The Mahābhārata is a complex literary and aesthetic work, spanning 18 major books filled with narrative action and contemplation. In addition to being an important source book of Indic culture—having influenced sculpture, painting, music, literature, drama and dance all over Asia—the philosophical and narrative arc of the Mahābhārata presents a sophisticated and thorough analysis of the human condition. This certificate program systematically covers the text of the Sanskrit epic in translation. Designed for individuals seeking a deeper knowledge of Indic tradition, it provides a bridge between an everyday cultural knowledge of characters and events in the epic and a learned appreciation of the text’s literary and philosophical project. Ritual, iconographic, literary and art-historical insights complement the philosophical appreciation of the epic. The goal is to lead the student on a voyage of discovery not only through one of the classics of world civilization, but also through the literary structure and profound philosophical rigor of the epic, to provide pluralistic avenues for cultural and self-discovery.
The Mahābhārata certificate program embraces the ideal of global humanities which are distinctive not only for the breadth of their curriculum but also challenge nineteenth-century Eurocentric notions of “canon.” They seek to understand world cultures as living, mature, and continuing traditions on their own terms. Thus, we shall read the texts of the Indic tradition from literary, theological, and philosophical perspectives, rather than the privileged ethnological or historical mode, which has served to objectify and dehumanize the non-Western and non-Christian world.
The Mahābhārata certificate program can be taken as a stand-alone certificate program. Credits earned as part of this program can also be counted towards the MA and Ph.D. Program in Hindu Studies offered at the Hindu University of America for students who wish to continue on to this program.
Structure of the Program
The certificate program consists of six quarter-semester courses, which cover the main divisions of the epic. Each course will address philosophy, historical and textual issues, and the epic’s contemporary influence. Courses may be taken in any order, but Mahābhārata I must be taken first as it is a prerequisite for all other courses.
Audience for the Program
This course presumes no prior knowledge of the epic, though cultural familiarity with basic ideas of Hinduism is beneficial. The certificate program is designed for everyone—undergraduate and graduate students, continuing education candidates, and professionals in fields such as science, technology, or the humanities. The course will introduce students to academic scholarship on the epic and the problems with this scholarship. However, its aim is not “research,” but understanding and philosophical insight. Thus, we shall primarily be interested in questions of methods, narrative, ethics, ecology, and the preservation of traditional wisdom; and explore how and whether this can contribute to improving human life here and now. Special attention will be devoted to the messages of self-cultivation of the individual and service to the community found not only in the Mahābhārata’s Bhagavadgītā but also throughout the remainder of the epic.