Already in the early years of the University lectures were held on Sanskrit language and literature, as well as Indian intellectual history. These were given initially by Bernhard Hirzel (1807-1847), who taught Oriental languages in Zurich and had been a student of Franz Bobb (the founder of comparative linguistics). From 1856 Sanskrit was taught at the newly created Chair of Comparative Linguistic Research. Research and teaching in the area of old Indian languages at the University of Zurich thus became part of Indo-Germanics, viz. of comparative linguistics.
Indian Studies was established as a discipline in its own right, directed towards research into the languages and cultures of India, only in 1967, initially through an assistant professorship and then, from 1989, through the founding of a Chair. At its beginnings, Indian Studies in Zurich was shaped by Emil Abegg and Paul Horsch. Emil Abegg (1885-1962) gained his Habilitation in Indian philology in 1919 with a work on Indian notions of the afterlife. He represented Indian Studies initially as a Privatdozent and, from 1928- to 1955, as titular professor. His focus lay in the areas of the history of Indian religion and philosophy, with a regard to comparative questions. From 1959, Paul Horsch (1925-1971) worked initially as a Privatdozent and, from 1967, as Assistant Professor for Indian Studies. Horsch became known through various publications for his work in the areas of Vedic literature and the intellectual history of ancient India. His books on the ancient Indian Gāthā- und Śloka-Literature count amongst the foundational works on the relationship between Vedic and epic Sanskrit literature. The establishment of a Professorship of Indology for him was already planned, but was left unrealized due to his death in India. The establishment of the professorship was then suspended. Only in 1989 was the Chair of Indian Studies created and a department established at the Indo-Germanic Seminar. Following his appointment, Peter Schreiner directed the newly created department for Indian Studies and built up, amongst other things, an independent library for Indian Studies. Since 2009, Angelika Malinar has occupied the Chair of Indian Studies. She was involved in the founding of the Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies in 2013, through which Indian Studies obtained a new institutional tethering. Through the generous support of the Mercator Foundation, an Assistant Professorship with Tenure Track for Modern Indian Studies/South Asian Studies with a focus on Social Sciences could be established. In February 2016, Nicolas Martin was appointed to this professorship.
- Paul Horsch, „In memoriam Emil Abegg“, in Asiatische Studien 15, 1962, 81–85
- Wilhelm Rau, „In memoriam Paul Horsch“, in Asiatische Studien 26, 1972, 1-9