This year marks the 75th anniversary of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s (1874–1937) passing away. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was the founder of the Gaudiya Math and the inspirator of a wide range of Vaishnava movements that have been established in the West from the 1930s and onwards, among others ISKCON or the Hare Krishna Movement. The lecture discusses the relationship of Bhaktisiddhanta with modernity, his theological ideas in relation to Christianity, and his approach to Western culture. Bhaktisiddhanta launched a missionary effort in the 1930s to London that involved members of the British cabinet. The lecture will also present some of the latest research on Bhaktisiddhanta featuring the recent discovery of his diary and an autobiographical sketch. The lecture is based on Sardella’s monograph titled “Modern Hindu Personalism: The Life, Place and Works of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati” to be published by Oxford University Press. Dr. Ferdinando Sardella is based at the Department of Theology, Uppsala University (Sweden) and is a Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies.
The idea of prayer in Islam is vague in the sense that it ranges from the mandatory to the most optional and spontaneous. This lecture will deal with the issue of prayer from an anthropological perspective.
Dr Mohammad Talib is lecturer at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford. He has taught Sociology at Jamia Millia Islamia University (Delhi), from 1979 to 2001. In 2002, he came to Oxford as the Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz fellow in the Anthropology of Muslim Societies at the Oxford Centre for Islamic studies. His research in the anthropology of Islam focuses on Sufi groups, and madrassahs. His current research work: Madrassahs in the Recent History: An Alternative view between Anthropology and International Relations is a critical examination of the state of social science scholarship on Islam in the contemporary world after 9/11. Among his publications are Writing Labour: Stone Quarry Workers in Delhi (2010), Delhi, Oxford University Press, ‘Modes of Overcoming Social Exclusion through Education: Analysis of two Accounts from Pre-and Post Independent India’ in K N Panikkar and M Bhaskaran Nair (eds.) Emerging Trends in Higher Education in India: Concepts and Practices (New Delhi: Pearson Education India, 2011), ‘Predicaments of Serving Two Masters: Anthropologists between the Discipline and Sponsored Research’ in Raúl Acosta et. al (eds.) Making Sense of the Global: Anthropological Perspectives on Interconnections and Processes. (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010), and ‘Sufis and Politics’ in The Oxford Encyclopaedia of the Modern Islamic World, John Esposito (ed). Oxford University Press, New York (2008).
This lecture series provides some basic material for Theology FHS Paper 20, “Hinduism 1: Sources and Development.’ These lectures offer a thematic and historical introduction to the sources and early development of ‘Hindu’ traditions from their early formation to the early medieval period. We will explore the formation of Hindu traditions through textual sources, such as the Vedas, Upaniṣads and Bhagavad-gītā, along with the practices and social institutions that formed classical Hindu traditions.This lecture series provides some basic material for Theology FHS Paper 20, “Hinduism 1: Sources and Development.’ These lectures offer a thematic and historical introduction to the sources and early development of ‘Hindu’ traditions from their early formation to the early medieval period. We will explore the formation of Hindu traditions through textual sources, such as the Vedas, Upaniṣads and Bhagavad-gītā, along with the practices and social institutions that formed classical Hindu traditions.
The early modern Bangla tales of the legendary or mythic pīrs are romantic narratives that speak to the often strange and puzzling encounters between Hindus, especially Vaiṣṇavs, and Muslims, primarily Sufis. They bring together foreigners and locals, courtiers and country bumpkins, in encounters ripe with a myriad of misunderstandings and false assumptions regarding religion, rituals, and those that practice them. They seek to establish the functional equivalence of religious practitioners, their rituals, and the contours of belief through the vehicle of the generic romance. One of the most popular figures is Baḍa Khān Gājī, who from atop his Arabian stallion commands an army of twenty-five thousand tigers, and wages a successful war against Dakṣīn Rāy, an overlord who rides his own personal tiger and counters with his militia of twenty-five thousand crocodiles (both troops mustered through the interventions of the goddess Caṇḍī). Mānik Pīr, who is famous as a veterinarian, especially for cows, is as irascible as any meditating yogī and demonstrates much the same kind of destructive and beneficent power in his encounters with those who fail to show a proper respect, especially greedy merchants and arrogant brahmins. Olābibī, matron of cholera and other water-borne diseases, teams up with Śitalā, goddess of smallpox, cowpox, and skin diseases such as warts, wens, and eczema. And most widely known, Satya Pīr, carrying both the Qur’ān and Bhāgavat Purāṇ, rescues his followers from penury, while helping women to set right the world after the idiotic actions of their men have confounded the proper order. All of these tales are rife with phantasmagoria equal to anything found in the Arabian Nights, with flying horses, celestial nymphs playing pranks, theriomorphic births, talking birds, and men transmogrified into goats to serve as breeding stock. As Todorov suggests, these fantastic romances produce a special kind of incredulity, a disbelief or suspension of belief that has resulted in their classification as light entertainment for the masses and dismissed as neither Hindu nor Muslim. But I wish to argue that these Muslim texts are undertaking a very serious cultural work that is not possible within the available genres of Islamic history, theology, and law. These texts explore the subjunctive, not in the sense of the way the world should be, but how it might be imagined, how it might come to be. The work of these texts is to explore how an Islamic cosmology might accommodate itself to and then appropriate the predominately Hindu cosmology encountered in the Bangla-speaking world of the early-modern period. Each narrative operates according to a logic of ‘what if . . .’ Perhaps surprisingly, I argue that parody is the critical mechanism by which Islam in these tales is gradually transformed into a distinctly Bengali Islam, that can account for its Hindu, especially Vaiṣṇav, counterpart.
Prof. Tony K. Stewart specializes in the literatures and religions of the Bangla-speaking world, with a special emphasis on the early modern period. His most recent monograph, The Final Word: the Caitanya Caritāmṛta and the Grammar of Religious Tradition (Oxford, 2010), culminated a decades-long study of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava hagiographical tradition that included translating with Edward C. Dimock, Jr., The Caitanya Caritāmṛta of Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja, Harvard Oriental Series no. 56 (Harvard, 1999). From the literatures of the Muslim–Hindu mythic figure, Satya Pīr, he published Fabulous Females and Peerless Pīrs: Tales of Mad Adventure in Old Bengal (Oxford, 2004) and is currently working on a monograph on the popular Bangla romance literatures of the pīrs. With prominent American poet Chase Twichell, he has published the first ever translations of Rabindranath Tagore’s pseudonymous Bhānusiṃha poetry titled The Lover of God (Copper Canyon, 2003). Stewart currently holds the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Chair in Humanities and serves as a Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Vanderbilt University.
This seminar series will provide an outline of a discipline with its own dramatic history and discuss some of the different forms that the study of Hinduism has taken with a focus on some of its key thinkers. At the same time, the history of Hindu Studies is inextricably intertwined with the history of the Study of Religion and many key thinkers are shared by these disciplines as demonstrated by the classic example of Max Müller, the indologist who became a founder of Comparative Religion or ‘Religionswissenschaft’. On the other hand, some key thinkers belong to neither of these disciplines, but have had a profound influence on both (such as the sociologist Max Weber). In the seminars we will discuss the work, theories and methodology of some of these key thinkers that remain influential on contemporary approaches to the study of religion in South Asia.
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.