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Downloadable lectures

Hinduism I: Sources and Development - Introduction: The Indus Valley Culture and the Controversy of Origins

Professor Gavin Flood
13 Oct 2010

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, Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita, along with the practices and social institutions that formed classical Hindu traditions. The lectures will include an introduction to Hindu philosophy.

Related: General

Readings from the Bhagavata Purana: Session Two

Dr Ravi Gupta
27 May 2010

In these seminars, we will read sections of the Bhagavata Purana that are relevant to the theme of the Shivdasani lectures – creation and chaos. We will focus on the account of Jaya and Vijaya’s fall from Vaikuntha, paying special attention to issues of translation as well as theological concerns raised by commentators.

Related: Bhagavata

Readings from the Bhagavata Purana: Session One

Dr Ravi Gupta
20 May 2010

In these seminars, we will read sections of the Bhagavata Purana that are relevant to the theme of the Shivdasani lectures – creation and chaos. We will focus on the account of Jaya and Vijaya’s fall from Vaikuntha, paying special attention to issues of translation as well as theological concerns raised by commentators.

Related: Bhagavata

Radical Monotheism of the Qur’an and Equitheism of the Bhagavata Purana: A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Allah and Krishna

Wahlstrom Lecture
Professor Carl Olson
17 May 2010

This narrowly focused essay proposes to compare the Islamic god Allah as depicted in the Qur’an with the Hindu deity Krishna in the Bhagavata Purana. This paper concentrates on how these two respective texts define the two deities. More precisely, this essay focuses on such issues as transcendence and immanence, creative power and play, obedience and love, and the relationship between God and humans. These various themes are examined from the perspective of comparative theology, which can be defined as an articulation of truths and a realization of a more complete knowledge of God in so far as it is possible by means of theology conceived broadly as inter-religious, comparative, dialogical, and confessional. This paper proposes to use a hermeneutical dialogue, which is an interpretative approach that is intended to lead to better cross-cultural understanding. Such a dialogue is risky because it entails entering the margins between oneself and the other. When the interpreter brings together the representative texts of different traditions, she forms a triadic relationship and dialogue with the context of a marginal situation.

 
Professor Carl Olson teaches Religious Studies at Allegheny College where he offers courses on Hinduism, Buddhism, Religions of China, Zen Buddhism, and comparative phenomena, such as the self and death. Besides over a hundred and eighty reviews and essays in journals, books and encyclopedias, he has published over a dozen books on such topics as the goddess, Mircea Eliade, methodology, comparative philosophy, the Indian renouncer, and the Indian holy man Ramakrishna. His more recent books include the following: Zen and the Art of Postmodern Philosophy: Two Paths of Liberation from Representational Mode of Thinking (SUNY Press, 2000); Indian Philosophers and Postmodern Thinkers: Dialogues on the Margins of Culture (Oxford University Press, 2002); The Different Paths of Buddhism: A Narrative-Historical Introduction (Rutgers University Press, 2005); Original Buddhist Sources: A Reader (Rutgers University Press, 2005); The Many Colors of Hinduism: A Thematic-Historical Introduction (Rutgers University Press, 2007); Hindu Primary Sources: A Sectarian Reader (Rutgers University Press, 2007); Celibacy and Religious Traditions (Oxford University Press, 2008), Historical Dictionary of Buddhism (Scarecrow Press, 2009), and Religious Studies: The Key Concepts (Routledge, forthcoming 2010). While at Allegheny College, Professor Olson has been appointed to the following honors and positions: Holder of the National Endowment for the Humanities Chair, 1991-1994; Holder of the Teacher-Scholar Chair in the Humanities, 2000-2003; Visiting Fellowship at Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, 2002; and elected Life Member of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge 2002.

Related: Bhagavata, Comparative Theology, Islam

Creation and Chaos in the Bhagavata Purana (Lecture Two)

Shivdasani Lecture
Dr Ravi Gupta
13 May 2010

A potter gently shapes a lump of clay upon his wheel. A carpenter hews and joins measured pieces of wood. Creation, we see, is often a process of reasoned thought and careful construction. And yet, just as often, creation arises in far more unpredictable circumstances—from chaos, transgression, and failure. This lectures series will examine the interplay of creation and chaos in narratives of the Bhagavata Purana. We will pay special attention to the Bhagavata’s account of the churning of the ocean (a fine example of creation from chaos), as well as the narrative of Jaya and Vijaya’s fall from grace (chaos from creation).

 
Dr. Ravi M. Gupta is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at The College of William and Mary (USA) and an alumnus of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. He completed his D.Phil. in Hindu Studies at Oxford, following which he was awarded a Junior Research Fellowship at Linacre College. Dr. Gupta has taught a variety of courses in Hinduism and World Religions, and is the recipient of the David Hughes Award for excellence in teaching. Dr. Gupta is the author of The Chaitanya Vaishnava Vedanta of Jiva Gosvami (Routledge, 2007) as well as several articles in academic journals.
 
At present, he and Dr. Kenneth Valpey are working on an abridged translation of the Bhagavata Purana, to be published by Columbia University Press. Dr. Gupta lectures widely in India and the United States, and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Society for Hindu-Christian Studies.

Related: Bhagavata

Comparative Theology in Global Perspective

Professor Keith Ward
10 May 2010

Professor Keith Ward has developed comparative theology and religion in many of his publications over the years. He is particularly interested in comparative theology, the dialogue between religions and the interplay between science and faith. Keith has had a renowned and rich academic career; he taught at Glasgow, St Andrews, London, he was Dean of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, he was the F.D. Maurice Professor of Moral and Social Theology at the University of London, Professor of History and Philosophy of Religion at King’s College London, and Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford. He was also visiting professor at the Claremont Graduate University, he has delivered the prestigious Gifford Lectures at the University of Glasgow, and was the Gresham Professor of Divinity at Gresham College. In this seminar Keith will share some of his thoughts on comparative theology and its future direction.

Related: Comparative Theology

Creation and Chaos in the Bhagavata Purana (Lecture One)

Shivdasani Lecture
Dr Ravi Gupta
6 May 2010

A potter gently shapes a lump of clay upon his wheel. A carpenter hews and joins measured pieces of wood. Creation, we see, is often a process of reasoned thought and careful construction. And yet, just as often, creation arises in far more unpredictable circumstances—from chaos, transgression, and failure. This lectures series will examine the interplay of creation and chaos in narratives of the Bhagavata Purana. We will pay special attention to the Bhagavata’s account of the churning of the ocean (a fine example of creation from chaos), as well as the narrative of Jaya and Vijaya’s fall from grace (chaos from creation). Dr. Ravi M. Gupta is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at The College of William and Mary (USA) and an alumnus of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. He completed his D.Phil. in Hindu Studies at Oxford, following which he was awarded a Junior Research Fellowship at Linacre College. Dr. Gupta has taught a variety of courses in Hinduism and World Religions, and is the recipient of the David Hughes Award for excellence in teaching. Dr. Gupta is the author of The Chaitanya Vaishnava Vedanta of Jiva Gosvami (Routledge, 2007) as well as several articles in academic journals. At present, he and Dr. Kenneth Valpey are working on an abridged translation of the Bhagavata Purana, to be published by Columbia University Press. Dr. Gupta lectures widely in India and the United States, and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Society for Hindu-Christian Studies.

Related: Bhagavata

Hindu Theology: Session Seven - Theological Reasoning Across Traditions

Professor Gavin Flood
11 Mar 2010

The last session will focus on the nature of theological reasoning that we have been engaged with in the course and the nature of theological reading. The last session will raise questions about whether reasoning is universal, the nature of Hindu theological truth, and the place of Hindu theological reasoning within the western academy. 

Reading:
MacIntyre, W. Three Rival Versions of Moral Inquiry: Encyclopedia, Genealogy and Tradition (University of Notre Dame Press, 1990).

Related: Hindu Theology

Mystical Traditions in Comparative Perspective: Session Five - The Jewish Roots of Christian Mysticism

Professor Guy Stroumsa
5 Mar 2010

Mysticism is a term that has fallen out of use in recent years, partly due to the critique of essentialism in the history of religions, partly due to the recognition that mysticism is particular to tradition and culture and partly due to the orientation to understand religion in terms of a politics of culture that sees religion purely in constructivist terms. The abstraction ‘mysticism’ is a problematic category that has been developed from Christian mystical theology (in contrast to dogmatic or natural theology). Viewing other religions through the lens of ‘mysticism’, particularly the religions of India and China, has tended to give a distorted picture to the West, underlined by Radhakrishnan’s claim, among others, that the east is ‘spiritual’ while the west is ‘material’. Of course, the historical reality of religious traditions is much more complex than this. Nevertheless, religious traditions are interested in, and develop, keen senses of inwardness that lay stress upon a direct understanding or experience of transcendence. While acknowledging the problematic nature of the category ‘mysticism,’ this series of seminars intends to explore the mystical traditions of specific religions in dialogue with Hinduism. The series is seen as an exercise in comparative theology. Short lectures on the mystical traditions would be followed by a response from a Hindu perspective and general discussion.

Related: Christianity, Comparative Theology, Judaism, Mysticism

Negative Flashes of Neti Neti and Realisation of Brahman

Shivdasani Lecture
Dr Diwakar Acharya
22 Feb 2010

The Mūrtāmūrtabrāhmaṇa (II.3) of the Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣad introduces the néti néti formula and explains it. From Sanskrit commentaries we can gather that this formula was traditionally interpreted in two ways. The second of them, the one adopted by Śaṅkara, has become the favourite of most of the modern translations; the first interpretation has not attracted the attention of a modern scholar.

On the other hand, a very competent scholar like Geldner (1928) has made an exception and interpreted the formula in an extra-ingenious way, as double negation, which was never considered in the tradition. This interpretation has now been revived in Slaje 2009. This asks us to re-examine the issue, and I will do so in my lecture by rereading the related portions of the Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣad.

Related: Upanisads, Veda, Vedanta

Mystical Traditions in Comparative Perspective: Session Four - Christian mystical traditions 2 ‚ Understanding Apophaticism

Professor George Pattison
19 Feb 2010

Mysticism is a term that has fallen out of use in recent years, partly due to the critique of essentialism in the history of religions, partly due to the recognition that mysticism is particular to tradition and culture and partly due to the orientation to understand religion in terms of a politics of culture that sees religion purely in constructivist terms. The abstraction ‘mysticism’ is a problematic category that has been developed from Christian mystical theology (in contrast to dogmatic or natural theology). Viewing other religions through the lens of ‘mysticism’, particularly the religions of India and China, has tended to give a distorted picture to the West, underlined by Radhakrishnan’s claim, among others, that the east is ‘spiritual’ while the west is ‘material’. Of course, the historical reality of religious traditions is much more complex than this. Nevertheless, religious traditions are interested in, and develop, keen senses of inwardness that lay stress upon a direct understanding or experience of transcendence. While acknowledging the problematic nature of the category ‘mysticism,’ this series of seminars intends to explore the mystical traditions of specific religions in dialogue with Hinduism. The series is seen as an exercise in comparative theology. Short lectures on the mystical traditions would be followed by a response from a Hindu perspective and general discussion.

Related: Christianity, Comparative Theology, Mysticism

Hindu Theology: Session Four - The Saiva commentarial tradition 1

Professor Gavin Flood
18 Feb 2010

The class will discuss the Śaiva tantric revelation. We will begin with the theistic or dualistic Śaiva Siddhānta through focussing on chapter 1 (the paśupaṭala) of Rāmakaṇṭha’s commentary on the Kiraṇa-tantra. We will see how Rāmakaṇṭha offers a conservative reading of revelation that he regards as the expression of the highest good (and which other teachings (śāstra) do not give).

Reading:Goodall, Dominic. Bhaṭṭa Rāmakaṇṭha’s Commentary on the Kiraṇatantra vol. 1 (Insitut Français de Pondichéry, 1998).

Related: Hindu Theology, Saiva

Jaina-Hindu Syncretism in Gujarat: The Trimurti-Temple of the Akram Vijnan Marg

Majewski Lecture
Dr Peter Flugel
16 Feb 2010

The Akram Vijñān Mārg, or Stepless Path to Salvific Knowledge, is a highly innovative religious movement. It originated in the 1960s in Bombay and is slowly spreading throughout Western India and the Gujarati diaspora in East Africa, North America, and the United Kingdom. The founder of the Akram Vijñān Mārg was Ambalal Muljibhai Patel (1908–1988), a contractor, who experienced enlightenment while waiting for his return train to Mumbai at Surat. His new religious movement offers a new synthesis of Hindu and Jain ideas and practices. The lecture will explore ways in which his teachings are enacted in the context of the rituals at the trimūrti temples of the movement in India.

Dr Peter Flügel (MA Dr Phil (Mainz)) is a lecturer in the department of the study of religions at SOAS. He is an expert in Jainism and has done textual work and fieldwork. He is the Chair of the Centre for Jaina Studies and a member of the Centre for South Asian Studies and the SOAS Food Studies Centre. Apart from Jaina studies, he has broad interests in religion and society, social anthropology, sociology, philosophy and Indology more broadly.

Related: Jainism

Mystical Traditions in Comparative Perspective: Session Three - Christian mystical traditions 1 ‚ The Relevance of Christian Mysticism

Professor Oliver Davies
12 Feb 2010

Mysticism is a term that has fallen out of use in recent years, partly due to the critique of essentialism in the history of religions, partly due to the recognition that mysticism is particular to tradition and culture and partly due to the orientation to understand religion in terms of a politics of culture that sees religion purely in constructivist terms. The abstraction ‘mysticism’ is a problematic category that has been developed from Christian mystical theology (in contrast to dogmatic or natural theology). Viewing other religions through the lens of ‘mysticism’, particularly the religions of India and China, has tended to give a distorted picture to the West, underlined by Radhakrishnan’s claim, among others, that the east is ‘spiritual’ while the west is ‘material’. Of course, the historical reality of religious traditions is much more complex than this. Nevertheless, religious traditions are interested in, and develop, keen senses of inwardness that lay stress upon a direct understanding or experience of transcendence. While acknowledging the problematic nature of the category ‘mysticism,’ this series of seminars intends to explore the mystical traditions of specific religions in dialogue with Hinduism. The series is seen as an exercise in comparative theology. Short lectures on the mystical traditions would be followed by a response from a Hindu perspective and general discussion.

Related: Categories, Comparative Theology, Mysticism

Three Worlds of the Heart: Theological and Literary Dimensions of the Bhakti Sutra

Professor Graham M. Schweig
8 Feb 2010

Perhaps the shortest of the well-known sutra texts among Hindu traditions is The Bhakti Sutra of Narada, consisting only of 84 aphorisms. This work, however, possesses the most expressive and least cryptic aphorisms, as compared to other sutra texts, while providing the seeds for a remarkably comprehensive bhakti theology. Graham Schweig, while preparing his new translation of the work for publication with Columbia University Press, will present his findings on the ways in which the literary and theological aspects of this text work together synergistically to express some of the deepest dimensions of bhakti. He will also make some intertextual connections and resonances by drawing from the Bhagavad-gita, Bhagavata Purana, and the Yoga Sutra, in order to illuminate dramatic theological moments of the Bhakti Sutra. And further, he will offer some closing reflections on why no traditional commentaries were ever written for this work.

 
Graham M. Schweig is a scholar of comparative religion who focuses on the religions of India. He is a specialist in love mysticism and bhakti traditions. Schweig did his graduate studies at Harvard University and the University of Chicago, and received his doctorate in Comparative Religion from Harvard. Schweig has taught at Duke University and University of North Carolina, and was Visiting Associate Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Virginia. He is currently Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies and Director of the Indic Studies Program at Christopher Newport University, on the Virginia peninsula. He has contributed numerous pieces to encyclopaedia volumes, journals, and books. His book, Dance of Divine Love: India’s Classic Sacred Love Story, was published by Princeton University Press (2005), and more recently, Bhagavad Gita: The Beloved Lord’s Secret Love Song, was published by HarperOne/Harper Collins Publishers (2007). He has several more books coming out with Princeton University, HarperOne, and Columbia University Presses.

Related: Bhakti, Hindu Theology

Mystical Traditions in Comparative Perspective: Session Two - Buddhist Meditation

Dr Sarah Shaw
5 Feb 2010

Mysticism is a term that has fallen out of use in recent years, partly due to the critique of essentialism in the history of religions, partly due to the recognition that mysticism is particular to tradition and culture and partly due to the orientation to understand religion in terms of a politics of culture that sees religion purely in constructivist terms. The abstraction "mysticism" is a problematic category that has been developed from Christian mystical theology (in contrast to dogmatic or natural theology). Viewing other religions through the lens of "mysticism", particularly the religions of India and China, has tended to give a distorted picture to the West, underlined by Radhakrishnan's claim, among others, that the east is "spiritual" while the west is "material". Of course, the historical reality of religious traditions is much more complex than this. Nevertheless, religious traditions are interested in, and develop, keen senses of inwardness that lay stress upon a direct understanding or experience of transcendence. While acknowledging the problematic nature of the category "mysticism" this series of seminars intends to explore the mystical traditions of specific religions in dialogue with Hinduism. The series is seen as an exercise in comparative theology. Short lectures on the mystical traditions would be followed by a response from a Hindu perspective and general discussion.

Related: Buddhism, Comparative Theology, Mysticism

Hindu Theology: Session Two - The Vedanta commentarial tradition 1

Professor Gavin Flood
4 Feb 2010

The course will present an account of the Vedānta commentarial tradition and discuss detailed readings of key texts. We will begin with Śaṅkara’s commentary on the Brahma-sūtra 1.1.1 and his advaita interpretation.

Reading: Śaṅkara Brahma-sūtra bhāṣya translated by Swami Gambhirananda (Calcutta: Advaita Ashram, 1983).

Related: Hindu Theology, Vedanta

Indian Foreign Policy: Shifting Roles and Challenges in the New Decade

Ford Lecture
HE Nalin Surie
1 Feb 2010

A review of principal foreign policy development in the first decade of the 21st century and implications for the second decade.

 
Nalin Surie is the High Commissioner for India in the UK. He is an expert on India-China relations.

Related: Modern India, Politics

Mystical Traditions in Comparative Perspective: Session One - Islamic mystical traditions‚ Sufis in India

Dr Talib Muhammad
29 Jan 2010

Mysticism is a term that has fallen out of use in recent years, partly due to the critique of essentialism in the history of religions, partly due to the recognition that mysticism is particular to tradition and culture and partly due to the orientation to understand religion in terms of a politics of culture that sees religion purely in constructivist terms. The abstraction ‘mysticism’ is a problematic category that has been developed from Christian mystical theology (in contrast to dogmatic or natural theology). Viewing other religions through the lens of ‘mysticism’, particularly the religions of India and China, has tended to give a distorted picture to the West, underlined by Radhakrishnan’s claim, among others, that the east is ‘spiritual’ while the west is ‘material’. Of course, the historical reality of religious traditions is much more complex than this. Nevertheless, religious traditions are interested in, and develop, keen senses of inwardness that lay stress upon a direct understanding or experience of transcendence. While acknowledging the problematic nature of the category ‘mysticism,’ this series of seminars intends to explore the mystical traditions of specific religions in dialogue with Hinduism. The series is seen as an exercise in comparative theology. Short lectures on the mystical traditions would be followed by a response from a Hindu perspective and general discussion.

Related: Comparative Theology, Islam, Mysticism

Hindu Theology: Session One - Introduction and Scriptural Authority in Hindu Traditions

Professor Gavin Flood
28 Jan 2010

This series of seminars examines the idea and possibility of Hindu theology. It would survey the history and constructive theological thinking in Hindu traditions. For some scholars both terms ‘Hindu’ and ‘theology’ are impositions upon South Asia of western categories while for others we can speak about ‘Hindu theology’ in a coherent way. While the course would certainly wish to problematise the category, the main focus would be textual and hermeneutical. If a discipline is defined by its object and/or its method then we might say that theology is a discipline whose object is not a theos but rather ‘revelation.’ Such a definition does not necessarily entail intellectual commitments to theism or the truth of ‘revelation’ but rather roots the discipline in a textual history which develops different kinds of reasoning. Hindu theology would therefore focus on the interpretative and commentarial traditions in the history of Hinduism and encourage critical reasoning about them. In practical terms this would mean that the course would concentrate on classical and medieval periods, particularly the Śaiva and Vaiṣṇava theological traditions that have come down to us in Sanskrit commentaries and independent works. It is hoped that the seminars will provoke theological and philosophical reflections on the meaning of the text studied. The seminar series raises questions about the nature of theology, the nature of reasoning, and the task of theological reading in the contemporary context.

The first seminar will introduce the traditions and themes of the series which will be text historical and thematic. We will raise the question of the coherence of the category ‘Hindu theology’ and the nature and practice of theological reasoning and then begin our examination of Hindu theology through a discussion of the textual sources of Hinduism regarded as primary (śruti) and secondary revelation (smṛti). We will also consider the idea of ongoing revelation in Hinduism with particular reference to the medieval tantric traditions. The discussion will focus on two core Upaniṣads, the earliest, the Bṛhadāranyaka, and the latest, the Śvetāśvatara. 

Reading: Clooney, Francis. ‘Restoring “Hindu Theology” as a Category in Indian Intellectual Discourse’ in Flood (ed.) The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism (Blackwell, 2003), pp. 447–77 Olivelle, Patrick. The Early Upanishads (OUP 2000)

Related: Hindu Theology

Early Vaisnava Texts from Nepal

Shivdasani Lecture
Dr Diwakar Acharya
18 Jan 2010

Exploring early palm-leaf manuscripts from the NGMPP collection, I came across some rare Vaiṣṇava Tantras which were hardly known from any other source. In this lecture, I will talk about four of such texts: the Svāyambhuvapañcarātra, Devāmṛta-pañcarātra, Jayottaratantra, and the Vāsudevakalpa of the Mahālakṣmṃhitā, which are preserved in palm-leaf manuscripts of the 11–14th centuries.

The first three texts are earlier than the texts which are regarded until now as the earliest Pāñcarātra texts. The fourth text, the Vāsudevakalpa, is exclusively concerned with the composite form of Lakṣmī and Vāsudeva, and is comparable to early Śāktatantras in certain aspects in its structure and contents. These texts together provide a broader picture of Vaiṣṇava Tantricism, and suggest that what was happening in the Śaiva fold was very similar to what was happening in the Vaiṣṇava fold.

I will briefly present the contents of all these texts and discuss specific features of them.

Related: Text

Mahatma Gandhi at the OCHS 4: Gandhigiri vs. Gandhiism: The Afterlife of the Mahatma in Lage Raho Munna Bhai (seminar)

Shivdasani Lecture
Dr Makarand Paranjape
30 Nov 2009

The last seminar is as much a celebration of Bollywood as of Gandhi. It is to the former that the credit for most effectively resurrecting the Mahatma should go, certainly much more so than to Gandhians or academics. For Bollywood literally revives the spirit of Gandhi by showing how irresistibly he continues to haunt India today. Not just in giving us Gandhigiri—a totally new way of doing Gandhi in the world—but in its perceptive representation of the threat that modernity poses to Gandhian thought is Lage Raho Munna Bhai (2006) remarkable (film to be shown Monday morning). What is more, it also draws out the distinction between Gandhi as hallucination and the real afterlife of the Mahatma. The film’s enormous popularity at the box office—it grossed close to a billion rupees—is not just an index of its commercial success, but also proof of the responsive cord it struck in Indian audiences. But it is not just the genius and inventiveness of Bollywood cinema that is demonstrated in the film as much as the persistence and potency of Gandhi’s own ideas, which have the capacity to adapt themselves to unusual circumstances and times. Both Richard Attenborough’s Oscar-winning epic, and Rajkumar Hirani’s Lage Raho Munna Bhai show that Gandhi remains as media-savvy after his death as he was during his life.

 
In all, these four presentations are not merely academic explorations of Gandhi’s life and thought, but also investigations into what it may mean to be (neo)-Gandhian in our times.
 
Makarand Paranjape is a Professor of English at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. A critic, poet, fiction writer, and literary columnist with over thirty books and 100 published academic papers to his credit, he is also the author of more 250 reviews, notes, and popular articles. His latest book is Another Canon: Indian Texts and Traditions in English (Anthem Press, forthcoming).

Related: Gandhi, Modern India

Mahatma Gandhi at the OCHS 2: Hind Swaraj in Our Times (seminar)

Shivdasani Seminar
Dr Makarand Paranjape
2 Nov 2009

The second seminar rehearses the significance of Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule, a booklet that Gandhi wrote on board the steamship Kildonen Castle in November 1909, on his return from England to South Africa. The book has acquired the status of a classic to the extent of being dubbed ‘the Bible of non-violent revolution’. Yet, it is also an extremely difficult book to stomach, with its uncompromising attacks on the British parliament, on machinery, on railways, doctors, lawyers, and English educated elites. Though some have called it a post-modern text, it shares none of the anti-foundationalism of post-modernism nor the latter’s premium on indeterminacy. Instead, Hind Swaraj seems to be a last-ditch stand in favour of a pre-modern, traditional civilizational ethos, which exalts manual labour, self-restraint, and the pursuit of virtue and sacrifice, instead of pleasure and profit. What kinds of demands does the text make on us a 100 years after its publication? More importantly, what hermeneutical strategies can we bring to bear on it to make it more palatable?

 
In all, these four presentations are not merely academic explorations of Gandhi’s life and thought, but also investigations into what it may mean to be (neo)-Gandhian in our times.
 
Makarand Paranjape is a Professor of English at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. A critic, poet, fiction writer, and literary columnist with over thirty books and 100 published academic papers to his credit, he is also the author of more 250 reviews, notes, and popular articles. His latest book is Another Canon: Indian Texts and Traditions in English (Anthem Press, forthcoming).

Related: Gandhi, Modern India

Towards an Existential Textology of the so-called 'Sanskrit epics'

Dr Simon Brodbeck
29 Oct 2009

The Ramayana tells of the war, on distant soil, between Rama Dasharatha of Ayodhya and Ravana’s demon hordes—in which Rama was the victor. The Mahabharata tells that story too, amongst many others, and orders business chronologically such that the righteous war Rama won is followed, as the generations pass, some distance northwest of Ayodhya, by the massacre of the inhabitants of Khandava Forest by Arjuna and Krishna, the massacre of practically all kshatriyas by the Pandavas as advised by Krishna at Kurukshetra, and, as the generations pass, by Janamejaya’s massacre of snakes at Takshashila, which was suspended on condition that the surviving snakes behave themselves. And in the meantime Krishna and the Vrishnis have all killed each other at Prabhasa. And the Harivamsha tells of what Krishna did before and after the business at Kurukshetra, which included licking various miscreants into shape.

 
In this paper I take these various massacres as a depiction of one process—an iterative royal rite of expansive self-assertion involving the exploitation of any and all resources that can be obtained, involving the appropriative subordination of other power-centres—and begin to explore some of its ramifications.
 
In human terms, and as partly inspired by the thirteenth major rock edict of King Ashoka “Beloved of the Gods” (in which the good king warns the massacred Kalingans that he will resume his massacre upon any and all who misbehave), I will compare Valmiki’s cursing the nishada hunter (at Ramayana 1.2:14) with Arjuna’s cursing Ashvasena as the latter escapes from the burning Khandava Forest (at Mahabharata 1.218:11). These must remain refugees and fugitives unless and until they reform and conform to the new order. Similar examples will be mentioned from within the Mahabharata (Ekalavya, Padmanabha) and from recent times.
 
In existential terms, I will highlight the analogy between the well-led state, the good household, and the good career individual—a triple myth that these texts develop in such a way as to involve the reader or hearer most intimately, particularly as all hearers or listeners are bodies that have expanded and are sustained by nutritive absorption.
 
In genealogical terms, I will discuss the local appropriation of solar ancestry by the Hastinapura kings, who were reckoned as descended from the moon in the days of the Pandavas, but have come to be reckoned, at Janamejaya’s snake massacre, as descendants of the sun. In terms of the standard solar and lunar vamshas as seen in the Harivamsha and the Puranas, such a change in reckoning would involve the branch-lines of brothers, cousins, and more distant cousins being cut out of the significant ancestry.
 
In gendered terms, and with particular reference to Harivamsha appendix 18, I will show how the solar royal conception involves a fully patrilineal model of inheritance and—at least in its paradigm case, that of the eldest son, the single heir—an endemic fear of the influence of the wife’s natal context upon her son, the next heir. This fear is most starkly dramatised with regard to the the figure of the putrika, a woman whose son continues her father’s line, not her husband’s.
 
Simon Brodbeck was educated at the University of Cambridge and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, where he obtained his PhD with a thesis on the philosophy of the Bhagavadgita. Since then he has been a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, a researcher on the "Epic Constructions" project at SOAS, and a translator and editor for the Clay Sanskrit Library. He is now working at Cardiff University, doing research on genealogy in ancient India. His publications include Gender and Narrative in the Mahabharata (ed., with Brian Black, Routledge, 2007) and The Mahabharata Patriline (Ashgate, in press).

Related: Mahabharata, Sanskrit

Mahatma Gandhi at the OCHS 1: The Death of Gandhi (lecture)

Shivdasani Lecture
Dr Makarand Paranjape
19 Oct 2009

These four, interrelated talks on Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1969-1948) may be considered as an attempt to understand and articulate the coherence of an exemplary life. Given how he regarded it himself—“My life is my message”—Gandhi invites to be read in terms of a consistency in his anubhav (original experience), vichar (thought and ideas), and achaar (conduct and action). To that extent, his is a life which sets itself up almost in opposition to modernity—almost, because it might be reductive to see Gandhi merely as an opponent of modernity. But if the primary tendency of modernity, as Gandhi himself described it in Hind Swaraj (1909), is centrifugal, then Gandhi’s lifework was contrary to modernity in being centripetal. The 100th anniversary of Hind Swaraj, then, affords us a special occasion to re-examine key facets of Gandhi’s life in an integral, rather than fragmentary fashion, asking what he has to say to our own times.

 
In all, these four presentations are not merely academic explorations of Gandhi’s life and thought, but also investigations into what it may mean to be (neo)-Gandhian in our times.
 
The first of the four presentations, on “The Death of Gandhi,” is a way of recuperating his life through the traces of its violent termination. Such a methodology involves us in a reading of the two sites in New Delhi which have come to memorialize that fatality, Raj Ghat and Gandhi Smriti. Delhi, itself a city of tombs, lends itself well to such a semiology of cenotaphs and sepulchres. Raj Ghat and Gandhi Smriti—the one a state mausoleum, the other a monument to the Mahatma’s martyrdom—might thus yield special insights as texts of national self-constitution and interrogation. However differently they make meaning of the catastrophe, both places beg the same question, “Who killed Gandhi?” And the answers that emerge are, to say the least, somewhat surprising in that they reveal the different kinds of demise that Gandhi has suffered at the hands of a multiplicity of actors.
 
Makarand Paranjape is a Professor of English at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. A critic, poet, fiction writer, and literary columnist with over thirty books and 100 published academic papers to his credit, he is also the author of more 250 reviews, notes, and popular articles. His latest book is Another Canon: Indian Texts and Traditions in English (Anthem Press, forthcoming).

Related: Gandhi, Modern India

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