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Guy Welbon

Associate Professor Emeritus

Religious Studies and South Asia Studies


Ph.D. (with distinction), The University of Chicago, 1963
A.M. Northwestern University, 1960
B.S.J. ("With Highest Distinction") Northwestern University, 1958



Guy Welbon is a historian of religions who specializes in the religious and cultural traditions of pre-modern South India and Southeast Asia.  As a graduate student, he studied under Mircea Eliade, J A B van Buitenen, U Pe Maung Tin, and Shoson Miyamoto.  He came to Penn in 1972 from the University of Minnesota, where he had been Chair of the Department of South Asian Languages and Literatures and Director of UM’s National Resource Center for South Asia.   At Penn, in addition to teaching, directing student research, and conducting his own research, he was Chair of the Department of South Asia [Regional] Studies and Director of the South Asia Center (1995-2002).  He also chaired the Department of Religious Studies (1984-89) and was Graduate Chair (2003-2005).  He was elected a Life Member of Clare Hall (University of Cambridge) in 1999.

After retiring in 2005, he served for two and a half years as President of the American Institute of Bangladesh Studies (2005-2007). He continues his research and writing on Hindu ritual practices in South India; and he is composing a biographical study of the purohita with whom he studied in Andhra Pradesh during the 1980s and 1990s.  And, returning to subjects that first engaged him at the beginning of his career, he is preparing material for a monograph on the earliest spread of Buddhism to South India, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia. 

Research Interests

  • Hindu and Buddhist ritual practices
  • The agama and South Indian ‘temple Hinduism’
  • History of SEAsia (especially Burma and Cambodia)
  • Pali Buddhist texts
  • Problems in intercultural hermeneutics