SOAS University of London

Department of Religions & Philosophies, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Textual Sources of Classical Hinduism

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2017/2018
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Full Year
In this course we will encounter some of the most fundamental religious texts of the Hindu tradition, including the Rg Veda, Upanishads, Mahābhārata, and Bhagavad Gītā. Through close readings, we will examine some of the core religio-philosophical ideas of early Hinduism, as well as pay close attention to the composition, style, and structure of the texts themselves. We will also attempt to situate Hindu religious discourse within a social and historical context, paying close attention to who participates in the religious world of ancient India and in what types of social circumstances religio-philosophical ideas are discussed.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

By the end of  the course students can be expected to:

  • be familiar with the historical context of Ancient and Medieval India sufficient to contextualize textual canons;
  • have an overview of the textual genres relevant to the development and practice of Hinduism to about the 4th Century CE.
  • think critically about texts and provide written analysis of them.
  • work comfortably with scholarly secondary sources.
  • understand major themes in the study of the interaction between textual traditions and religious institutions and practice.

Method of assessment

2 Essays, of 5,000 words (each essay is worth 50% of the final mark)

Suggested reading

  • Edgerton, F. (1965). The beginnings of Indian Philosophy.Selections from the Rig Veda, Atharva Veda, UpaniÒads, and Mahabharata.
  • Olivelle, Patrick (1996) The Upanisads.
  • Buitenen, J. A. B. van (1981). The Bhagavadgita in the Mahabharata. Text and Translation.
  • Bryant, Edwin (tr.) (2003) Krishna: The Beautiful Legend of God (Śrimad Bhāgavata Purāsha Book X). London: Penguin Classics.
  • Flood, Gavin (ed.) (2003) The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
  • Johnson, Will (tr.) (2004) The Bhagavad Gītā. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Mittal, Sushil & Thursby, Gene (eds) (2004) The Hindu World. London: Routledge.
  • O’Flaherty, Wendy (tr.) (1981) The Rig Veda An Anthology: One Hundred and Eight Hymns. London: Penguin.
  • Olivelle, Patrick (tr.) (1998) The Early Upanishads: Annotated Text and Translation. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • -- (ed. and tr.) (2004) The Law Code of Manu. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Roebuck, Valerie (tr.) (2004) The Upanishads. Harmondsworth: Penguin.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules