This course will focus in some depth on a particular aspect of religion in India—for example, a particular religion, sect, time period, body of literature, type of religion, or reli-gious movement. The topic will change with each offering, and students may take the course more than once. Sample topics include: “Gods, Demons, and Monkeys: The Ramayana Epic of India,” “Women In Indian Religions,” and “Modern Hinduism.” Open to all classes. Dist: TMV; WCult: NW.
40.01 Gods, Demons, and Monkeys: The Ramayana Epic of India
The ancient Indian epic known as the Ramayana is a stirring, martial tale of gods, demons, and monkeys. Beginning with the classical Sanskrit version composed as early as 200 B.C.E., India has produced hundreds of different versions of the Ramayana, in different languages and media, with different agendas and for different audiences. We will examine this epic tradition in all of its complexity, making ample use of different forms of media. Open to all classes. Dist: TMV; WCult: NW.
40.02 Visual Cultures of Tibet and the Himalaya (Identical to AMES 35)
How are traditions represented and re-interpreted in the making of cultural and national identity? This course draws from religious studies, art history, and anthropology to study how Tibetan and Himalayan identities are made and negotiated through art, Buddhist ritual objects and performances, temples, museums, and cities. Our case studies will extend from Tibet to Bhutan, Mustang, Tibetan exile communities in India and Nepal, and the circulation of Tibetan objects around America and worldwide. Open to all classes. Dist: TMV; WCult: NW.
40.03. Lives of the Saints
In this course we will explore how moral values in South Asia are exemplified, challenged, and embodied through the lives of saintly figures both ancient and modern. Relying on primary texts from Hindu, Jain and Buddhist traditions of India, Nepal, and Tibet, we will discuss themes including karma, devotion, moral ambiguity, gender, and the making of selves through narrative. Open to all classes. Dist: TMV; WCult: NW.
40.04. Hindu Hierarchies: Caste in Theory and Practice (Identical to AMES 36)
This course will investigate two aspects of India’s “peculiar institution”: caste hierarchy as lived in historical and present-day Hindu communities; and discourses of caste as conceived, justified, and reformed within Hindu thought. We will situate the classical Brahmanical formulation of orthodox caste dharma against alternatives advanced by subaltern voices, exponents of Bhakti devotionalism, and modern critics including Gandhi and Ambedkar. Models of caste influential in the social science literature will also receive critical attention. Open to all classes. Dist: TMV; WCult: NW.
40.05. God's Fools: Saints, Music, and Mysticism in South Asia (Identical to AMES 42.09)
Charismatic teachers - Hindu and Sikh gurus and Muslim pirs - have long been prominent as interlocutors between religious communities in South Asia. This course will examine how this cross-pollination produced a mutual flowering in the early modern period. Hindu devotionalism and Islamic mysticism - Bhakti and Sufism - developed kindred concepts and attitudes, including a complementary mistrust of institutional authorities, a fondness for rhetorical paradox, and an emphasis on eroticism and mystical ecstasy. Open to all classes. Dist: TMV; WCult: NW.
40.06 Food and Religion in South Asia: The Raw, the Cooked, and the Leftovers
Food—what people consume, share, offer their gods, and cast off—commands intense attention in South Asian religions. It’s one way Hindus define themselves in relation to others (including other Hindus). It’s coded with values like purity and pollution, subtlety and grossness. And it embodies histories, not only of migration, trade, and colonialism but also of ethicized actions—karmas. In India, “you are what you eat” has been a truism for thousands of years. Dist: TMV; WCult: NW.