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Knowledge Traditions of the Indian Ocean World Workshop

Workshop
29 Nov 2018

 

 

Organised by Ashmolean Museum, Anneliese Maier Research Award, and Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies.

Evidence indicates that intellectual advances in many fields were the outcome of cross pollination of ideas resulting from travels across the Indian Ocean world. The interchange of ideas across societies and regions created the dynamism necessary for the emergence and sustenance of extensive civilizations and the movement of scholars and students. This workshop is a rediscovery of our Indian Ocean past and there seems no better way to undertake this than through retracing the ideas and the debates that were at the heart of the great intellectual enterprises of the maritime world of Asia. The conference also has a more contemporary agenda.

In the current phase of globalization and economic development it is commonly held that states and societies which have control of knowledge are economic frontrunners which hold out the promise of a better life for their citizens. While the mantle may have passed to the developed West for now, an understanding of the importance of learning and knowledge and its institutionalization in societies in Asia would provide insights for a revival of knowledge societies across this region. Existing evidence, both archaeological and textual, indicates the breadth of the intellectual discourse which ran through the Indian Ocean world.

Anthropological studies have shown the close interaction that maritime communities maintain with the sea and the extent to which their knowledge of the waters and seafaring knowledge are vital to their identity construction. How are histories of these mobile communities to be factored into an understanding of the history of the sea? Historically these communities, variously termed sea-gypsies or boat-people have travelled unhampered across the waters and claimed sovereignty through kinship ties. They have facilitated movement of commodities and have forged links with littoral states, but they are by no means homogenous.

Among the many forms of exchange which took place in the Indian Ocean Region the sailing vessels which were swept by the monsoon winds across this maritime domain also encouraged dialogue between communities of scholars, officials and religious clergy. The exchange of ideas and beliefs led to the development of new technologies and skills, as also the maturity and advance of intellectual traditions. This symposium aims to bring together scholars.

Speakers include Prof. Paul Lane (Cambridge), Prof. Ingo Strauch (Lausanne), Dr. Rebecca Darley (Birkbeck), Dr. Srinivas Reddy (Brown), Dr. Andrew Bauer (Stanford), Dr. Mathew A. Cobb (Wales), Ms. Nesrin El-Galy (Oxford), Dr. Anna M. Kotarba-Morley (Macquarie), Prof. Dionisius A. Agius (Exeter), Dr. Elizabeth Lambourn (De Montfort), Dr. Shailendra Bhandare (Ashmolean), Dr. Salila Kulshreshtha, Dr. Mamta Dwivedi (Freiburg), Dr. Vincent Tournier (EFEO), Ms. Sophia van Zyle Warshall (UCLA), and Dr. Veronica Walker Vadillo (Helsinki).

Registration for the workshop is required. To register, please email secretary@ochs.org.uk.

Śākta Traditions Symposium II: Welcome

Śākta Traditions Symposium II
Prof. Gavin Flood
1 Jun 2018

Hinduism cannot be understood without the Goddess (Devī/Śakti) and the goddess-oriented Śākta traditions. The Goddess pervades Hinduism at all levels, from aniconic village deities to high-caste pan-Hindu goddesses to esoteric, tantric goddesses. Nevertheless, these highly influential forms of South Asian religion have only recently begun to draw a more broad scholarly attention. Taken together, they form ‘Śāktism’, which is by many considered one of the major branches of Hinduism next to Śaivism and Vaiṣṇavism. Śāktism is, however, less clearly defined than the other major branches and sometimes surprisingly difficult to discern from Śaivism in its tantric forms. These sometimes very complex and challenging forms of Śākta religion provide a test case for our understanding of Hinduism and raise important theoretical and methodological questions with regard to the study of religious traditions in South Asia.

The Śākta symposia series at the OCHS include state-of-the-art contributions by a number of scholars to the Śākta Traditions research project (saktatraditions.org) and its endeavor in tracing developments in the history of goddess worship in South Asia among the orthoprax brahmans, among the tantric traditions and at village level. Thus, the symposia act as historical explorations of distinctive Indian and Nepalese ways of imagining God as Goddess (and goddesses) contributing to a survey of important origins and developments within Śākta history, practice and doctrine in its diversity as well as offering an insight into the fascinating Śākta religious imaginaire and ritual practice that is distinctive and sets ‘Śāktism’ apart from other forms of South Asian religion. The symposia will also include contributions on the reception history of Śākta and tantric elements in global religious history and diaspora Hinduism.

Programme

10.00-13.15 Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies (http://www.ochs.org.uk/)
13-15 Magdalen Street, Oxford, OX1 3AE (Tel: 01865 304300)

10.00-10.15 Welcome by Prof Gavin Flood (Oxford)

10.15-11.00 Dr Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen (Oxford): Mapping Śākta Traditions

11.00-11.15 Tea and biscuits

11.15-12.15 Prof Knut Jacobsen (Bergen): Tamil Śākta traditions in Europe

12.15-13.15 Astrid Zotter (Heidelberg): Durgā and the Kings of Nepal

13.15-15.00 Lunch

15.00-18.00 Campion Hall (http://www.campion.ox.ac.uk/)
Brewer St, Oxford, OX1 1QS

15.00-15.15 Campion Hall small tour with Professor Gavin Flood

15.15-16.15 Silvia Schwarz Linder (Leipzig): The Doctrinal Teachings of the Tripurārahasya

16.15-16.30 Tea and biscuits

16.30-17.30 Julian Strube (Heidelberg): Modern Śākta Identities in a Global Context

17.30-18.00 Jesper Moeslund (Aarhus): Philosophy as a Meta-language in Tantric Studies
 

Gobindadaser Karcha and the Public Life of a Contested Vaishnava text in Colonial Bengal

Lecture of the J.P. And Beena Khaitan Visiting Fellow
Dr. Santanu Dey
15 Feb 2018

In the age of transition from a manuscript to a print culture colonial Bengal witnessed curious interactions between the twin processes of publishing ‘newly discovered’ Vaishnava sacred biographies and the archiving of Bengali literary history. The nature and content of some of these texts were regarded controversial enough to be branded as ‘spurious’. Dwelling upon late 19th and early 20th century Bengali vernacular sources, in this talk I will try to examine the public debates over the acceptability of one such ‘spurious’ text titled Gobindadaser Kadcha purportedly written by Chaitanya’s servant/companion Govinda Das in the 16th century that was discovered and published in 1895. By pondering over the religio-literary and historical authenticity of the text and the nature of responses it elicited among contemporary literary historians and lay Vaishnava believers in colonial Bengal I intend to show how this search for texts profoundly affected the historicisation of Bengali Vaishnava traditions within the ambit of Bengali literature. Tangentially, Bengali Vaishnavas too, were forced to contend with the issue of ‘spurious’ literature and to historicise their own traditions accordingly.

Dr. Santanu Dey is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Ramakrishna Mission Vidyamandira (A residential autonomous College affiliated to the Calcutta University) located at Belur Math near Kolkata, India. He did his PhD on the topic ‘Resuscitating or Restructuring Tradition? Issues and trends among Gaudiya Vaishnavas in late Nineteenth and early Twentieth century Bengal’ from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. His areas of research interest include Vaishnava Studies, Religion and Colonial Modernity and literary history of Bengal.

Conceptual Nuances of ‘Reform’ and ‘Revival’: The Hindus of British India

Lecture of the Shivdasani Visiting Fellow
Prof. Amiya P. Sen
1 Feb 2018

‘Reform’ proved to be one of the defining features of Modern Hinduism. It suggested to Hindus what Hinduism might mean to them and what inputs it could possibly make into the formulation of the corporate Hindu identity. The first point to examine here is whether or not this term had a prehistory or, if as is commonly suggested today, this was a term manipulatively constructed in the colonial era, as allegedly were ‘Hindu’ and ‘Hinduism’. This paper tries to establish the argument that often, an idea or a practice is not known by a given name. Surely, the intention to reform in the sense of rationalising and humanising ideas or practices goes back a long time in south Asian history and yet, my researches reveal that there was no corresponding term in the major Indian vernaculars or for that matter, in Sanskrit, which captured the essential spirit or the meaning of the modern word ‘reform’. The contemporaries of Kabir, Nanak, and Chaitanya did not call them ‘reformers’ or identified their work as ‘reform’; such terms were peculiar to the modern era. Given this fact, this paper seeks to examine the ideological and historical compulsions that lay behind the articulation and use of such terms. This paper also argues that reform was a strongly contested term and ought to be studied in its various nuances that were determined by acute differences over understanding, intentions or strategy. 

Following Prof. Tapan Roychaudhuri’s critique of 1988, cultural historians have expressed reservations against the use of the term ‘revival’. Prof. Raychudhuri had suggested that that which was ‘far from dead’ (Hinduism) could not have been ‘revived’. My rejoinder to this has been that short of a miracle, it is only the dying that can be revived, not the dead. The literature of the Hindus in the 19th century is replete with references to a ‘dying’ Hinduism and to a culture in crisis and my point here is that in historical reconstruction, the perceptions of contemporary actors plays no less a part, even when removed from social and historical reality. Thus, though it has now been amply demonstrated that in 19th century India, the penchant for interpreting the contemporary cultural awakening as a ‘Renaissance’, or ‘Reformation’, analogous to European experiences (some of them even spoke of ‘Hindu Protestantism’) was quite misplaced, such analogies still need to be historically explained. This paper argues that the terms ‘reform’ and ‘revival’, far from being naive and unproblematic, bring out the problems of cultural self-definition within an indigenous discourse trying to contest the Orientalist one. Contrary also to what has sometimes been suggested, revivalism was not archaic, anachronistic, or a romantic return to the past. Careful selection went into the question of just what ought to be revived or could be revived at all. Given the ideological framework of the contemporary Hindu intelligentsia, the issue of revival was implicit in acts of reform and reform, implicit in attempts to bring about a revival. The revivalist, I feel, has indeed to be separated from the reactionary.

Prof. Amiya P. Sen is by training a historian with special interest in the intellectual and cultural history of colonial India. Prof Sen took his undergraduate and graduate degrees in history from St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi and thereafter went on to do research under Prof. Sumit Sarkar, again at the University of Delhi. After a brief career in the civil services, he served the Universities of Delhi and Visva Bharati (as Tagore Professor at Rabindra Bhavan) and is currently professor of modern Indian history at the Department of History & Culture at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. Prof. Sen was Agatha Harrison Fellow at the University of Oxford, Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, and at the Centre for Contemporary Studies, Nehru Memorial Museum & Library, New Delhi, and held the Zimmer Chair, South Asia Institute, Heidelberg. To date, Prof. Sen has produced 12 books, mostly published by Oxford University Press, Delhi, Penguin Viking and Permanent Black. A complete list of his books and articles is available in the Wikipedia entry for ‘Amiya Prosad Sen’ 

Hinduism 1: Sources and Formation: Session Eight

Dr Rembert Lutjeharms
1 Dec 2017

These lectures offer a thematic and historical introduction to the sources and early development of ‘Hindu’ traditions from their early formation to the early medieval period. We will explore the formation of Hindu traditions through textual sources, such as the Vedas, Upaniṣads and Bhagavad-gītā, along with the practices and social institutions that formed classical Hindu traditions.

The Pañcāyatanapūjā and the Problem of Aniconism

Prof. Mikael Aktor
28 Nov 2017

The Pañcāyatanapūjā is a worship of five deities, Śiva, Viṣṇu, Sūrya, Gaṇeśa and Devī. It emerged as a ritual style within the Smārta movement and appeared both in temple architecture and as a domestic worship performed with small stones and/or figurines representing the gods. The worship which had almost died out in most parts of India has recently been revived among Smārta Brahmins in Tamil Nadu. An analysis of the ritual can proceed from different perspectives. There are the social-historical developments which may explain the revival in Tamil Nadu. But there is also the theoretical perspective of aniconicity as a deliberate choice of representation vis-à-vis the iconic, anthropomorphic forms of the gods. Together with a group of researchers with expertise in different religious traditions I have been examining this spectrum of visual and material choices. The seminar will present an overview of the results of this research.

Mikael Aktor is Associate Professor of History of Religions at the Institute of Philosophy, Education and the Study of Religions, University of Southern Denmark. He holds a PhD from University of Copenhagen, a part of which was carried out at School of Oriental and African Studies, London. His field of expertise is within the study of Dharmaśāstra, in particular with a focus on caste and untouchability. He has lately been engaged in research on North Indian Śaiva temple ritual and temple sculpture as part of a general interest in ritual studies and religious aesthetics.

Hinduism 1: Sources and Formation: Session Seven

Dr Rembert Lutjeharms
24 Nov 2017

These lectures offer a thematic and historical introduction to the sources and early development of ‘Hindu’ traditions from their early formation to the early medieval period. We will explore the formation of Hindu traditions through textual sources, such as the Vedas, Upaniṣads and Bhagavad-gītā, along with the practices and social institutions that formed classical Hindu traditions.

Soma, haoma, and ayahuasca

Dr Matthew Clark
22 Nov 2017

The ritual drink called soma/haoma, which can be traced to the late Bronze Age (c. 1600 BCE), is central to the religious practices of brahmans who perform Vedic ritual and also to Zoroastrianism. The three main theories currently endorsed by scholars are that soma/haoma was either fly-agaric mushrooms, ephedra or Syrian rue. The evidence seems to indicate that soma/haoma was a psychedelic/entheogenic drug of some kind (though not all scholars agree with this). I propose in my recent book (The Tawny One: Soma, Haoma and Ayahuasca, Muswell Hill Press, 2017) that soma/haoma was never a single plant but was instead a combination of plants that worked similarly to ayahuasca. I also propose that this kind of plant combination was most probably the basis of the ritual drink known as kykeon, which was used in Greek mystery rites.

Since 2004, Dr. Matthew Clark has been a Research Associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London), where he taught courses on Hinduism between 1999 and 2003. He has spent many years in India, which he first visited in 1977, and has travelled extensively throughout the subcontinent. He first engaged with yoga practices in the mid-1970s and since 1990 has been a regular practitioner of Ashtanga Yoga. Dr. Clark is a freelance researcher and lectures widely on religion and philosophy for yoga students and academics. Dr. Clark's publications include articles, a study of a sect of South Asian renunciates (sādhus) entitled The Daśanāmī-Saṃnyāsīs: The Integration of Ascetic Lineages into an Order (Leiden/Boston: E. J. Brill, 2006), and a short book on yoga, The Origins and Practices of Yoga: A Weeny Introduction (Lulu, 2007). More recently he has been researching the ancient Asian ritual drink known as soma/haoma. He proposes that this drink was most probably an analogue of ayahuasca. His book on the topic, The Tawny One: Soma, Haoma and Ayahuasca (Muswell Hill Press) was published in June 2017. 

Hinduism 1: Sources and Formation: Session Six

Dr Rembert Lutjeharms
17 Nov 2017

These lectures offer a thematic and historical introduction to the sources and early development of ‘Hindu’ traditions from their early formation to the early medieval period. We will explore the formation of Hindu traditions through textual sources, such as the Vedas, Upaniṣads and Bhagavad-gītā, along with the practices and social institutions that formed classical Hindu traditions.

Hinduism 1: Sources and Formation: Session Five

Dr Rembert Lutjeharms
10 Nov 2017

These lectures offer a thematic and historical introduction to the sources and early development of ‘Hindu’ traditions from their early formation to the early medieval period. We will explore the formation of Hindu traditions through textual sources, such as the Vedas, Upaniṣads and Bhagavad-gītā, along with the practices and social institutions that formed classical Hindu traditions.

Hinduism 1: Sources and Formation: Session Four

Dr Rembert Lutjeharms
3 Nov 2017

These lectures offer a thematic and historical introduction to the sources and early development of ‘Hindu’ traditions from their early formation to the early medieval period. We will explore the formation of Hindu traditions through textual sources, such as the Vedas, Upaniṣads and Bhagavad-gītā, along with the practices and social institutions that formed classical Hindu traditions.

Hinduism 1: Sources and Formation: Session Three

Dr Rembert Lutjeharms
27 Oct 2017

These lectures offer a thematic and historical introduction to the sources and early development of ‘Hindu’ traditions from their early formation to the early medieval period. We will explore the formation of Hindu traditions through textual sources, such as the Vedas, Upaniṣads and Bhagavad-gītā, along with the practices and social institutions that formed classical Hindu traditions.

Is Yogic Suicide Useless? The Practice of Utkrānti in Some Tantric Vaiṣṇava and Śaiva Sources

Lecture of the J.P. And Beena Khaitan Visiting Fellow
Dr. Silvia Schwarz Linder
26 Oct 2017

The aim of this lecture is to discuss the practice of yogic suicide, as it occurs in some Tantric Vaiṣṇava sources, as well as in the Mālinīvijayottaratantra, particularly as concerns the affinities between the latter and certain Pāñcarātra saṃhitā-s. After a summary account of the contents of the text-passages where this practice is either described or alluded to (passages which are given in full in the Handout), some of the problems raised by these texts are discussed and provisional working hypothesis are put forward. In the first place, the question of how and why the practice of yogic suicide is treated in different ways in the texts where it occurs is examined. In the second place, the issue of whether and how this practice harmonizes with the visions of liberation advocated by the texts in question is discussed.

Dr Silvia Schwarz Linder has lectured in the past at the Leopold-Franzens-Universität in Innsbruck and at the University Ca' Foscari in Venice, and is presently Research Associate at the Institut für Indologie und Zentralasienwissenschaften of the University of Leipzig. Her interests focus on the Tantric religious traditions of the Śrīvidyā and of the Pāñcarātra, specifically on the philosophical and theological doctrines expressed in the relevant South Indian Sanskrit textual traditions. She has also translated into Italian texts from the Sanskrit narrative and devotional literature, for editions aimed at a general readership. She is affiliated with the Śākta Traditions project at the OCHS led by Professor Gavin Flood and Dr Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen.

Hinduism 1: Sources and Formation: Session Two

Dr Rembert Lutjeharms
20 Oct 2017

These lectures offer a thematic and historical introduction to the sources and early development of ‘Hindu’ traditions from their early formation to the early medieval period. We will explore the formation of Hindu traditions through textual sources, such as the Vedas, Upaniṣads and Bhagavad-gītā, along with the practices and social institutions that formed classical Hindu traditions.

Hinduism 1: Sources and Formation: Session One

Dr Rembert Lutjeharms
13 Oct 2017

These lectures offer a thematic and historical introduction to the sources and early development of ‘Hindu’ traditions from their early formation to the early medieval period. We will explore the formation of Hindu traditions through textual sources, such as the Vedas, Upaniṣads and Bhagavad-gītā, along with the practices and social institutions that formed classical Hindu traditions.

Haribhaktivilāsa as the meeting of Vedic, Tantric and Puranic ritualism

Lectures of the J.P. And Beena Khaitan Visiting Fellow
Dr. Måns Broo
8 Jun 2017

The Haribhaktivilāsa (HBV) is an extensive Sanskrit ritual compendium written around 1534 by Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmin, a grand-disciple of the celebrated Bengali mystic and reformer Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya (1486–1533), the founder of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava saṃpradāya. Though being one of the oldest of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava texts, the HBV has received little academic study so far. No doubt this has been partly because scholars of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism have largely focused on the saṃpradāya's theology, especially in relation to the concept of rasa, but also because so little of this text is original. More than 90% of its verses are cited from other texts.

In this talk, based on my present text-critical work with this book, I will try to shed light on some of its vexing questions, such as its authorship, primary and secondary sources, purpose, Tantric influences and neglect or downplaying of practices thought typical for Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism. Further, by looking at its manuscript history, I will offer some tentative thoughts on the spread of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava texts in the early 17th century.   

Dr. Måns Broo is a university researcher in comparative religion at Åbo Akademi University, Finland. His main research interests include yoga – both its history and contemporary forms – and the intersections between Vaiṣṇavism and Tantrism in pre-modern Bengal. He is at present engaged in compiling a critical edition and translation of the mediaeval Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava ritual compilation Haribhaktivilāsa

What does it mean to be a playful agent? The Kashmiri Śaiva reformulation of Naṭarāja

Dr Aleksandra Wenta
5 Jun 2017

This lecture focuses on the Kashmiri Śaiva reformulation of Naṭarāja—Śiva as the Dancer—found in the work of Maheśvarānanda (12‐13th century) who lived in Chidambaram during the rule of the Cōḻa kings. Maheśvarānanda’s concept of the Dancer has a structural complexity that leads him to an alternative formulation of the problem of the agency of consciousness. Moreover, this implicit complexity is additionally complicated by the existence of the all-encompassing metaphysical axiom of play that is presupposed in the Dancer’s ontology. Play offers a site to performative reality that constantly watches the character of the Dancer’s own transformation. This is the play of bondage and liberation understood as the self‐given laws of the actor’s dance. For Maheśvarānanda, play suggests the theatricalization of reality in which the identity of the Dancer is ascertained by his capability of assuming all the roles. Thus, the Dancer is the Actor displaying the cosmic drama that presupposes the capacity to enact or perform diversity. Maheśvarānanda begins his exposition of the play of bondage and liberation with a depiction of the Dancer who constitutes the essential nature of both Śiva and the individual self (puruṣa). Maheśvarānanda advocates the view that Śiva/puruṣa is a Dancer, a free agent because of his agency to constantly perform the Five Acts. This lecture will concentrates on five thematic sections: 1) What does it means to be a playful agent? 2) The play of bondage and liberation. 3) The dance of Śiva, the dance of puruṣa: Discovering the autonomous agency of the Five Acts. 4) Maheśvarānanda’s critique of Sāṃkhya’s unmoved mover. 5) Śiva the magician and the deception of his Māyā.

Aleksandra Wenta is currently pursuing her second DPhil in Oriental Studies at The Queen's College, University of Oxford. She is also assistant professor in the School of Buddhist Studies, Philosophy and Comparative Religions at Nālandā University, India. She has co-edited [with Purushottama Bilimoria] Emotions in Indian Thought-Systems, Routledge (New Delhi, London, New York) and published several peer-reviewed articles. Aleksandra is also a researcher at FIND (India-Europe Foundation for New Dialogues), Italy.

Rādhā Tantra and the agonies and ecstasies of studying obscure texts

Lectures of the J.P. And Beena Khaitan Visiting Fellow
Dr. Måns Broo
11 May 2017

The Rādhā Tantra (RT), also known as Vāsudevarahasya (Vāsudeva’s secret), is a fairly extensive, anonymous Tantric work dealing with the story of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. Contrary to what the name might indicate, the RT is not a Vaiṣṇava text; rather, it is a Śākta text giving a Śākta reinterpretation of a Vaiṣṇava story. The RT is by all standards a late Tantra, written in poor Sanskrit, seldom quoted by Tantric authorities and little studied today. Plainly said, this is not an important text.

Nevertheless, in this talk, I will argue for the importance of studying such obscure texts. This I will do by taking a close look at the historical context of the RT, its fascinating manuscript history, its intertextualities and doctrines, all of which paint a vivid picture of the meeting of Śāktism and Vaiṣṇavism in 17th century Bengal. Who wrote this text, and why? Considering such questions, I argue, will not only help us understand this particular text, but also give us a larger picture of the history of religion in Bengal in general.  

Dr. Måns Broo is a university researcher in comparative religion at Åbo Akademi University, Finland. His main research interests include yoga – both its history and contemporary forms – and the intersections between Vaiṣṇavism and Tantrism in pre-modern Bengal. He is at present engaged in compiling a critical edition and translation of the mediaeval Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava ritual compilation Haribhaktivilāsa

Constructing a theological basis for social engagement during the rule of Jai Singh II in Early Modern North India

Early Modern Hindu Theologies Seminars
Sunit Patel
4 May 2017

While the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava tradition does not go as far as to reject the practice of ritual (karma) overtly, its early teachers generally forewarn bhakti practitioners of engagement in karma. Consequently, the place of karma, and hence of social responsibilities (varṇāśrama-dharma), in the life of a Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava is rarely directly discussed in the early phase of the tradition. However, in the early 18th century a wave of texts appear attempting to devise a bridge between bhakti and karma. These texts appear to have been produced as the tradition enters into a dialogue with Jai Singh II (1688-1743) of the Kachvaha dynasty. Jai Singh was concerned that the various schools active in his kingdom endorsed social engagement, in relation to varṇāśrama and karma. In this presentation, I will examine the Karma-vivṛti, a manuscript held in the library of the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum in Jaipur. The text is an exposition on karma and its its relation to bhakti, written by the chief advisor to Jai Singh, Kṛṣṇadeva Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācarya, a prominent Gauḍīya theologian in Jaipur. Kṛṣṇadeva goes to great lengths to endorse karma and thus social engagement, drawing extensively upon the earliest teachers of the tradition, in an attempt to develop a theological and scriptural argument for the compatibility of karma and bhakti.

Sunit Patel is currently pursuing a DPhil in Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford. His reseach interests include the intersection between religious movements and political power, Indian intellectual history, and the early modern world.

‘The lotus in the mire’: the Indian reception of Tājika astrology

Dr. Martin Gansten
3 May 2017

Tājika is the designation of the Sanskritized Perso-Arabic astrology that arose as an independent school following the second wave of astrological transmission into India in the early centuries of the second millennium CE. It is thus the form of Indian astrology most closely resembling western medieval and Renaissance astrology, which similarly rests on Arabic foundations. Although ultimately derived from the same Greek origins as classical Indian astrology, Tājika comprises many technical elements not included in the first wave of transmission about a millennium earlier. While the earliest known Tājika works in Sanskrit appear to have been composed by authors who were either Jains or members of the non-Brahmin Prāgvāṭa (Porwad) community encompassing both Jains and Hindus, the most influential of these authors was reinvented as a Brahmin by later Tājika tradition. Not all Brahmins were accepting of the foreign science, however, and many Tājika authors felt the need to defend their study of it by arguments that range from the mythological to the pragmatic. In today’s nationalist climate, where apologetic strategies are once more called for, Tājika is often subsumed under the modern paradigm of ‘Vedic astrology’, its extra-Indian origins largely forgotten, ignored, or even denied.

Dr. Martin Gansten is a Sanskritist and a historian of religion specializing in astrological and divinatory traditions. He received his doctorate from Lund University, Sweden, where he has taught since 1998 and is now docent.

Hinduism 2: Hinduism in History and Society: Session 8

Dr. Rembert Lutjeharms
10 Mar 2017

Beginning with the early medieval period, this paper traces the development of Hinduism in devotional (bhakti) and tantric traditions. The paper examines the development of Śaiva, Śākta, and Vaiṣṇava traditions along with ideas about liberation, ritual, asceticism, yoga and devotion. There will be some exploration of Hinduism and Modernity and there may also be reference to major schools of Hindu philosophy such as Vedānta.

Hinduism 2: Hinduism in History and Society: Session 7

Dr. Rembert Lutjeharms
3 Mar 2017

Beginning with the early medieval period, this paper traces the development of Hinduism in devotional (bhakti) and tantric traditions. The paper examines the development of Śaiva, Śākta, and Vaiṣṇava traditions along with ideas about liberation, ritual, asceticism, yoga and devotion. There will be some exploration of Hinduism and Modernity and there may also be reference to major schools of Hindu philosophy such as Vedānta.

Hermeneutics, Philosophy and Religion: Gadamer: Week 6

Dr. Jessica Frazier
24 Feb 2017

Classic problems in Philosophy, Religion and the Humanities more broadly can be approached through the branch of phenomenology that Hans-Georg Gadamer termed ‘Philosophical Hermeneutics’. Texts become living objects of dialogue. Spirituality becomes a process through which the self grows. Community becomes a form of expanded selfhood, and religious truth claims become an invitation to adapt oneself to a new picture of the world. These seminars will explore key themes, drawing on Gadamer’s writings on beauty, health and ethics, Plato and Hegel, spiritual growth and multicultural society.

These 1 hour seminars will explore key themes in the Study of the Humanities in general, and religion in particular:

Week 2: Redefining Truth and Text—Living Language

Week 3: Hermeneutic Spirituality—Locating the individual in the Whole

Week 4: Defining Self, Body, and Agency—Self as shifting nexus

Week 5: Rethinking Community and Pluralism—From dialogues to choruses

Week 6: Science vs Religion Truths—From prediction to transformation

Week 7: Rethinking Divinity—Alternative forms of 'God'

Hinduism 2: Hinduism in History and Society: Session 6

Dr. Rembert Lutjeharms
24 Feb 2017

Beginning with the early medieval period, this paper traces the development of Hinduism in devotional (bhakti) and tantric traditions. The paper examines the development of Śaiva, Śākta, and Vaiṣṇava traditions along with ideas about liberation, ritual, asceticism, yoga and devotion. There will be some exploration of Hinduism and Modernity and there may also be reference to major schools of Hindu philosophy such as Vedānta.

More than Manu: Trends and Topics in Early Modern Dharmaśāstra

Early Modern Hindu Theologies Seminars
Christopher Fleming
23 Feb 2017

Convenor: Dr. Rembert Lutjeharms

Dharmaśāstra is typically associated with the ‘Laws of Manu,’ with legalistic religious conservatism, with caste prejudice and with patriarchy. Indeed, the tendency is to view Dharmaśāstra as a antiquated, unchanging tradition which has remained stubbornly static since the turn of common era. This paper complicates these misconceptions by giving an overview of the dynamic developments within Dharmaśāstra during the early modern period of South Asia (roughly 1450-1750). I explore three key features of early modern Dharmaśāstra: a) the emergence of dedicated monographs that addressed distinct Dharmaśāstric topics such as caste and inheritance; b) the growing importance of Mīmāṃsā and Nyāya as analytic tools in Dharmaśāstric reasoning; and c) the increasing role of Brahman Dharmaśāstrins in regional religious and legal disputes. The thrust of my paper is that early modern Dharmaśāstra was dynamic, varied, and enmeshed in many of changes and challenges which characterized early modernity in South Asia.

Christopher Fleming is a DPhil Candidate at the Oriental Institute and a member of Balliol College. His research interests include the intersection between Dharmaśāstra, Mīmāṃsā and Nyāya, South Asian legal history and comparative jurisprudence.

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