South Asian Religions

At Stanford the study of religion in South Asia covers the intellectual history and cultures of the many traditions of the region, with faculty specializing in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. Faculty strengths include Hinduism in early modern India, Śaiva and Śākta Tantric traditions, secularism and pluralism in South Asia, communal conflict and interreligious relations, modern South Asian Islam, religion and material culture, the transmission and translation of Buddhist literature, the study of Buddhist manuscripts, Buddhist Tantra, Tibetan Buddhism, and the circulation of Buddhist knowledge in Asia.

Training in this program draws from a variety of theories and methods current within religious studies and related disciplines (critical theory, ethnography, philology, philosophy, ritual studies, material religion, etc) in the department and across the university. This training typically entails research in primary sources, requiring competence in the relevant languages (Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu, Persian, Tibetan, etc.).

In addition to the courses required of all students, those pursuing the South Asia track are expected to complete significant coursework in South Asian religions across methods, time period, and religious tradition. For example, students studying South Asian Buddhism are expected to take courses on other South Asian religions such as Hinduism or Islam. Similarly, those pursuing philological interests should explore courses on material religion or ethnography. Selection of courses will vary according to subfield, and may be strengthened by taking courses offered by Stanford faculty in History, Anthropology, Comparative Literature, Theater and Performing Arts, Art History, and other departments, as well as classes relevant to the study of South Asia offered at UC Berkeley, which may be taken for credit towards the degree.

If not demonstrated at time of admission, students must achieve competence in the major language(s) of their research as well as a modern vernacular (which may substitute for one of the modern languages for the departmental requirements). For example, a student working on Hindu traditions would be expected to study Sanskrit as well as a relevant vernacular such as Hindi/Urdu, Tamil, or Kannada. Language competence typically takes several years to achieve and students should include this in their planned program of coursework. Further information on the resources and opportunities for students of South Asian religions can be found through the Center for South Asia, the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies, and the Ho Center for Buddhist Studies.