines. His edition of the 108 large volumes of the Mogolian Kanjur or Buddhist Canon was recognised as an outstanding achievement by Hungarian Academy of Sciences, which elected him an Honorary Member of the Academy. It is after a hundred years that an Indian has been honoured to be its Academician.
Prof. Lokesh Chandra’s interests also extend into the domain of natural sciences. He has edited the international research journal “Advancing Frontiers of Plant Sciences” (Vols.1-30) which includes original work on plant morphology and physiology, systematic botany, phytopathology, economic botany, plant cytology and genetics, horticulture, paleobotany and other domains of plant sciences.
Hon’ble President of India has appointed Prof. Lokesh Chandra as the President of Indian Council for Cultural Relations from 27th October, 2014. Prof. Chandra is the Honorary Director of the International Academy of Indian Culture, a premier research institution for Asian cultures. In the past,he has held several important positions including Chairman of Indian Council for Historical Research, Vice President of Indian Council for Cultural Relations. He has been Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) for two terms from 1974-80 and 1980-86.
In 2006 he was awarded ‘Padma Bhushan’, one of the most prestigious civilian honours, by the Government of India in recognition to his contributions to the academic life and public discourse.
He has to his credit 596 works and text editions. Among them are classics like Tibetan-Sanskrit Dictionary, Materials for a History of Tibetan Literature, Buddhist Iconography of Tibet, and his Dictionary of Buddhist Art in 15 volumes.
He has recently written Buddhism Across the Grasslands of Chinggis Khan on Indo-Mongolian relations, Lord Ṡiva and Buddha in the Golden Isles on Indonesia, and Cultural Interflow between India and Japan. At the moment he is writing on the cultural exchanges of the last two millenia between India and China. These volumes cover the researches of Chandra on the art and archaeology, literature and philosophy of the Buddhist cosmopolis.
Prof. Lokesh Chandra has travelled widely all over Europe, Asia, and Russia.