Category: OCHS

Annual Report 2020

Annual Report 2020

Annual Report 2020

Our annual report for the academic year 2019 – 2020 is now out. You can read it on this page or download it here.

Message from the Director

This year a pandemic has swept the world and has swept us off our feet. My heart goes out to the families of those we have lost. 

At such a time Hindu Studies – with its profound approaches to happiness, suffering, life, and death – is more important than ever. Research into the texts and traditions that give us yoga, mindfulness, meditation, and mantra is now more relevant. We will need these tools to survive our difficulties, to recover ourselves, and to nourish better global thinking.

The OCHS has worked with the University of Oxford for twenty-three years. For fourteen of these we held the title of Recognised Independent Centre. The University is retiring this designation for all the bodies that held it. This marks a new maturation of our identity – in Oxford and globally – and a new formalisation of the relationship between Oxford and the OCHS. On the surface, all will look very similar, but a more collegial and cooperative arrangement with the University will permeate all our activities.

Among other developments this year, we are proud to note that one of our outreach projects, the Bhumi Project, has matured and will now act independently as Bhumi Global.

Our academics rose to the challenge of lockdown with merit and continue to teach students at all levels using web-based communication. And our Continuing Education Department shone with its online courses seeing a doubling of enrolments.

Even in these difficult days, our students and staff continue to explore topics from Hindu responses to environmentalism, contemporary Indian politics, feminism in Hindu texts, and study of classical texts.

I hope you will join me in thanking our scholars and staff for their dedication in making all the things in this report possible despite the challenges.

On behalf of all of us at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, I wish you a safe year ahead and one blessed with a peaceful heart, good thoughts, and the love of friends.

Warm regards, 

Shaunaka Rishi Das
Director

Article in the Hindustan Times

Article in the Hindustan Times

A vital, unique effort: Vir Sanghvi on the work of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies

“At a time when Hinduism is increasingly influencing political agendas, it is sometimes hard to remember that there is another kind of Hinduism: one that lends itself to academic studies.”
 
Read the article in the Hindustan Times where our Director Shaunaka Rishi Das discusses the ethos of the Centre and the need for academic Hindu Studies.
 
Link to article: here
Covid-19 update

Covid-19 update

Until we meet again

Dear all, 

The centre is currently closed due to the Covid-19 restrictions. All lectures and seminars will be held online. For access, please contact the convenors or lecturer by email. For access to the Hinduism: Sources and Formation and Sanskrit Prelims lectures, please contact the Faculty of Theology and Religion. The Śākta Traditions lectures will be available on the OCHS YouTube channel.

The current situation also means that all of our Wednesday lunches are cancelled this term. We are very sorry about this and look forward to welcoming you all back (hopefully) soon.

In the meantime we encourage you to follow and engage with us on social media. We miss all of you and would love to stay in touch. 

Stay safe and well, 

The OCHS team

OCHS Exhibition: Hidden Treasures

OCHS Exhibition: Hidden Treasures

OCHS Exhibition: Hidden Treasures

From Monday 26 November to Friday 30 November, the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies is holding an exhibition: Hidden Treasures in Private Academic Collections 

This exhibition aims to discover and reveal an unknown aspect of the lives of Oxford academics at the Centre of Hindu Studies.

It brings their individual interests closer to the public. The idea is to display unusual examples of what these scholars collect, as a matter of personal preference, when they travel. What you will see is hidden treasure, objects of special affection kept privately, at home or in an office, far from the public eye. For those of us studying at the Centre, viewing these examples contributes to, and enhances, the fascination we feel for utilising a Study of Religion perspective. This is especially so since the provenance of the exhibits strongly suggests that, in order to advance our understanding of religion in South Asia, we need to combine textual studies and material culture. Furthermore, the exhibition shows how religious objects can be seen from new angles, and take on added significance, when gathered together and displayed in a non-religious setting.

All the exhibits originate from the South-Asian region and have been generously loaned by four academics related to the OCHS. 

The Swami Haridhas Giri Scholarship

The Swami Haridhas Giri Scholarship

The Swami Haridhas Giri Scholarship

At the end of June, 2016 our Centre was graced with a visit from His Holiness Swami Niranjanananda Giri, who leads the Sri Gnianananda Giri Peetam, near Kanchi, in Tamil Nadu. Swamiji was accompanied by a small number of his followers, including children, and came to hear about the development of Hindu Studies in Oxford, and for a tour of the city.

The trip was arranged by Dr Dharshana Sridhar, and was the culmination of a series of meetings Dr Sridhar led to explore the possibility of establishing a scholarship for gifted students through the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. Dr Sridhar, and her fellow devotees wanted to develop this scholarship in honour of their acharya, His Holiness Swami Haridhas Giri.

As is often the case in England the weather was not kind to us on the day of the visit but the jolly mood of our visitors made up for that, and the swift disappearance of the chocolate biscuits showed that the children were pleased.

We gathered in our library and, surrounded by 25,000 books, we discussed the current need to study Hindu traditions closely; how this does not yet happen in India; how valuable a scholarship will be in promoting bright students to become experts on their own traditions; and how by working together we can develop the emerging field of Hindu Studies, both in Oxford and in India.

We concluded the meeting with all the donors to the scholarship fund, headed by Swamiji himself, signing an agreement establishing The Swami Haridhas Giri Scholarship, aimed at facilitating students, especially in the study of Bhakti philosophies, theologies, and practices.

This Scholarship, one of the first of its kind in Europe for Hindu studies, is the largest endowed scholarship the OCHS has received, and the scholars and students of the Centre expressed their heartfelt gratitude to the Peetam, and all its devotees. The gift of an endowed scholarship provides the centre with a permanent fund from which scholars and students can receive support. We look forward to working together for many years nurturing the field of Hindu Studies, contributing to a global discourse, and influencing thinking and decision making through excellence in education.

swami-lge
Obituary: Prof. M.N. Narasimhachary

Obituary: Prof. M.N. Narasimhachary

Obituary: Prof. M.N. Narasimhachary

Prof. M.N. Narasimhachary passed away in Chennai on Wednesday 6 March 2013. Here he is remembered by Dr Ravi Gupta…

Some thirteen years ago, I met Prof. M. Narasimhachary for the first time when he arrived as a visiting professor at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. That fortunate encounter changed my life in more ways that I can describe. In the years that have passed, Prof. Narasimhachary served as my doctoral examiner, wrote a reference for my first job, offered advice on all my writing projects, attended my wedding, and showered blessings on the births of both my boys. But more importantly, Prof. Narasimhachary was for me a life-long mentor, a loving well-wisher, and a model of Vaishnava scholarship.

Prof. Narasimhachary’s depth of knowledge was breathtaking. In Oxford I met with him several times a week to read Sanskrit texts. Every phrase that he read became a doorway to an entire area of Sanskrit learning. When that door was opened – perhaps by a well-timed question, or a fortuitous recollection – streams of wisdom would flow, leading to explorations of Vedānta, Sāṁkhya, rasa-śāstra, Kālīdāsa, and numberless other themes.

Knowledge of this caliber sets a person apart from others. Yet Prof. Narasimhachary’s most noteworthy quality was that he used his scholarship to win people’s hearts, not to create distance. On his students especially, he showered affection like a father, asking about their welfare and maintaining contact with them throughout his life. No student’s concern was ever too small for him. His humility was endearing. I recall once expressing amazement at the extent of his knowledge. He responded by saying, “My knowledge is like that of a glowworm. You should hear about my teacher,” whom he described with great humility.

Perhaps the deepest impression that Prof. Narasimhachary had on me was how effortlessly he balanced – indeed, embodied – the dual responsibilities of scholar and practitioner. He wore his Vaiṣṇava tilaka with dignity as he lectured in public and yet did not hesitate to engage in historical critical scholarship. He expressed his devotion deeply in his poetry and his daily practice, and yet engaged comfortably with colleagues and students in a secular environment. He was as comfortable in Western universities as he was in Śrīvaiṣṇava Maṭhas. He embodied the best of both worlds, and that is a very rare thing.

Prof. Narasimhachary’s departure is an inestimable loss.

Dr Ravi Gupta is one of the OCHS’s first D.Phil. students and is currently Associate Professor of Religious Studies at The College of William and Mary (USA).

New intern for the OCHS

New intern for the OCHS

New intern for the OCHS

This month OCHS welcomed Raam Chauhan as an intern at the Centre for two weeks. His family are well known to the OCHS as his parents, Raj and Ramila Chauhan, are key members of the Leicester Friends group and strong supporters of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. Raam is currently in his fourth year, studying Chemistry at Oxford University and donated some of his time to the Centre before starting his term in September.

Raam mainly worked alongside Judit Bajusz, the Centre’s Administrative Secretary and helped organise filing of the Centre’s historical records. He also managed to digitise the VHS video archive, most of which will soon be uploaded onto the OCHS website.

The Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies offers a range of internships for those who would like to assist the Centre and gain valuable skills working in Oxford. If you would like more information on internships please email our development Administrator, Lal Krishna at lal@ochs.org.uk.