Critical issues in Hindu Studies

The European colonization of India was justified by the construction of a particular narrative, beginning in the nineteenth century centered on the “White Man’s Burden” of civilizing India and the Hindus. “Scholars” hired by the East India Company and European missionaries, sometimes in tandem and at others in isolation, created a certain narrative on the Hindus and India in order to justify their colonial rule and missionary activities respectively. With the growing influence of the Europeans over Indians, the narrative became a massive industry with more and more scholars joining the force adding more nuance and sophistication to the discourse. This narrative has acquired a life of its own and today can be considered as the “received knowledge” on India and Hindus. Whether this narrative squares with the self-understanding of pre-colonial Hindus is a matter which we will examine in subsequent courses; however in the current one, we will first educate ourselves with the various descriptors that the Europeans used to define the Hindus, critically examining the various agendas–which the fathers of the narrative were quite explicit about–behind such scholarship. The aforementioned scholarship in many different ways informs the self-understanding of educated Hindus today, and if the current Hindus want to connect with the worldview of their ancestors as they move forward in time, it is important for them to become familiar with this European narrative and also with the motivations that shaped the discourse, to begin with. This discourse is a distortion and in order to correct it, it is important to become familiar with its nuances.

In this course, the student will 

  1. study in detail the writings of some of the early European Indologists like James Mill and Abbe Dubois in order to understand their characterization of Hinduism and Hindus as oppressive and hierarchical;
  2. understand the explicit motivations due to which such characterizations were made;
  3. be able to see clearly that such characterizations have become “received knowledge” on Hinduism and Hindus, which gets replicated and reproduced in mainstream academia from grade school to graduate studies whereas the motivations for creating such a construct have been made invisible;
  4. be able to see the basis of Academic Hinduphobia that exists in the mainstream today; 
  5. gradually begin developing the skills required to effectively counter the distorted narrative in academia and media.

Area of Study: Hindu Studies Foundations

Required/ Elective: Required

Prerequisites: Admission into a Program of Study

Instructor: Dr. Kundan Singh

Day: Saturday

Quarter: Spring 2020

German Indology

Students will gain a historical overview of German Indology from its origins to the present. They will read basic source texts for German attitudes towards ancient and modern India, especially the Vedic period, Brahmanism, and Hinduism. They will learn how German nationalism, theories of racial supremacy, the quest for Aryan identity, and Protestantism and Lutheran anti-Semitism shaped the discipline of Indology. German Indology’s role in fostering National Socialism and the treatment of Jewish Indologists will also be discussed. Students will also be expected to read and analyze excerpts from Rammohan Roy, Dayanand Saraswati, Tilak, and Ambedkar in light of their knowledge of Indology.

Areas of Study: History and Methods

Required/ Elective: Elective

Prerequisites: Admission into a Program of Study

Instructor: Dr. Joydeep Bagchee

Hindu Conflict Resolution

This course examines the elements of Hindu thought that deal with conflict resolution. Starting from the ancient period to the present, various Hindu scriptures and thinkers have pondered over conflicts at various levels and explored paths for peace. Starting from the Śānti Parva of Mahābhārata to the writings of the 20th-century Indian thinkers, various useful elements can be found in the Hindu thought reflecting on various conflicts in human society and their solutions.  The course will bring to the learners a broader understanding of the  Hindu thought and its problem-solving aspects, and their relevance for the contemporary world. Hindu thought is rich in providing various paths to realize peace. For instance, while for Kautilya, a strong state is a necessary pillar for peace, Swāmi Vivekānanda emphasized universal acceptance and toleration as two core elements for sustainable peace. The course while introducing students the core elements of the Hindu thought that focus on conflict and peace, explores their conflict resolution potentials. It also aims to encourage students to explore a complex and interesting subject in their own way while drawing on the Hindu scriptures and philosophers.

In this course the students will be able to:

  1. Gain a broader understanding of Hindu thought and its problem-solving aspects.
  2. View contemporary conflicts from a Hindu conflict resolution lens and explore the relevance of Hindu perspective for the contemporary world. 
  3. Examine a contemporary conflict while drawing on the Hindu conflict resolution theories and practices.

Area of Study: Conflict and Peace Studies

Required/Elective: Elective

Prerequisites: Admission into a Program of Study

Instructor: Dr. Debidatta. A. Mahapatra

Quarter: Spring Quarter


Orientation to Hindu Studies

An overview and insight into the design of the curriculum offered by the Hindu University of America. A survey of the central ideas of Hinduism – covering an Ontology of key Sanskrit terms and the principal ideas that are central to the cosmology, practice, and expressions of Sanatana Dharma. The course will include reflections and perspectives on these core concepts, using selected readings from source texts such as the Vedas, Upaniṣhads, Sutras, Itihaasa, Bhagavad-Gītā, Purāṇas and Dharma-Śhāstras. The Hindu world-view based on Dharma with its emphasis on duties and responsibilities and sustainability of life will be contrasted with contemporary ideologies and their focus on rights and privileges, competition and survival of the fittest. The distinction between a discourse of knowledge and a discourse of power will be drawn out. 

In this course students will be able to: 

  1. Explore various options and trajectories available within the Hindu Studies Program
  2. Distinguish the central ideas and concepts that constitute the Foundations of Hindu Dharma; Reflect on the Hindu Studies Foundations area
  3. Inquire into and evaluate different elective areas of study and Courses offered: Sanskrit Studies, Texts and Traditions, History and Method, Post-Colonial Hindu studies and Conflict and Peace studies.
  4. Distinguish between pathways towards a deep study of Hindu thought, or towards deep engagement with western thought from a Hindu perspective
  5. Discover and Create customized pathways for engagement with the Hindu Studies curricula

Area of Study: Hindu Studies Foundations

Prerequisites: None

Faculty / Instructor:  Kalyan Viswanathan (along with others) 

This course is a recommended prerequisite for all students who wish to enter into the Graduate program.

Day:- Thursday

Start Date:- 9 January 2020

End Date:- 19 March 2020

Time:- 9-10pm EST

The Mahābhārata II

Thorough knowledge of the extent and divisions of the Mahābhārata; its different editions; and reading and working with its critical edition. This course will also prepare students to read the Mahābhārata thoughtfully, using the tools of philosophy, logical inquiry, hermeneutics, and poetic theory. Students will learn to locate the Mahābhārata within a textual tradition extending backwards into the Vedic Saṃhitās and forward into the Purāṇas and Āgamas. They will also develop an appreciation for why, even today, this text continues to be foundational for the living tradition of Hinduism.

Areas of Study: Text and Traditions

Required/ Elective: Elective

Prerequisites: Admission into a Program of Study

Instructor: Dr. Vishwa Adluri

Quarter:- Spring


Your Cart