Spring 2017

Religions of Ancient India



Course Schedule


Week 1

Topics, Texts,
and Videos

Videos in green

Readings, Quizzes, and Assignments

Primary texts in purple


Tu Jan 17: Introduction to the Course


Readings and Assignments are due for
the day on which they are listed unless otherwise indicated


Th Jan 19: Geographical and linguistic
                    features of India


The Story of India: Beginnings


·      Trautmann,  Ch. 1

·      Koller, Ch. 1



Week 2

Tu Jan 24: Central Features


·      Trautmann,  Ch. 2




1400-500 BCE


Early Vedic Traditions


Th Jan 26:  Class canceled due to illness

See Map Assignment 1

(Assignments page)

·      Trautmann,  Ch. 3


Week 3

Tu Jan 31: Aryan Worldview and Society



·      Koller, Ch. 2, pp. 19-32

·      Rig Veda 10.90 - Purusha Sukta [BB]


Th Feb 02:  Ecstatic Visions & the Fire Sacrifice




Alter of Fire

Map Assignment 1 Due in Class

·      Koller, Ch. 3



Late Vedic Traditions

Week 4

 Tu Feb 07: Transitions:

New Empires / New Traditions




(See “How to Write a Good
Quiz,” Assignments page)


·      Trautmann,  Ch. 4.

Th Feb 09: Fate, Re-Death, and Liberation

Karma, Samsara, Moksha
in the Upanishads

·      Koller, Ch. 4

·      Mundaka Upanishad (excerpt) – Sacrifices: Unsteady boats on the ocean of life.  Embree, The Ultimate Reality in the Upanishads, p. 31 [BB]



·      Kinsley, Central Hindu Beliefs [BB]


Week 5

Tu Feb 14: The Self and the Divine

Atman and Brahman
in the Upanishads



·      Klostermaier, Karma, Vidya, Moksha: Liberation from Rebirth [BB]

·      Chandogya Upanishad (excerpt) – The essential reality underlying the world.  In Embree, The Ultimate Reality in the Upanishads, pp. 36-38 [BB]


Th Feb 16:  Renunciation



Four Hindu Ascetics


·      Flood, “Yoga and Renunciation” (section on renunciation) [BB]




Week 6

 Tu Feb 21: Yoga

·      Flood, “Yoga and Renunciation” (section on yoga) [BB]

Th Feb 23: The Story of India:

The Power of Ideas






Week 7

Tu Feb 28: Hearing the Sacred in India



Review Session in Second Half

·      Coward, Hearing the Sacred in India [BB]


Summary and Reflections
Paper One due in Class
(see Assignments Page for details)


Th Mar 02:  MIDTERM EXAM  (Bring Blue Books)





500-320 BCE


Week 8

Tu Mar 07: Mahavira and Jainism


Video: The Frontiers of Peace


·      Koller, The Jaina Vision, pp. 105-118

Th Mar 09: Jain Doctrine and Practice

·       Koller, The Jaina Vision, pp. 118-127


Week 9

Spring Recess




Week 10

 Tu Mar 21: Life of the Buddha


·      Kohler, The Way of the Buddha, pp. 128-149

Th Mar 23: The Conditions of Suffering



·      Kohler, The Way of the Buddha, pp. 149-162





Week 11

Tu Mar 28: No classes (all day advising)


Th Mar 30: The Cessation of Suffering



Week 12

Tu April 04:  Recap of History


The Story of India: Spice Routes and Silk Roads



·      Koller, Ch. 5

·      Kinsley, Hindu Social Structure, pp. 152-161 [BB]




Th April 06: The Bhagavadgita

and other syntheses.



Lecture by Stephanie Donovan


·      Koller, Ch. 9

·      Olivelle,  Social Engagement or Ascetic Withdrawal



320 CE – 1000 CE



Week 13

Tu April 11: Bhakti


Story of India: Ages of Gold

·      Eck, Ch. 1

·      Koller, Ch. 10

Summary and Reflections
Paper Two due in Class
(see Assignments Page for details)


Th April 13:  Lord Vishnu / Krishna



Week 14

Tu April 18: Lord Shiva / Puja



·      Koller, Ch. Devotional Hinduism: Kali and Shiva

·      Eck, Ch. 3

Th April 20:  Goddess Traditions:


Benign Goddesses and Sacred Geography

Ganga: Purity and Pollution
Lecture by Sally McFadden


Map Assignment 2 Due in Class

·      Eck, The Goddess Ganges in Hindu Sacred Geography [BB]




Week 15

Tu April 25:  The Goddess Traditions:

Terrifying and Warlike Goddesses






·      Koller, Ch. 11

Th April 27:  Performing the Divine in India




·      Schwartz, Rasa in Theory: Text and Context

Summary and Reflections
Paper Three due in Class
(see Assignments Page for details)



                                                          FINAL EXAM


FRIDAY, May 5, 2:00-4:15 PM






Descriptions of Assignments:

Graded Quizzes: There will be four 20-minute graded quizzes worth 50 points each.  Questions on a quiz can cover anything from the reading assignments, video, discussion, maps, lectures that followed the previous quiz, and from the readings for the day of the quiz.  Graded quizzes will usually consist of short answers and definitions.  Several quizzes will include image identification. My own lecture notes and lists of terms will be posted on the “study aids” page of the web site to help you stay prepared for class discussions, quizzes and exams.  Missed quizzes receive no points. A quiz cannot be made up at any other time, regardless of the reasons for missing it.


Map Exercises: These two assignments require you to get familiar with the geography of the Indian sub-continent, including its especially sacred locations and features.  They will be graded for accuracy.  Elements of the exercise will show up on exams.


Summary and Reflections Papers: These assignments invite you to summarize the main points of specific readings and reflect upon them in your own way.  They are described in the Assignments section of the website.


Video Worksheets: You fill these out in class, during a video.  Again, I am looking here for you to use the opportunity to watch/listen actively and anchor your knowledge through writing.  Worksheets gain full points so long as the student gives a much as s/he can in responding to the question(s).

Midterm and Final Exams: The content of these exams and my criteria in grading them are described on pages linked to the “Assignments” page of the course website.


A Few Things to Note:

About Quizzes: The combined scores for quizzes will be worth 200 points.  Thus your final grade will be influenced by how faithful you are to the reading assignments and to the review of your readings and notes from class

About Grading: If ever I find that a particular question on a test or quiz is missed by almost everyone, I will assume that it was unfair or too difficult and throw it out.  If ever you disagree with a grade, you can always come to me and protest, complain, persuade, etc.  I may or may not be convinced, but I will always listen.

About Participation: “Participation” means (1) present, (2) alert, (3) prepared with assignments, (4) punctual arrival.  Lack of any of these will affect the grade, excessive lack (e.g., more than 3 undocumented absences) is reason for dismissal from the class.

“Active Participation”: This refers to participation above and beyond the four criteria given above; for example when a student asks questions, makes comments, seeks clarification, brings outside material (like news articles, books, experiences, etc.) to share in class.



Very Important Info:


My Attendance Policy: Attendance is required.  Without regular attendance, students do not tend to do well in the class.  I allow two free days.  As a courtesy, please let me know when you will be taking a free day; there is no need to say why.  After the two free days, each undocumented absence results in a 20 point reduction.  If a student acquires more than three undocumented absences, s/he must withdraw from the class.  If it is after the deadline for withdrawal, the student will receive an F for the course.  A note from a doctor, dentist, coach, or funeral director -- with contact information -- is acceptable documentation.  The student must present the note on the day that he or she returns to class and within one week of the absence, otherwise the absence will be counted as undocumented. Please note that a phone call or email message saying that you are ill is not sufficient, nor is a note from the health center confirming an appointment.


Lateness: Late arrival in class is noted.  Three late arrivals result in an undocumented absence and a 20 point reduction.  More than three is grounds for removal from the class.


Office Hours:  My office number and hours are listed above.  Please make an appointment if you can, but feel completely free to drop by with your concerns, ideas, questions, etc.  I will always make time if I can.  If need be, we can certainly communicate by email, but in-person is always best.

Online Syllabus: This online syllabus can be accessed through the Blackboard course page but I recommend that you bookmark it so as to bypass BB when it goes down.  I might alter the assignment schedule as seems appropriate or necessary; but I will not change the grading policies.



Email Communications: Students are responsible for checking the online syllabus and their email every day. I will announce any and all changes via email -- e.g., a changed deadline or altered reading assignment.

Emailed Assignments: I cannot accept them unless you clear it with me in advance and only under unusual circumstances.  While I appreciate that print costs are considerable, I consider them a legitimate part of college expenses.  Running out of pay for print is not a valid reason for submitting an assignment by email.


Computer Failure is not a valid excuse for a late assignment.  Be sure to back up.  Broken or unreliable computer?  Use the computers at the college computer labs.

Academic dishonesty
in any form -- including plagiarism of self or others, falsified documentation of a doctor’s note, etc. -- will not be tolerated.  Cheating of any kind results, without exception, in an “F” for the course without the option of withdrawal.

Food in class:
Drinks and snacks of the very quiet variety are allowed in class (e.g., poi, rasgula, duck pate), nothing else.

Absolutely no use of cell phones in the classroom (so please turn them off).