SOAS University of London

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

R120 Introduction to Hinduism

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2020/2021
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Term 2

This course is an introduction to Hinduism, the major religious tradition of South Asia. Hinduism encompasses diverse religious traditions which have evolved in the Indian sub-continent in approximately the last three and a half thousand years. 

Today they are represented by an extensive corpus of textual sources, a variety of artistic productions, and the practices, experiences and interpretations of around a billion Hindus, in South Asia and in the diaspora.

Beginning with the oldest archaeological and textual sources, this course traces the development of Hindu traditions from ancient fire rituals, through early philosophical speculation and the epic stories of the Mahābhārata and Rāmāyaṇa, to contemporary Hinduism in today’s global society. 

Lectures and tutorials will explore Hinduism both as a religious construct and as a social and cultural phenomenon, and throughout the course we shall return to a number of core issues: the relationship between text and practice, the connections between religion and culture, the intersection with social, gender and political concerns, and the key issues that affect Hindus in the modern world.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

By the end of this course you should be able to:

  • explain the origins and meaning of the term 'Hinduism'
  • trace in outline the history of the Hindu tradition
  • identify the major textual and non-textual sources of Hinduism
  • identify the major members of the Hindu pantheon
  • discuss Hinduism as both a religious and a social construct, with particular reference to ideas such as dharma, asceticism, gender, and caste
  • explain the significant features of Hindu worship, both domestic and public.
  • understand the role of Hinduism in contemporary India and beyond
  • find and use books, journals and other relevant sources of information


You are expected to attend one two hour lecture and one hour long tutorial each week.  Each week's lecture will address a key theme and/or development in the Hindu tradition.  The tutorials each week will discuss in more depth an important topic broadly related to that week's lecture and will also introduce brief extracts from core Hindu texts, in English translation.

Scope and syllabus

The course provides a basic introduction to Hinduism for those with little or no previous knowledge. It traces the history of the tradition in outline, identifies the main elements of Hinduism in practice and offers a conceptual model for representing them.

Method of assessment

  • Reading Journal 1 (2500 words - weeks 1-5) (20%)
  • Reading Journal 2 (2500 words - weeks 6-10) (20%)
  • Essay: 3000 words (60%)

Suggested reading

Flood, Gavin (1996) An Introduction to Hinduism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Rodrigues, Hillary P. (2nd edition 2017)
  • Introducing Hinduism Abingdon: Routledge

Flood, Gavin (ed.) (2003) The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism - Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Knott, K (2000) Hinduism: A Very Short Introduction - Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Mittal, Sushil & Thursby, Gene (eds.) (2004) The Hindu World - London: Routledge.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules