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/Postcolonial Hindu Studies

Required/ Elective: Required

Prerequisites: Admission into a Program of Study/ Must have completed Orientation to Hindu Studies or Concurrently enrolled in OTHS.

Instructor: Dr. Kundan Singh

Start Date: April 11, 2020

End Date: June 19, 2020

Day: Every Saturday

Time: 2:00 PM — 5:00 PM EST.

Quarter: Spring 2020

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: Successfully completed Mahabharata – I / Admission into Program of Study

Instructor: Dr. Vishwa Adluri

Quarter:- Spring 2020

Day: Every Thursday

Time: 10-1 pm EST

Start Date: 9 April 2020

End Date: 16 June 2020

The Vedas (Ṛgveda)

Course content:

The course provides an overview of the features, structure, and contents of the Ṛgveda as well as provides illustrations from the Saṁhitā, Brāhmaṇa, Āraṇyaka and Upaniṣad sections of the Ṛgveda to understand how they vary in their features and content from each other.

In this course students will be able to:

  1. Understand the arrangement of mantras in the Ṛgveda and an overview of their content
  2. Understand the Vedic worldview and its philosophy of life
  3. Recognize the variation and divergence of Vedic and classical Sanskrit language
  4. Distinguish the convergence and divergence in the nature, features, form, content, structure and utility of the four Vedas, with regards to Vedic practices.

Area of Study: Sanskrit Studies

Required / Elective: Required


1) The medium of Instruction is Sanskrit

2)Only currently enrolled Sanskrit master’s certificate students can register for these courses. (MIT-SVS)

3) Admission into Master Program in Sanskrit through MIT-SVS

4) Completed previous MA Sanskrit Course 

Faculty: Dr. Ramanujan

Quarter: Spring 2020

Start Date:-  March 3rd, 2020

End Date:-  April end, 2020

Day:- Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday

Time:- 8.00 pm to 9.30 pm EST

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