Oxford Centre for Hindu StudiesAuthor: Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies
12 Dec 2018

Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies

Download, listen or watch all podcasts

Lectures from the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies

  • Listen

    Śaivism and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa

    Early Modern Hindu Theology Seminars
    Dr Anand Venkatkrishnan
    16 May 2016

    The Bhāgavata Purāṇa (BhP) is primarily considered the prerogative of Vaiṣṇava religious communities. This paper complicates that commonplace historiography by exploring what the BhP meant to a group of Śaivas in Kerala in the fifteenth century. I locate these Śaivas at the nexus of a number of philosophical and religious trends: the confluence of Vedic and non-Vedic non-dualism, the encounter of a Kashmiri and a southern discourse on bhakti, and the proliferation of stotras, or praise-poetry, of both Śaiva and Vaiṣṇava persuasions. Ultimately I attempt to understand the local contours of Śaiva ecumenicism: one that engaged with the core texts of Vaiṣṇavism not as subordinate in a hierarchically inclusive series, or as subsumed within the universalism of non-dualist philosophy, but as canonical and liberating in their own right.

    Anand Venkatkrishnan is Asoke Kumar Sarkar Junior Research Fellow at Balliol College, Oxford. He received his PhD in South Asian Religions from Columbia University (2015), and a BA in Classics from Stanford University (2010). His research interests include the intersection between religious movements and scholarly pedagogy, Indian intellectual history, and the early modern world.


  • Posted on 09 Dec 2018

    download
  • Listen

    Nath Siddhas and Hatha Yoga Practices in South India

    Shivadasani Seminar
    Dr Prabhavati Reddy
    9 Jun 2016

    By the fifteenth century, the Nath lineage of Siddhas had emerged as influential teachers and wonder-working yogis in the Telugu-speaking region of Srisailam in South India. Both textual and archaeological evidence suggest that Nath gurus have gained popularity among royal families and common people as well as the establishment of regional Nath parampara traditions, combined with Saiva, Tantra and Hatha Yoga practices in the environs of Srisailam. In this seminar, we will discuss the mid-fifteenth century Telugu work, the Navanathacaritra of Gaurana, which is a primary source dedicated entirely to the history of nine Nath teachers, in particular the fifteenth century Prakara’s art narratives depicting the Naths and a variety of Siddha portraits in hatha yoga postures. The Navanāthacaritra is the first work to give a list of nine Naths corresponding to those found in later Nath works and it also contains important information on the localization of Nath yogis, the Saiva-Nath affiliation, and Tantric and hatha yoga techniques. This seminar explores the five facets of Nath religious culture, including: 1) the historical account of nine Nath Siddhas based on the NavanathaCaritra and the art narratives of Minanatha (Matsyendra), Gopala (Goraksa) and Sarangadhara (Caurangi); 2) the kundalini-based yoga techniques and hatha yoga practices by Nath gurus; 3) the Yogini-Kaula cult of Matsyendranath; 4) a variety of Siddha portraiture and hatha yoga asanas; and 5) the placement of Srisailam’s Nath religious culture within the broader context of the Nath tradition. 

    Dr Prabhavati C. Reddy is an Adjunct Faculty member of Religious Studies at George Mason University in Virginia, USA. She is an interdisciplinary scholar with a Ph.D. in Sanskrit and Indian Studies from Harvard University, an M.A. in Asian Art History from the University of Texas-Austin, and an M.A and M.Phil. in Ancient History and Archaeology from Osmania University, Hyderabad, India. She has previously taught at George Washington University and was a two-year Andrew Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow at Northwestern University where she taught in the Department of Religious Studies. She specializes in Hindu traditions and is interested in the historical development of sectarian traditions with reference to constructive theological frameworks and syncretism, religious authority and identity, and conflict and resolution in response to sociological and political processes. She is the author of Hindu Pilgrimage: Shifting Patterns of Worldview of Srisailam in South India (Routledge, 2014) and has published several articles on Indian art and Indian diaspora/Hindu temples in North America. She is currently working on two books entitled, The Tantra and Siddha Traditions at Srisailam: Kundalini and Hatha Yoga Practices in Medieval India and Vaisnava Rituals and Sacred Images. She has lectured at universities in both the U.S and India as well as has presented papers at professional conferences. 


  • Posted on 09 Nov 2018

    download
  • Listen

    Myth-History Conundrums in the Hagiographies of Satya Pīr: Hindu God and Muslim Holy Man

    J.P. And Beena Khaitan Visiting Fellows lecture
    Prof. Tony K. Stewart
    27 Oct 2016

    Satya Pīr has been for scholars one of the most puzzling figures in Bengali religious history: for Muslims a Sufi saint and for Hindus none other than Satya Nārāyaṇ. The index to their truly puzzling nature is the fact that in spite of their ubiquity—his manuscript and print literature in Bangla is second in size only to the voluminous output prompted by Kṛṣṇa Caitanya—there have been virtually no serious attempts to understand the religious and cultural work of these stories. For the last two centuries these boundary-crossing tales have been uniformly dismissed as derivative rubbish from the perspective of those writing the heroic nationalist literary histories that were secular in ideal, but Hindu in orientation; as heretical by the conservative reforming factions of Faraizi and Salafi Islam; as syncretistic confusion by both foreign and local Orientalists; and demonstrative of a bastard language called dobhāṣī (Bangla combined with Persian and Urdu) by prominent Bengali linguists—all of which served to relegate the tales to the Victorian and Bengali bhadralok élitist (and more recently Marxist) curio cabinet of naïve folktales suitable only as entertainment for the masses. The effect is to hide these tales from the official record of Bengal’s literary production, even though centuries later they continue to enjoy wide popularity and the enjoined worship is still routinely performed. Apart from the obvious contemporary sectarian chauvinism, the underlying key to this almost panicked rejection by élites is the fact that Satya Pīr is of fictional character. He appears nowhere in the historical record of Persian chronicles or copperplate inscriptions and only officially as a mythic figure in the British gazetteers. As a first step in making these tales make sense, I propose that we approach them for what they are: fictional hagiographies. The methodological strategies used to interpret hagiography or religious biography can be applied equally to these narratives of Satya Pīr and Satya Nārāyaṇ, but because of their fictional or mythic nature, the tales unravel something of the intractable problems all hagiographies present to historians of religion. 

    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. 


  • Posted on 09 Oct 2018

    download
  • Listen

    The monastic/ascetic tradition of India and its ramification towards the west

    Shivdasani lecture
    Prof. G. C. Tripathi
    3 Nov 2016

    The lecture would shed light on the Indian phenomenon of monasticism (shrama, shramana) and asceticism (tapas,tapasvin). Buddhist monks are referred to as shramanas, the toilers. The concept of shrama (labour) has a spiritual connotation in the Vedic literature. Monastic way of life, according to me, was not a protest or revolution against the established religious order. Its tradition seems to be as old that of Vedic ritual, although it was formalised and given a well structured form by Mahavira and especially by Buddha. However they were not the inventors of this tradition. Many Rishis and Aranyakas (Vaikhanasas!) lead a life very akin to that of a monk. Tapas etymologically means ‘heat’ and tapasya is ‘accumulation of heat’ where the expression ‘heat’ is understood in the sense of spiritual energy. Performance of austerities is believed to endow a person with extra-ordinary capabilities which could be of many use, besides , of course, spiritual enlightenment. Tapas is usually associated with the concept of a Rsi who can see beyond time and space. We shall deal with these concepts and trace the history of the spread of monasticism in the west from India in short.

    Prof. Gaya Charan Tripathi was born at Agra (India). He went to school and pursued higher studies at Agra, Pune, and Benares. He has a Masters in Sanskrit (1959) from the University of Agra with a Gold Medal and first position in the University. He received his Ph.D. from the same University in 1962 on Vedic Deities and their subsequent development in the Epics and the Puranas supported by a Fellowship of the Ministry of Education. He is a Fellow of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) for Higher Studies in Germany. He has a Dr.Phil. from the University of Freiburg/Br (1966) in History of Religions, Comparative Indo-European Philology, and Latin (besides Indology) as elective subjects in the grade Summa cum Laude. D.Litt. in Ancient Indian History and Culture from the University of Allahabad on ‘A critical Study of the daily Puja Ceremony of the Jagannatha Temple in Puri’ (published under the title Communication with God). He has taught at the Universities of Aligarh, Udaipur, Freiburg (twice), Tuebingen (twice), Heidelberg, Berlin, Leipzig, Philipps-Universität Marburg, and British Columbia (Vancouver). He is Chief Indologist and Field Director of the Orissa Research Project (1970–5) of the German Research Council (DFG), and has been Principal of the Ganganatha Jha Research Institute, Allahabad, for over twenty years. He was Professor and Head of the Research and Publication wing of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, Delhi, and is presently Director of the Bhogilal Leherchand Institute of Indology in New Delhi. He has published 22 books on subjects mostly pertaining to religions and literature of India. His specialisations are: Indian Religions and Philosophy, Vishnuism (especially Pancharatra school), Vedic studies, Sanskrit Literature, Grammar, and Philology, Cult practices of Orissa, and Gaudiya Vishnuism.


  • Posted on 09 Sep 2018

    download
  • Listen

    Subjunctive Explorations of Fictive Vaiṣṇav-Sufi Discourse

    J.P. And Beena Khaitan Visiting Fellows lecture
    Prof. Tony K. Stewart
    10 Nov 2016

    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. 


  • Posted on 09 Aug 2018

    download

Follow Playlisto