Eating. Praying. Loving. Can we deploy these terms — and the themes awakened by these terms — to understand journeys of discovering the self and the divine? How is God invoked in religious poetry composed by the common men and women practicing their everyday lives and occupations? Why do many of these compositions from the rich literary past in South Asia refer to God as a just king, a journeyman, a weaver, a sound, or even an unattainable lover?
Using illustrative examples from a variety of South Asian religious
traditions, this course will explore the meaning and location of devotion therein. Over the academic term, this course will grapple with the centrality of popular religious understanding and practice, beyond the world of religious orthodoxy as enshrined in sacred texts. Focusing primarily on Hindu and Islamic devotional traditions, this course will guide students to a deeper and nuanced understanding of the practices of popular religion in the Indian subcontinent, today as well as in the past. We will read key Bhakti and Sufi literatures, and familiarize ourselves with the historical
developments, philosophical tenets, doctrinal basis, and bodily
practices of devotion found therein. This course, moreover, will explore the shared grammar and vocabulary of devotion between various religious traditions in the region.
Group work/discussion (15 points); weekly reading responses (300 words,15 points); two short essays (1500 words, 15 points each); final group presentation and paper (3000 words, 30 points); and attendance and participation (10 points).
This course is intended for undergraduates interested in learning about religious traditions in the Indian subcontinent, especially as they have interacted with each other over the centuries and are practiced today. It will appeal to students interested in Asian Studies, Religion and History. It is intended for a wide audience of students interested in learning more about the religious history of South Asia. No prior knowledge is required to take the course.
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