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Unit information: Religious and Cultural Change in India: from Indus to Islam in 2014/15

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Unit name Religious and Cultural Change in India: from Indus to Islam
Unit code THRS10033
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Langer
Open unit status Open




School/department Department of Religion and Theology
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit will focus on the religious thought and practice of ancient India from the Indus civilisation up to and including the coming of Islam. We will explore the religious milieu and cultural changes that led to the rise of the three principal Indic religions (Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism) and their early interaction with Islam. Topics include: Indus civilisation, Ashoka’s empire, the “golden age” of the Guptas, the changing concept of karma (from ritual to ethical), social structure (class, caste and renouncers), women (mothers, nuns and courtesans); shared cosmologies, myths and epics, art and literature, and reception of the “other” (Aryan and Muslim “invasions”).

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have (1) developed an overall sense of the cultural and religious background to the great Indian religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism) and their encounter with Islam; (2) gained an introductory knowledge of certain significant topics in the history and practice of Indian religions; (3) ability to reflect on the common ground of and differences between Indian religions with regard to both theory and practice; (4) developed skills in the researching, reading and presentation of complex material.

Teaching details

20 hours (lecture/seminar)

Assessment Details

One summative coursework essay of 1500 words (50%) and one unseen examination of two hours comprising 2 questions out of 6 (50%).

Reading and References

Bryant, Edwin F. and Patton, Laurie L. (ed.) 2005. The Indo-Aryan controversy: evidence and inference in Indian history. London: Routledge. Doniger O'Flaherty, W. (ed.) 1980. Karma and Rebirth in Classical Indian Traditions, Berkeley, University of California Press Doniger, Wendy and Sudhir Kakar (trans. and ed.) 2003. Vatsyayana: Kamasutra: a new, complete English translation of the Sanskrit text, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Kulke, Hermann and Rothermund, Dietmar. 1998. A history of India. 3rd ed. London : Routledge.

Strong, John S. The legend of King Aśoka: a study and translation of the Aśokāvadāna (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983).

Eaton Richard M. India's Islamic Traditions, 711-1750: Themes in Indian History Oxford in India Readings: Themes in Indian History. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003)