OCHS newsletter summer 2009
Thursday, 16 July 2009
Journal of Hindu Studies launches second issue
The Journal of Hindu Studies, a joint publication between the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and Oxford University Press, launched its second issue in April. The publication of this Journal is a significant step in the Centre's progress. It and the OCHS-Routledge Hindu Studies series go far in fulfilling the Centre's role as a leading source of academic publishing.
The Journal has quickly become the premiere journal in the field bringing together articles by many of the world's leading scholars of Indian traditions. It is also an excellent opportunity to highlight the best work of the Centre's scholars.
This issue centred on the theme of history and historiography in Hinduism. According to the Journal's Managing Editor and OCHS Fellow, Dr Jessica Frazier, 'history is about more than the traditional western portrayals of battles and kings; it is equally about the "ordinary" people who lived through these times and affected history in their own way. This issue examines an array of narratives that add great depth to our understanding of India's history'.
The next issue is due for publication in November.
Hindu plans for environmental change launched at OCHS
At a meeting at the OCHS in July, national Hindu leaders have pledged to work together to create long-term plans for environmental protection and education which have the potential to reach every Hindu living in the UK. Ideas considered include a Hindu benchmark for a range of products and services, endorsement for ethically sourced food, and advocating sustainable lifestyles. These plans will be developed and implemented over the next nine years – a timeframe chosen to encourage long-term planning.
The leaders met on Thursday 16 July, at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies as part of an international initiative led by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) and the OCHS, and backed by the United Nations Development Programme. Working with 11 world faiths, ARC is helping each to develop long-term plans for environmental protection. This built on an initial meeting in April aimed at developing relationships and exploring possibilities.
The meeting had over 20 representatives from various Hindu temples and organisations in the UK. This was the first time that UK Hindu leaders had come together to address issues concerning the environment on a common platform. With the support of ARC and the UN, the participants unanimously agreed to the initiative. They also pledged to work closely together, sharing knowledge and resources. This work will be done under the banner of 'Bhumi: Protecting the living planet – Hindu plans for generational change'.
'There are over three-hundred Hindu temples and organisations in the UK.' noted Shaunaka Rishi Das, Director of the OCHS. 'If they can work together to inspire their congregations to make changes, we can make a real contribution to the environmental goals of this country. This meeting was historical because the larger Hindu temples in the UK have agreed to work together as never before, which is very encouraging and a very good example.'
Flash Flood hits London Marathon
Thanks to the kindness of the IK Foundation securing a place for him – a marathon in its own right, OCHS Academic Director, Prof. Gavin (Flash) Flood, joined 35,000 others in running the London Marathon, becoming the first Oxford Professor to do so.
Despite predictions of rain, the sun blazed all day as Prof. Flood came in at just over five hours, a very respectable time.
'There are different phases to a run', commented Prof. Flood after his run, 'and I suppose the hardest for me was at about eighteen miles but I picked up after that and managed to speed up a bit for the last mile. I think that running is almost a kind of asceticism; a practice that enables you to push your limits and transcend your boundaries.'
The event was also very succesful in raising funds and awareness with nearly £4,000 being raised and Prof. Flood's efforts covered in the UK's Asian media.
Prof. (Flash) Flood can be seen in full flight around Oxford at www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzGifTd26c0
Board of Governors Dinner
Monday June 22 saw our annual Board of Governor's dinner take place at Oxford's grand Town Hall. It was the best attended yet with nearly 130 guests enjoying the feast laid on by Haandi catering and listening intently to the after-dinner speech by Sir Mark Tully.
Sir Mark spoke on the very contentious issue of how extreme Hindu nationalism in India has been met with an equally extreme secularism, suggesting that both of these approaches are essentially foreign to Hindu ideals.
This year's dinner was very generously sponsored by, Hemang Popat, Kamlesh and Yaksha Patel, Dr Arnab Banerji, Anita Martins, Markand Upadhyaya, Sushil Wadhwani, Prashun Popat, Pramod Thakkar, and Nitin Sodha of Knight's Pharmacy.
Leicester Friends of the OCHS launches fund campaign
The Leicester FOCHS was formed by a group of CED alumni who wanted to see the work of the OCHS continue and thrive. This enables the OCHS to contribute back to the Hindu Communites who have so generously supported it.
The Friends of the OCHS (FOCHS) Leicester launched a new fund-raising campaign for the OCHS at their third event - a lecture by Dr Nick Sutton of the OCHS Continuing Education Department on Divinity in Hindu Culture.
More than seventy people attended the event which saw the launch of our annual fund campaign. The 'Cup of Coffee' campaign. This simple campaign is focused on attracting small donations of £5–10 (just the price of a few cups of coffee) per month by standing order to provide steady cash flow. The brochure can be downloaded at www.ochs.org.uk/brochure-web.pdf.
For a short time, those who sign up for the campaign are eligible to enroll free in one of the OCHS CED courses (classroom based or online).
The Leicester Friends continue to organise regular lectures including 'Virtual Reality and the Reality of Virtue in the Bhagavad-gita' by Anuradha Dooney, 'Bollywood Bhakti' by Dr Jessica Frazier, and 'Hindu Law in Britain' by Dr Werner Menski. July's talk (25 July at Jalaram Mandir) is on Hindu ideas of consciousness and quantum physics and will be delivered by Sachin Nandha of the Institute of Global Change.
Other events are being planned. If you would like to be included on the Leicester Friends mailing list, contact our Development Administrator, Lal Krishna, at email@example.com.
Hindu studies go online
The OCHS Continuing Education Department has succesfully launched and run a series of online courses, with more planned for the Autumn.
Since 2003, the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies has taught extramural courses throughout the UK as part of its commitment to bring the fruits of Oxford scholarship in Hinduism to a broad audience. Since then the courses have been taught dozens of times in Leicester, London, Birmingham, and Oxford.
In 2005 it was decided to broaden the reach even more by making courses available online. As the technologies developed, pilot schemes were run including a full-scale test-implementation of the course from November 2008–January 2009.
In February the first course, "Understanding Hindu Identity", officially launched and was taken by more than 30 students worldwide.
About a third of those students signed up for the Vedas and Upanishads course, launched in May. 'A good uptake', says the Continuing Education Department's Dr Nick Sutton, 'which reflects well on the experience students have had, specifically with the online forums, which enable an excellent learning community to develop over a relatively short period.' The 'Understanding Hindu Identity' course was also run again in May.
Planned developments include continued rollout of online courses with a third course 'Mahabharata and Ramayana' launching in October. As each new course is launched it is planned that all previous courses will be taught again at the same time so that in October there will be three courses running with the aim of having six consecutive courses running by late 2010.
Each course consists of seven sessions. Each session has extensive class notes and a video lecture. Most importantly these resources are backed up by online discussion forums and the guidance of experienced tutors with a zeal for their subject: Dr Nick Sutton, one of the pioneers of our Continuing Education courses; Dr Jessica Frazier, OCHS fellow; and Rembert Lutjeharms, OCHS Librarian and D.Phil. candidate.
The courses are competitively priced at £95 and are an excellent way to deepen knowledge of the Hindu traditions and support the OCHS at the same time.
This development was largely brought about by the efforts of our friends Harish I. K. Patel, Bharat Bhundia, and Vijay Thakrar. We also gratefully acknowledge the following generous sponsors for their vision in providing the seed funding for this initiative: R. C. Uduhiri, Jenmark Ltd, Mountweb 2000 Ltd, Sanjiv Shah, Kamlesh and Yaksha Patel, Dinesh Hirani of MP Bros., Vinit and Hema Patel, Nitin Palan, Sameer Thakkar, Amki Management Ltd, Dr Shashikant H. Patel, Krishnakant Mehta, Deepak Manghnani, Praveen Manghnani, and Anil Manghnani.
For more information, go to www.ochs.org.uk/ced
This year's scholarships
The continued growth of the OCHS has seen an increasing number of students engaged in Hindu studies at Oxford. The support offered to such students is essential to the academic integrity and objective representation of Hindu traditions to scholars and the public. We are happy to announce several scholarships awarded to students of the OCHS. These scholarships provide an opportunity for students to travel and pursue their research and they make a big difference to their morale and material needs.
The scholarships awarded are as follows:
The Ashvattha Narayan Scholarship of £1,000, sponsored by Giri and Bhisma Rajgopalan, has been awarded to two postgraduate students, Ms Alana Lajoie-O’Malley and Ms Naama Shalom. Both students are studying Sanskrit. With a special interest in the Ayurveda, Alana, who is from Canada, is studying for an M.Phil. in Modern Asian Studies. Naama is an Israeli student doing a D.Phil. in Indology.
The Jiva Goswami Scholarship of £1,000 has been awarded to Rembert Lutjeharms. Currently nearing the end of his D.Phil. thesis, Rembert is also the OCHS librarian and reviews editor of the Journal of Hindu Studies. This scholarship is sponsored by OCHS alumnus Dr Ravi Gupta.
The Gupta Dan Scholarship of £500, which is sponsored by an anonymous donor, has been awarded to Ms Sara Skenazy. Sara is from the USA and is a participant of the Oxford Visiting Student Program. Her research has focused on the philosophy of religion and how different approaches to the study of religion can provide reference points in the investigation of Eastern traditions. A book fund of £50, by the same anonymous donor, was awarded to Tristan Elby, a theology graduate from Cambridge.
Finally, the Pandit Abaji Scholarship of £1,008 sponsored by Raj and Ramila Chauhan, was awarded to Kiyo Okita. Kiyo, who is from Japan, is in the second year of his D.Phil. He is currently spending time at the University of Hamburg studying with Professor Harunaga Isaacson.
The OCHS warmly thanks those who have kindly sponsored these scholarships. These gestures go a long way to ensure the continuation of Hindu studies at Oxford.
New intern at OCHS
April saw the arrival of a new member of staff at the OCHS. Well known to many at the Centre, Gateen Patel is working as an intern for a six-month period. Gateen has been friends with the Centre since 2001 when he arrived in Oxford to study at Oxford Brookes University. Since then he has gone on to complete an MA at King’s College, London, and spent time traveling in India.
Gateen is mainly be working with Lal Krishna, the Centre’s Development Administrator. His roles at the Centre will include development of the OCHS website, assisting in the running of the Continuing Education Department online courses, and the implementation of a new contact database.
The OCHS regularly offer internships to young people who have a keen interest in the study of Hinduism and wish to benefit from the experience of working and living in Oxford. Previous interns at the centre have included Krsnaa Fitch who went on to study at the prestigious American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City and has starred in various television and film productions. Amrita Ford, daughter of Alfred Ford - long-time supporter of the Centre - went on to study Medicine at the University of Florida after completing her internship.
For more information regarding internships at the OCHS, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.