Lived Sanskrit Cultures in Varanasi
19th Feb. - 16th Mar. 2018
A four week intensive course in Varanasi
Organized by: Heidelberg University and Würzburg University, Germany
Course content & description
An important component of studying the cultural and religious landscape of any region is to directly engage with its lived practices. This four-week intensive course is designed to impart a practice oriented training in methods of cultural and religious studies. Its aim is to complement and supplement the approaches of philology and textual studies. It is suitable for students registered in a bachelor or master level program in any University in the field of cultural and religious history of South Asia with special focus on Sanskrit studies.
Areas of study
Three broad areas will be covered during the course. These include (A) the lived cultures of Sanskrit learning (B) Rituals that are practiced in public or private spheres, and (C) Varanasi as a centre of pilgrimage. An essential part of the course would be to include gender perspectives in the study of all the areas mentioned above.
A. Teaching Sanskrit and the Veda
The main focus of this module is an initial acquaintance with the traditional and modern institutions as well as individuals engaged in Sanskrit learning. Apart from examining the training of young male students in a Veda-pāṭhaśālā, we will also focus on Sanskrit and Veda education of women and girls especially at the Pāṇini Kanyā Mahāvidyālaya. We will conduct interactive sessions with the teachers and students of these centers and inform ourselves about the details of their academic life e.g. their curriculum, text books, teaching methods, examination techniques and other relevant extra-curricular activities.
B. Performing Rituals
The aim of this module is to introduce the extensive span of rituals ranging from Śrauta- and Smārta-karma performed by priests to the Ekādaśī- or Caturthī-vrata and kathā practiced by women within families. Besides observing these rituals the students will be encouraged to interactively participate in them or if possible to partially perform them on their own as more effective understanding of ritual practices is gained by hands on experience of its performance. Apart from it details of the various related aspects will be worked out during the course. This would include insights into the textual sources, traditional calendar of rituals, training of priests, preparation of ritual place, procurement of material, male and female participation etc.
C. Kāśīyātrā: Processions in Varanasi
In this module, we will study Sanskrit sources like the Kāśīkhaṇḍa and the Kāśīrahasya, look at those textual references to processions within Varanasi and compare them with actual pilgrimage practices. We will look into issues like prescriptions (saṃkalpa) for the beginning and the end of a procession, the operational character of ritual prescriptions and the relation to actual performances. We will ask how texts are inscribed into space by various inscriptions found along the pilgrimage routes and to what extant pilgrimage maps relate to the studied texts and whether they are useful for orientation in space. This will be done with a special focus on the Pañcakrośī- and the Antargṛhayātrā and by various excursions to places linked to these processions. We will study recent efforts to re-establish pilgrimage practice and talk to activists involved in these efforts.
Z. Spoken Sanskrit: A Crash Course
Besides the above three main areas of study, every day Spoken Sanskrit sessions will be conducted by Prof. Gopabandhu Mishra (Banaras Hindu University) who is a speaker of Sanskrit and an experienced teacher of Sanskrit conversation.
- Applications for admission are invited by students registered in a university or other academic institutions. This course is suitable for students who are studying in B.A./M.A. or researchers working in these areas. It is open to students hailing from any part of the world (including India!).
- The course language is English.
- Knowledge of Sanskrit is mandatory (equivalent to at least 1 year of university level courses). In addition to it, working knowledge of Hindi is desired, although it is not a pre-requisite for the course. Moreover, previous exposure with Varanasi or India is useful.
- A maximum of twelve students will be admitted for the course.
Application should include:
- Filled application form (Download: here).
- A motivation letter by the applicant in English. It should not exceed 300 words.
- A recommendation letter by a faculty member of a university.
- Please mail the completed application at the following address:
- Last date of submission of application is: 30th Sept. 2017
- Course fee is: 940 Euro
- The above amount includes course/Tuition fee; accommodation in double room; food (breakfast, lunch and dinner); and transport (for travels within Varanasi as part of the course programme) only.
- It does not include air tickets, VISA fees or any other costs arising out of personal preferences.
- Extra cost for single room: 500 Euro
There is a possibility to rent a single room for which extra sum needs to be paid.
- The selected applicants will receive an letter (through e-mail) latest by 15th October 2017 communicating their provisional admission.
- The selected applicants are required to pay the entire amount of fee (see below) latest by 31st Oct. 2017 following which an admission letter will be issued. In case of non-payment, the place may be allotted to the other applicants in the waiting list.