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The Magic Ring of Memory and Forgetfulness in South Asian Literature and Folklore

Shivdasani Lecture
Prof. Wendy Doniger
14 Nov 2013

In South Asian stories of rings, men accuse women of unchastity only to have the ring prove that it was the man, in fact, who was unchaste; the ring also validates the woman’s child as the true heir.   These stories—several variants of the tale of Shakuntala, the story of Muladeva from the Kathasaritsagara, and a village myth about the god Shiva and his wife Parvati-- show us how widespread is the desire to believe that a little thing like a ring can bring justice to the asymmetrical power relations that have controlled female sexuality for most of human history, or the desire to project the responsibility for sexual rejection or betrayal onto an external force like a gold ring. 

Wendy Doniger (M.A., Ph.D. (Harvard University)
D.Phil. (Oxford University) is Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions in the Divinity School, University of Chicago; also in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, the Committee on Social Thought. Wendy Doniger's research and teaching focus on translating, interpreting, and comparing elements of Hinduism through modern contexts of gender, sexuality, and identity. Her courses in mythology address themes in cross-cultural expanses, such as death, dreams, evil, horses, sex, and women; her courses in Hinduism cover a broad spectrum that, in addition to mythology, considers literature, law, gender, and zoology. Among over thirty books published under the name Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty and Wendy Doniger are sixteen interpretative works, including Siva: The Erotic Ascetic; The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology; Women, Androgynes, and Other Mythical Beasts; Dreams, Illusion, and Other Realities; Tales of Sex and Violence: Folklore, Sacrifice, and Danger in the Jaiminiya Brahmana; Other Peoples’ Myths: The Cave of Echoes; Splitting the Difference: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India; The Bedtrick: Tales of Sex and Masquerade; The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth; The Woman Who Pretended to Be Who She Was; and The Hindus: An Alternative History. Among her nine translations are three Penguin Classics—Hindu Myths: A Sourcebook, Translated from the Sanskrit; The Rig Veda: An Anthology, 108 Hymns Translated from the Sanskrit; and The Laws of Manu (with Brian K. Smith)—and a new translation of the Kamasutra (with Sudhir Kakar). In progress are Hinduism, for the Norton Anthology of World Religions (2013); Faking It: Narratives of Circular Jewelry and Clever Women; and a novel, Horses for Lovers, Dogs for Husbands.

The Politics of Sexuality in Ancient India: The Indebtedness of the Kamasutra to the Arthasastra

Shivdasani Lecture
Prof. Wendy Doniger
12 Nov 2013

The depth and extent of the influence of the textbook of politics (the Arthasastra) on the textbook of sexuality (the Kamasutra) is surprising, most evident in the high incidence of distrust, betrayal and force in sexual relationships.    And the subsequent influence of the Kamasutra upon not only the erotic literary traditions of India but the eroticism of the bhakti tradition, particularly in Bengal, accounts in part for the darkness of that tradition, its emphasis on divine abandonment, betrayal, and even violence.

Wendy Doniger (M.A., Ph.D. (Harvard University)
D.Phil. (Oxford University) is Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions in the Divinity School, University of Chicago; also in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, the Committee on Social Thought. Wendy Doniger's research and teaching focus on translating, interpreting, and comparing elements of Hinduism through modern contexts of gender, sexuality, and identity. Her courses in mythology address themes in cross-cultural expanses, such as death, dreams, evil, horses, sex, and women; her courses in Hinduism cover a broad spectrum that, in addition to mythology, considers literature, law, gender, and zoology. Among over thirty books published under the name Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty and Wendy Doniger are sixteen interpretative works, including Siva: The Erotic Ascetic; The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology; Women, Androgynes, and Other Mythical Beasts; Dreams, Illusion, and Other Realities; Tales of Sex and Violence: Folklore, Sacrifice, and Danger in the Jaiminiya Brahmana; Other Peoples’ Myths: The Cave of Echoes; Splitting the Difference: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India; The Bedtrick: Tales of Sex and Masquerade; The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth; The Woman Who Pretended to Be Who She Was; and The Hindus: An Alternative History. Among her nine translations are three Penguin Classics—Hindu Myths: A Sourcebook, Translated from the Sanskrit; The Rig Veda: An Anthology, 108 Hymns Translated from the Sanskrit; and The Laws of Manu (with Brian K. Smith)—and a new translation of the Kamasutra (with Sudhir Kakar). In progress are Hinduism, for the Norton Anthology of World Religions (2013); Faking It: Narratives of Circular Jewelry and Clever Women; and a novel, Horses for Lovers, Dogs for Husbands.

The Nature of the Self in the Bhagavad Gita: Session Two

Prof. Gavin Flood
8 Nov 2013

Chapter 13 of the Bhagavad Gita is about the relationship between ‘the field’ and ‘the field knower’ which can be taken to represent the body and self or universe and God. Different commentators had different interpretations about this relationship. The two seminars will examine the commentaries of Saṅkara and Ramanuja, focusing inparticular on the opening three verses.

Politics in Action: Gandhi, the Gita, and Modern Times

Majewski Lecture
Dr Faisal Devji
4 Nov 2013

While the Bhagavad-Gita justifiably receives scholarly attention as an ancient text, its modern history remains little explored. And yet the Gita is arguably the most important text of modern India, with many of the country's great intellectual and political figures attending to it in new ways from the 19th century. How did the Gita become the key text among such figures to think not about India's past so much as her present and future? This lecture will consider Gandhi's lifelong devotion to the Gita as part of a larger project to create a modern political thought for India's future.

Dr Faisal Devji is University Reader in Modern South Asian History. He has held faculty positions at the New School in New York, Yale University and the University of Chicago, from where he also received his PhD in Intellectual History. Devji was Junior Fellow at the Society of Fellows, Harvard University, and Head of Graduate Studies at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, from where he directed post-graduate courses in the Near East and Central Asia. He sits on the editorial board of the journal Public Culture.  Dr Devji is the author of two books, Landscapes of the Jihad: Militancy, Morality, Modernity (2005), and The Terrorist in Search of Humanity: Militant Islam and Global Politics (2009), and is currently writing a book on the emergence of Muslim politics and the founding of Pakistan. He is interested in the political thought of modern Islam as well as in the transformation of liberal categories and democratic practice in South Asia. Devji’s broader concerns are with ethics and violence in a globalized world, particularly with the thought and practices of Mahatma Gandhi, who was among the earliest and perhaps most perceptive commentator on this predicament of our times.

Suffering

Ramesh Pattni
31 Oct 2013

This seminar will explore the idea of suffering in Hindu traditions and the proposed remedies for its termination.

The Nature of the Self in the Bhagavad Gita: Session One

Prof. Gavin Flood
25 Oct 2013

Chapter 13 of the Bhagavad Gita is about the relationship between ‘the field’ and ‘the field knower’ which can be taken to represent the body and self or universe and God. Different commentators had different interpretations about this relationship. The two seminars will examine the commentaries of Saṅkara and Ramanuja, focusing inparticular on the opening three verses.

Conceptions of Liberation in Classical Indian Philosophy: Session Four

Shivdasani Lecture
Prof. Harunaga Isaacson
22 Oct 2013

In this series of four classes Professor Isaacson will discuss the concept of liberation with particular reference to the section on apavarga (i.e. moksa, liberation) in the Nyayamanjari, the masterpiece of the ninth-century scholar and poet Bhatta Jayanta. In each class we will read a portion of the text and Professor Isaacson will comment upon it. Among other materials that may be brought into the discussion are the Paramokṣanirasakarikaof Sadyojyotis and the commentary thereon by Bhaṭṭa Ramakaṇṭha.

Professor Isaacson is Professor of Classical Indology at the University of Hamburg. His doctoral work at the University of Leiden was in classical Vaiseṣika. He has been a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Wolfson College Oxford, and the International Institute for Buddhist Studies, Tokyo, and a Sabbatical Fellow of the American Philosophical Society. He is one of the world’s foremost experts in tantric traditions in pre-13th century South Asia, especially Vajrayana Buddhism, and is an expert in classical Sanskrit poetry, classical Indian philosophy, Puraṇic literature, and manuscript studies.

Conceptions of Liberation in Classical Indian Philosophy: Session Three

Shivdasani Lecture
Prof. Harunaga Isaacson
21 Oct 2013

In this series of four classes Professor Isaacson will discuss the concept of liberation with particular reference to the section on apavarga (i.e. moksa, liberation) in the Nyayamanjari, the masterpiece of the ninth-century scholar and poet Bhatta Jayanta. In each class we will read a portion of the text and Professor Isaacson will comment upon it. Among other materials that may be brought into the discussion are the Paramokṣanirasakarikaof Sadyojyotis and the commentary thereon by Bhaṭṭa Ramakaṇṭha.

Professor Isaacson is Professor of Classical Indology at the University of Hamburg. His doctoral work at the University of Leiden was in classical Vaiseṣika. He has been a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Wolfson College Oxford, and the International Institute for Buddhist Studies, Tokyo, and a Sabbatical Fellow of the American Philosophical Society. He is one of the world’s foremost experts in tantric traditions in pre-13th century South Asia, especially Vajrayana Buddhism, and is an expert in classical Sanskrit poetry, classical Indian philosophy, Puraṇic literature, and manuscript studies.

Conceptions of Liberation in Classical Indian Philosophy: Session Two

Shivdasani Lecture
Prof. Harunaga Isaacson
15 Oct 2013

In this series of four classes Professor Isaacson will discuss the concept of liberation with particular reference to the section on apavarga (i.e. moksa, liberation) in the Nyayamanjari, the masterpiece of the ninth-century scholar and poet Bhatta Jayanta. In each class we will read a portion of the text and Professor Isaacson will comment upon it. Among other materials that may be brought into the discussion are the Paramokṣanirasakarikaof Sadyojyotis and the commentary thereon by Bhaṭṭa Ramakaṇṭha.

Professor Isaacson is Professor of Classical Indology at the University of Hamburg. His doctoral work at the University of Leiden was in classical Vaiseṣika. He has been a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Wolfson College Oxford, and the International Institute for Buddhist Studies, Tokyo, and a Sabbatical Fellow of the American Philosophical Society. He is one of the world’s foremost experts in tantric traditions in pre-13th century South Asia, especially Vajrayana Buddhism, and is an expert in classical Sanskrit poetry, classical Indian philosophy, Puraṇic literature, and manuscript studies.

Conceptions of Liberation in Classical Indian Philosophy: Session One

Shivdasani Lecture
Prof. Harunaga Isaacson
14 Oct 2013

In this series of four classes Professor Isaacson will discuss the concept of liberation with particular reference to the section on apavarga (i.e. moksa, liberation) in the Nyayamanjari, the masterpiece of the ninth-century scholar and poet Bhatta Jayanta. In each class we will read a portion of the text and Professor Isaacson will comment upon it. Among other materials that may be brought into the discussion are the Paramokṣanirasakarikaof Sadyojyotis and the commentary thereon by Bhaṭṭa Ramakaṇṭha.

Professor Isaacson is Professor of Classical Indology at the University of Hamburg. His doctoral work at the University of Leiden was in classical Vaiseṣika. He has been a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Wolfson College Oxford, and the International Institute for Buddhist Studies, Tokyo, and a Sabbatical Fellow of the American Philosophical Society. He is one of the world’s foremost experts in tantric traditions in pre-13th century South Asia, especially Vajrayana Buddhism, and is an expert in classical Sanskrit poetry, classical Indian philosophy, Puraṇic literature, and manuscript studies.

Corporeal relics in stupa deposits from Gandhara

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions
Wannaporn Rienjang
7 Jun 2013

 

The literary tradition has it that after the Buddha left his earthly body, his body was cremated and his bones divided between 8 kings. These bones are, according to Buddhist tradition, corporeal relics of the Buddha. The 8 kings subsequently buried the Buddha’s bones inside a ritual monument called stupa in their own kingdoms. Literature also claims that the 8 stupas were later opened by King Asoka, who distributed the bones, and had them buried in 84,000 stupas. The deposition of objects inside stupas in Gandhara, present-day northern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan, could be traced back to the mid 2nd century BC.

Not all Gandharan stupas contain bones. Bones in Gandharan stupas consist of both burned and unburned bones. All burned bones are of small size, while unburned bones are of different sizes and show obvious indication of being animal bones. This presentation will look at the spatial distribution of bones in Gandharan stupa deposits, and attempt to discuss reasons of the absence of bones in some stupas. One of the main arguments for the absence of the bones concerns the attitudes towards body remains. Apart from Buddhists, Gandhara was also inhabited by Zoroastrians and Hindus, to whom dead body is considered impure. The co-inhabiting of the Buddhists with the Zoroastrians and Hindus may have prompted the exclusion of bones in stupa deposits.

Archaeologies of power: materialization of imperial ideology on the Aśoka horizon

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions
Ken Ishikawa
7 Jun 2013

Archaeologists have conceptualized power either as personal potency or something structural, but more comprehensively as nothing but the dialectical relationship between the two. Comparatively in Indic philosophy, both the normative knowledge of statecraft and personal experience of the ruler were considered as integral to the exercise of overlordship. I will thus archaeologically investigate the role of Aśoka the Great in exploiting sources of power especially (but not exclusively) ideology through the archaeological theory of materialization. It has been argued that ideology can be materialized: in ancient South Asia, ideology assumed its materialized forms as royal orders on permanent materials, monuments/monumental art, coins, rituals, distributions of imperial art/architecture/artifacts or settlement patterns/hierarchies.

The contents, contexts and locations of Aśokan edicts best manifest the modes of power of the Indic world. I will first challenge the discrepancy between Aśoka’s proselytization of Buddhism and religious tolerance as well as the long-held dichotomy of the Buddhist and Brahmanical models of his kingship. Secularization of certain technical terms in Aśokan edicts and their geopolitical locations rather support such imperial strategies as universal pacification and compartmentalization. The collective evidence of the royal orders of Aśoka, Khāravera, Rudradāman and Samudragupta will further illuminate the cakravartin kingship of the Indo-European origin. I will hypothesize that Aśoka as cakravartin materialized his power by marking his symbolic circumambulation of his empire with his Major and Minor Rock Edicts located on Mauryan borderlands.

Rudolf Otto's Perspective of Indian Religious Thought

Prof. Yoshitsugu Sawai
5 Jun 2013

In the early modern period since the seventeenth century, after contact between East and West became vigorous, Indian religious thought was introduced to the West and attracted the attention of Western intellectuals. One of these intellectuals was the Lutheran theologian Rudolf Otto (1869–1937). In his works on Indian religious thought, Otto focused on Vedanta philosophy, represented by Sankara and Ramanuja, and on Vaisnava faith in Hindu religious tradition. According to his framework of religions, the Hindu tradition as the “bhakti religion” corresponds to the Christian tradition in the West. From a comparative viewpoint of religions, based on his Christian theological studies, he argued that religions provided “parallel lines of development” in the East and the West. In my lecture, I would like to clarify the characteristics of Otto’s perspective of Indian religious thought from a hermeneutical perspective of religion and to re-examine to what extent his view may be adequate for the understanding of Hindu tradition.

Prof. Yoshitsugu Sawai is Professor of the History of Religions and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Tenri University (Japan), as well as Advisor of the Japan Association of Religion and Ethics. He is the author of The Faith of Ascetics and Lay Smartas: A Study of the Sankaran Tradition of Srngeri (Sammlung De Nobili).

The Tantric Deliberations of Octavio Paz

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions
David Soud
31 May 2013

The Mexican poet and essayist Octavio Paz is largely thought of as a Latin American writer, but both his roots as a writer and his fields of interest extended around the world, and Indic traditions held a particular fascination for him. In 1952, en route to a diplomatic post in Japan, Paz first travelled in India; he returned as Mexican ambassador in 1962, remaining until he resigned his post in 1968 in protest over the Mexican government’s mistreatment of student demonstrators. During his years in India, Paz took a special interest in Tantra, and Tantric thought and imagery figures in many of his finest works, from Sunstone (1956) through the poems of East Slope (1969) and beyond. He also wrote several essays on India and its traditions. This talk will focus on how Paz incorporated Tantric elements into his poetic vision, which not only sustains a delicate balance between the One and the many but also returns repeatedly to questions of subjectivity and consciousness.

Cosmopolitan visions of the homeland. How Hindus in the diaspora are renegotiating multiple identities

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions
Nirav Amin
24 May 2013

Hindus in Britain are undergoing an interesting shift in their understanding of place within society at large. From multicultural parodies of ghettos, to the current appreciable cosmopolitan ethos within many Hindu communities in Britain, this paper shall evaluate some key elements that could explain why homeland inclinations may be evolving in the next generation.

Cosmopolitanism is now increasingly being raised to avoid the drawbacks of essentialism or some kind of zero-sum, all-or-nothing understanding of identity issues within a nation-state framework (Clifford 1998).

It is amongst the backdrop of an emerging cosmopolitan that we can attempt to find ways in which Hindus have been negotiating the public, private, and religious spaces within which identity creation has been occurring. By using the framework of cosmopolitanism, we can attempt to understand the emerging new rhetoric of identity creation, and how these identities have been evolving over the course of multiple generations (Amin 2012).

Temple building has served as one pillar, amongst many, that have served in performing this renegotiation of identities. They have served as a response to the diasporic longings of a transnational community, but most importantly, in a way that is ‘recognised’ and ‘accepted’ by their host community (Kim 2007).

Hindus, raised in the ‘West’, whom are encultured into the ‘Western’ notions of religion and identity, are often caught in the middle between their ‘Eastern’ transnational linkages, beliefs, and understandings, and their daily lived reality. This paper seeks to investigate this hybrid space between the West and East in the minds and lived realities of the Hindus in Britain.

'Till all nations hear': enhancing the legacy of the American Baptist Missionary Union in Nagaland

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions
Iliyana Angelova
24 May 2013

In the 19th century, led by their desire to convert the Shans of Upper Burma and ultimately reach China, missionaries from the American Baptist Missionary Union ended up in the plains of Assam in Northeast India and from there embarked on a dangerous evangelising mission among the 'wild' and 'uncivilised' Naga tribes inhabiting the hills bordering Assam. What proved to be a slow and difficult beginning resulted in the mass conversion of the Naga to Christianity which gave them reason to proudly proclaim by the end of the 20th century that they were the most Christian state in the world. Building up on the example of the American missionaries, Naga Christianity nowadays is characterised by a distinct evangelical zeal which has led Naga missionaries all over the world. The paper will seek to elucidate the ideology and some of the challenges which underpin this contemporary missionary endeavour.

Swami Vivekananda and the Transformation of Indian Philanthropy

Prof. Prabhu Guptara
21 May 2013

Arising from research towards a history of Indian philanthropy, the lecture examines the influence of Swami Vivekananda. Briefly, the argument is that Indian philanthropy was transformed from its focus on temples and priests (with occasional charity to the poor), to take in "modern" concerns such as schools, hospitals, orphanages and other areas of public interest; and that Swami Vivekananda's impact prepared the way for the expansion of the ambit of Indian philanthropy to national and international concerns.

Yeats’s Tantric Synthesis

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions
David Soud
17 May 2013

In his final decade, the poet William Butler Yeats embarked on several years of study and collaboration with Shri Purohit Swami, an Indian monk. Though their partnership chiefly led to English translations of the Upanishads and the Yoga Sūtras, Yeats found himself deeply attracted to Tantra. Having read some of Sir John Woodroffe’s texts, and having been instructed in Tantra by Purohit, he incorporated Tantric principles into his later work, including his 1937 revision of A Vision and several later poems. Just as he once wrote that Nietzsche completed Blake, Yeats found that Tantra completed Nietzsche, offering a vision of the cosmos that divinized the full range of human experience. This talk will address how Yeats’s fascinating, if often flawed and self-serving, poetic appropriation of Tantra informs some of his major late works.

Hindu Theology Seminar 2

Dr Jessica Frazier
16 May 2013

Hindu Theology is an emerging field of academic inquiry. These two seminars seek to examine the boundaries and possibilities for such inquiry. According to the classical Christian definition, theology is ‘faith seeking understanding.’ Is this an adequate understanding of theology from a Hindu perspective? Is there a Hindu Theology or simply a proliferation of multiple theologies? Is faith seeking understanding simply apologetics or can the understanding come from an external discipline (such as philosophy, psychology, sociology, or neurology)? Is there a place for Hindu theology as an ‘insider’ discourse in the publically funded university? If disciplines are defined by their method and object, what is the object of Hindu theology? If God is unknowable can there be an inquiry into her? Or is the object of theology ‘revelation’ in which case Theology is concerned with history and culture? Is Hindu Theology a development in the English language of the ‘discourse’ (vāda) tradition of Sanskrit commentary or is it something different? These questions and others will be explored during these two seminars. Active participation is expected.

Muslim Representations of Women in Medinah Newspaper, Bijnaur

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions
Megan Robb
10 May 2013

This paper will look at the representation of female sexuality in the "women's newspaper" sections of the Urdu language newspaper Medinah, published in Bijnaur district of Uttar Pradesh, India. The paper’s analysis focuses on the Urdu-language newspaper Medinah, which was published in Bijnaur district of the then United Provinces, India from 1912 until 1975. In 1912, Maulana Majid Hasan started a new publication named Medinah, named for both the holy city of Islam and the boat that carried George V to his coronation darbar in Delhi. Despite Hasan’s nod to royal authority, complete with sketches glorifying the boat Medinah that had brought the English king to South Asian shores, the newspaper became sympathetic to the Khilafat Movement and, eventually, the call for self-government. The newspaper published columns from adherents to the Deoband reformist movement, other prominent ‘ulama, and laymen in an attempt to establish a space where South Asian Muslims could carry on discourse on issues of spiritual and social importance in their native tongue. Medinah grew into a significant voice for Muslims, loyal to the British Empire but nevertheless critical of the West. As social and political realities rapidly transformed society, the editors and contributors in Medinah sought not merely to report on the diverse attitudes of Muslims toward these changes, but more importantly it sought to shape discourse on what it meant to be Muslim in the first half of the twentieth century. Women remained a major focus for the newspaper, which boasted a “women’s newspaper” section regularly published on issues of particular relevance to women. Through reading these women’s newspapers, as well as Medinah‘s coverage of newsworthy women, a portrait of female sexuality emerges as being closely tied to the well-being of the Muslim community.

Strangers in the temple: An ethnographic study of the Nanakpathi traders in a Chinese textile city

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions
Ka-Kin Cheuk
3 May 2013

This paper aims to examine the processes by which the collective migrant identity of the Nanakpathi (the followers of Guru Nanak) traders is inhibited even though these traders regularly get together in the Sikh Temple. I will explain this process through an ethnographic study conducted in the Sikh Temple at the Shaoxing county of Zhejiang province in China. Shaoxing is now the largest fabrics wholesale market in Asia, in which over 10,000 Nanakpathi middleman traders are based. These Nanakpathis are mostly Sikhs or Sindhis, specializing in the transnational trades of fabrics and having lived in China for some years. These Sikhs and Sindhis often visit the Sikh Temple for their individual religious needs. Based on my long-term observation in the Temple, I found these traders rarely interact with each other despite their public religious engagement in the temple. In other words, neither collective migrant identity nor substantial form of social organization has been formed among these young Nanakpathis. Drawing light from their business practices in China, I argue that these traders indeed have legitimate reasons not to make local Indian friends in the Temple, thereby enabling their middleman business to thrive.

Hindu Theology Seminar 1

Dr Rembert Lutjeharms
2 May 2013

Hindu Theology is an emerging field of academic inquiry. These two seminars seek to examine the boundaries and possibilities for such inquiry. According to the classical Christian definition, theology is ‘faith seeking understanding.’ Is this an adequate understanding of theology from a Hindu perspective? Is there a Hindu Theology or simply a proliferation of multiple theologies? Is faith seeking understanding simply apologetics or can the understanding come from an external discipline (such as philosophy, psychology, sociology, or neurology)? Is there a place for Hindu theology as an ‘insider’ discourse in the publically funded university? If disciplines are defined by their method and object, what is the object of Hindu theology? If God is unknowable can there be an inquiry into her? Or is the object of theology ‘revelation’ in which case Theology is concerned with history and culture? Is Hindu Theology a development in the English language of the ‘discourse’ (vāda) tradition of Sanskrit commentary or is it something different? These questions and others will be explored during these two seminars. Active participation is expected.

The Roots of Early Hindi Literary Culture

Majewski Lecture
Dr. Imre Bangha
29 Apr 2013

The theoretical framework of Hindi literature today is still defined by the almost century-old History of Hindi Literature (1929) of Ramchand Shukla. This History, written at the time of the Indian freedom struggle, created the image of a national literature extended in time and space. Rejecting claims for a 1000–1500 year old history, my talk examines the emergence of vernacular literature in the Gangetic Plain in the fourteenth century,and argues for continuity in poetic genres, forms and language between the Jain-inspired Maru Gurjar literature and the poetic idioms of Avadhi and Brajbhasha. Using reliably dated literary material, it documents the spread of Maru Gurjar literature beyond Gujarat and Rajasthan into Central North India (Madhyadesha) and presents how non-Jains used this trans-regional literary idiom to develop it into more localised ones that in modern times came to be considered literary dialects of Hindi.

Dr. Bangha is a Lecturer in Hindi. His research has focused on early modern Hindi poetry and he has produced editions and translations of early modern Hindi texts. His research interests include the emergence of Hindi as a literary dialect in various scripts, textual transmission and Hindi manuscript culture, riti poetry and the continuity of classical Sanskrit aesthetics in court literature and individual poets such as Vishnudas, Kabir, Tulsidas, and others. He publishes his work in both English and Hungarian. Among his publications are Hungry Tiger: Encounter between India and Central Europe – the case of Hungarian and Bengali Literary Cultures(Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, 2007) and a translation of Indian short stories into Hungarian (E. Greskovits ed., Tehén a barikádon: Indiai elbeszélések (The Cow of the Barricades: Indian Short Stories) Pallas Akademia, M. Ciuc/Csíkszereda, 2008). He is currently working on several editions and translations of early modern Hindi texts including ‘Love, Scorpion in the Hand’: Late Brajbhasha Court Poetry from Bundelkhand: Thākur-kabittāvali (critical edition accompanied with an introduction and English translation of selected poems).

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions 4

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions
8 Mar 2013

This series of seminars will provide a lively and thought-provoking forum for graduate students from across the disciplines to present their latest work on any of the Indic religions, creating an opportunity for regular discussion and cross-fertilisation among students in this area. It will be held fortnightly in Hilary term (weeks 2, 4, 6, 8) on Fridays from 4pm–5pm, with a chance for informal discussion afterwards over refreshments. Each seminar will feature two papers on related themes or subjects, of about 20 minutes each, with a chance for questions after each paper. Any graduate students working on, or otherwise interested in, Indic religions, are warmly invited to attend.

Was Vaiśeşika a materialistic darsana? An inquiry into Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya's Marxist analysis
Ionut Moise

One of the philosophical systems which enjoy a relatively great amount of attention in Chattopadhyaya’s writings is Vaiśeşika. That is a curious case indeed, since Chattopadhyaya (1918 – 1993) was an enthusiast materialist philosopher, while Vaiśeşika, at least in its later form, a staunch defender of theism (e.g. Udayana). Yet, Vaiśeşika provided Chattopadhyaya with an interesting argument as its evolution shows that originally it was not a theistic system. Theism is a later occurrence in the system. I start from the presumption that Chattopadhyaya’s view is not completely false.

The first part of my paper will look at his explanations regarding the evolution of ideas in Vaiśeşika, and I will try to explain that Chattopadhyaya's views are relatively true. The second part of my paper, however, will look at Vaiśeşika’s primary sources, which despite their lack of explicit theistic stances, shows a rather different view of theism, namely that of a ‘divine entity’, the self. And this is the 'theism' which Vaiśeşika would eventually develop.

“A bridge between the past and the future”: accessing Auroville
Emily Kilburn

Auroville is an International township in South India; the only place of its kind in the world. It is a community inspired by the texts of Sri Aurobindo; an Indian thinker who aimed to integrate the philosophies of the East and West, Idealism and Materialism, the Individual and his Society.

This talk questions the inter-relationship between the textual, political, psychological and spiritual dimensions that make up the Auroville project. In doing so it reconsiders the constructs used to theoretically access and conceive textual and social aggregates.

Hinduism 2, Hindu Traditions (Paper 21)

Prof. Gavin Flood
6 Mar 2013

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.

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