JAN 179 - Religion and Culture in India
India’s long and rich history of religious diversity is both well known and highly complex. During our month in India, we’ll study a host of religious traditions (Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, Parsi, and Christianity) within a wide variety of their historical and cultural settings. Our study will examine both individual traditions and the complex history of their interaction. We’ll also examine how religions interact with political, social, and economic systems as well as look at examples of religious pluralism in historic and contemporary settings. Finally, we’ll study some educational institutions and policies that shape an Indian outlook.
Our study will take us from some of the world’s largest metropolises-Mumbai (aka Bombay) and New Delhi-to remote Himalayan villages-McLeod Ganj-to cities, towns, and villages in between. In Mumbai we’ll study Parsis with their dramatic Towers of Silence, which are used in lieu of burial or cremation. Our travels will also lead us to south western India, to the relaxed coastal setting of Goa, a state heavily influenced by 15th century Catholic Portuguese settlers, to investigate the forms of Christianity spawned by these colonists and their interaction with Indian religious and cultural forces. And, we’ll have the opportunity to see the “incorruptible body” of Saint Francis Xavier (1506-1552, co-founder of the Jesuit order) whose remains are on display in a glass coffin in the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa.
Our study will also take us north to investigate exquisite examples of Islamic Mogul architecture and religious syncretism, seen most dramatically in the Taj Mahal in Agra, as well as in striking examples in a number of Rajasthani cities. We’ll also enjoy a camel ride in the desert and a leopard safari and overnight stay in the Jawai nature preserve, visiting Jawai, India. In New Delhi, we’ll tour the famous Islamic mosque, the Jama Masjid, as well as the vast Hindu Swami Narayan temple complex, and include stops at important sites in the life of Mahatma Gandhi. An investigation of Tibetan Buddhism in “Little Lhasa” (home of the Tibetan Government in Exile) located in the hill station of McLeod Ganj in the foothills of the Himalayas and a visit Sikhism’s Golden Temple in Amritsar will round out our stay in the far north.
Our trip east includes Varanasi (aka “Benares”), Hinduism’s most sacred city, which will provide the opportunity for a boat ride on the sacred river Ganges and a visit to Bodhgaya (the site at which the historical Buddha is said to have realized the true nature of reality and won enlightenment) as well as a number of other important Buddhist pilgrimage sites.
We’ll move between extremes not only in religious and cultural configurations but also in terms of geography and climate as well. Please note that the itinerary is tentative and locations are subject to change. This trip is recommended for hearty travelers with intrepid curiosity and a real sense of adventure.
Core Designation: Global Perspectives
Instructor(s): Norris Palmer
Prerequisites & Notes
Prerequisites: Successful completion of a college-level course in theology or religious studies. English 005/108
Course Fee: 4600
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