SOAS University of London

Department of Religions and Philosophies

Text and Context in Classical Hinduism

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2016/2017
Unit value:
Year of study:
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, the 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 kinds of social circumstances religio-philosophical ideas are discussed. Additionally, students will be expected to analyze critically the methods and approaches of textual analysis in the fields of the Study of Religions and Indology.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

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

  • to develop familiarity with the principal sources of Classical Hinduism
  • the techniques of textual exegesis
  • historical contextualization
  • the handling of central religious, philosophical and mythological themes from primary sources
  • clarity of expression and argument

Method of assessment

2 Essays, of 7,000 words (each essay is worth 50% of the final mark)

Suggested reading

  • Bryant, Edwin (tr.) (2003) Krishna: The Beautiful Legend of God (Śrimad Bhāgavata Purāṇa Book X). London: Penguin Classics.
  • Flood, Gavin (ed.) (2003) The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
  • Halbfass, Wilhelm (1988) India and Europe: An Essay in Understanding. Albany: State University of New York Press.
  • Johnson, Will (tr.) (2004) The Bhagavad Gītā. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • King, Richard (1999) Orientalism and Religion: Postcolonial Theory, India and ‘The Mystic East’. London: Routledge.
  • 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 Upaniṣads: 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 Upaniṣads. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Online course outline.


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