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Studies on Indian Religion

Panel Chair: Asha Mukherjee | Tuesday, August 25, 9-11 a.m. | Venue

Clemens Cavallin, Ake Sander

Changes of the views on religion in higher education in India

This paper will present preliminary results from an interview study performed at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in 2014 which focuses on the views of university teachers and researchers on the place, role, and function of teaching and research on religion at BHU. The study is part of a comparative project in which a similar study will be performed in 2015 at Pondicherry University. Main research questions are: What is, according to faculty, the situation of religion at Indian universities today, both as an object of study (religious studies) and as a phenomenon on campus? Do they think the place and role of religion have been changing over the years? What is their evaluation of the present situation and the changes? What is their view of the ideal situation of the place and role for religion and the study of religion?

Kana Tomizawa (Kitazawa)

The Development of the Modern Concept of “Spirituality” in India: The Usage of the Term by Vivekanada and his Contemporaries

In previous publications I have explored the use of the concept of “spirituality” in discourse on India, especially among British Orientalists. In this paper I will examine more precisely the genealogy of “spirituality.” In particular, I will discuss the development of the concept by various Indians in the late nineteenth century, focusing especially upon Vivekananda and members of his circle. My argument is that Vivekananda and his mentor, Ramakrishna, played a decisive role in the development of a discourse about Indian spirituality as a counter to a hegemonic Western materialistic rationality. My aim is to show that, in this case, at least, a common if stereotypical image of India was not simply a product of the Romantic British Orientalist imagination but that a certain class of Indians themselves, namely, the Bengali bhadrlok, also contributed significantly to the construction of this image.

Ibrahim Khan

Tagore and the Academic Study of Religion

Tagore understood a university to be place of working together in the common pursuit of truth. He envisioned its scope to lessen dependence on exported European education and thereby to address a seeming feeling of discontent emerging in modern India with borrowing from foreign educational plans. He held also to a view of truth as informing and inspiring so as to make alive that which is human within us. This paper inquires whether Tagore’s vision of an eastern university education would accommodate the academic study of religion as canvassed by the modern West. A response may lead to a better understanding about comparative religion in an Indian context as an academic approach in the study of religion, especially at Visva-Bharati University, an institution that Tagore nurtured. Resources for thinking through the question include Tagore, Creative Unity, and Towards a Universal Man, and the comparative religion curriculum at Visva-Bharati.


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