Elective Courses 

Buddhism, Gender and Archaeology

Instructor: Garima Kaushik


An interdisciplinary course that provides a comparative, cross-cultural perspective on gender in Early and Early Medieval Buddhism (3rd-2nd B.C - 11th-12th Centuries A.D.) in South and South East Asia, with archaeological data as the central category of analysis. It engages with a range of theoretical and methodological issues in archaeology and their relevance in attempting a gendered analysis of Buddhism. Although the academic study of Buddhism and gender has become established fields of inquiry, there have been relatively few attempts to examine the role of women in Buddhism through an analysis of archaeological data. Gender as a category of analysis underscores the importance of contextual evidence (structural, Epigraphic, sculptural, numismatic etc.) for interpreting gender roles in archaeological investigations of the past. This course addresses issues such as:

How do we recognize gender archaeologically?

What are the benefits, as well as the limitations, of an "engendered" approach in Buddhist studies?

How does the approach build on or contradict the existing scholarship on Buddhism and women?

Deconstructing the notion of women in Buddhism as a single, homogenous, monolithic category it explores the various kinds of women’s spaces within the sacred Buddhist landscape. Materials will be interdisciplinary, drawing from history, archaeology, art history, anthropology, ethnography and gender studies. The course furthers the debate on the Buddhist concepts of gender and sexuality, views of women’s spiritual capacities, their perception of the self, women’s images and agency within Buddhism. It discusses the possibilities of identifying and determining archaeological data that would attest to feminine presence at different types of Buddhist sites. It also examines the role of signs and symbols in interpreting gendered presence at Buddhist sites. The course examines how women are perceived and how they respond, adapt, and contribute to Buddhism in various Buddhist traditions.

Introduction to Buddhist Archaeology

Instructor: Garima Kaushik


Starting with an overview of the Sources (textual, epigraphy, art and architecture, ethno archaeology) for the study of Buddhism the course leads to Introduction to Buddhist Archaeology and its Early beginnings. It discusses how has Buddhism been looked at archaeologically? The development and the evolution of the subject over time. Problems and tensions between text and archaeology based frameworks of analysis. The historical Buddha; contestation over dates for the birth and Parinirvana of the Buddha. Some important Buddhist Sites in South Asia; An overview; Sites associated directly with the life of the Buddha; Early Buddhist Pilgrimage Sites. Buddhism and Commerce, trade networks, issues of patronage and pilgrimage. Evolution of sects and sectarianism: an archaeological assessment. Stupa & the relic cult ; Decline of Buddhism and Neo Buddhism

History and Politics of Yoga


This course explores the history of Yoga in India as religious, social, and political practice. We start with the development of yoga as a philosophical idea and examine how the term came to be used by Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and Buddhists. Further, we look at the spread of yoga throughout the world, first through East and Southeast Asia and then into Europe and North America. Through this development we examine yoga both as a religious and areligious tradition. Further, we examine the political debates that have followed yoga throughout its history and development to understand how yoga has been perceived as it has shifted over time.

This seminar focuses primarily on textual representations of yoga and does not require any form of personal practice.

All texts will be read in English translations, no knowledge of Sanskrit or other Indian languages is required.

Indian Philosophy


This course will provide an overview of the major schools of Indian philosophy. We will examine the development of major themes within the various schools of thought. Following the chronological development of philosophy, we will explore the relationships between and reactions to different ideas over time.

The goal is to look beyond an individual perspective or school of thought in order to understand the development and progression of Indian thought through a philosophical and historical lens.

Importantly, the course will contain a segment on local Sufi traditions in the region of Bihar. This section will not only add to the understanding of the regional diversity of Sufi traditions, going beyond a linear interpretation, but at the same time will support the commitment of Nalanda University towards connecting with its local surroundings. Bihar and Bengal carries a rich history of Sufi activities across various orders over a period of a millennium. The course will help understand South Asian Sufism by showcasing its eastern region. The study of Sufism in Bihar will cover both personalities and their practices, while allowing students to engage with some primary sources produced by local Sufi masters.

All texts will be read in English, no knowledge of Sanskrit or other Indian languages is required.

Religions of Ancient India


In this course, we will study the religions of ancient India, focusing on their interactions with one another, and their social and political impact in the ancient world. We will begin with a week on the Indus Valley Civilization, then have some introductory classes on the beginnings of Brahmanism, Buddhism and Jainism. The focus in these weeks will be the historical trajectory of development of the different traditions, and the ways in which each can be viewed as a response to the others. Following this, in the second part of the course, the focus will shift to the context of Indian political history. Set against the backdrop of the changing political landscape of ancient North India, we will look at how each religion fared under different rulers and regimes. The course covers the ancient period up to the Guptas.


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