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Active - JAN 185: An Indian Aesthetic: Religion & Culture in India
Agra, India; Amritsar, India; Bodh Gaya, India; Jaipur, India; Jodhpur, India; Kolkata, India; McLeod Ganj, India; Mumbai, India; New Delhi, India; Pathankot, India; Pushkar, India; Udaipur, India; Varanasi, India; Varca, India (Outgoing Program)
Program Terms: Jan Term
Homepage: Click to visit
Restrictions: SMC-CA applicants only
Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Jan Term 2018 12/01/2017 12/01/2017 TBA TBA
Program Description:
Course Title:An Indian Aesthetic: Religion & Culture in IndiaCourse ID:JAN 185Instructors:Norris W. PalmerContact Email:npalmer@stmarys-ca.eduLocation:

Country: India

Cities: New Delhi, Dharamsala, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Agra, Fatephur Sikri, Varanasi, Bodhgaya, Goa, Mumbai.

Course Description:

India’s long and rich history of religious diversity is both well known and highly complex.  During our month in India, we’ll study a host of religious traditions (Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, and Christianity) within a wide variety of their historical and cultural settings.  Our study will examine both individual traditions and the complex history of their interaction.  We’ll also examine how religions interact with political, social, and economic systems as well as look at examples of religious pluralism together with its promises and problems in historic and contemporary settings.  Finally, we’ll examine some of the artistic traditions that arose from these complex religious worlds and seek to develop an understanding of an Indian aesthetic of life.

Our study will take us from some of the world’s largest metropolises—Mumbai (aka Bombay) and New Delhi—to remote Himalayan villages—McLeod Ganj—to cities, towns, and villages in between.  In Mumbai we’ll study Zoroastrianism with its dramatic Towers of Silence, which are used in lieu of burial or cremation.  Our travels will also lead us to south western India, to the relaxed coastal setting of Goa, a state heavily influenced by 15th century Catholic Portuguese settlers, to investigate the forms of Christianity spawned by these colonists and their interaction with Indian religious and cultural forces.  And, we’ll have opportunity to see the “incorruptible body” of Saint Francis Xavier (1506-1552, co-founder of the Jesuit order) whose remains are on display in the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa.

Our study will also take us north to investigate exquisite examples of Islamic Mogul architecture and religious syncretism, seen most dramatically in the world’s most famous tomb, the Taj Mahal in Agra as well as in striking examples in a number of Rajasthani cities.  In New Delhi, we’ll tour the famous Islamic mosque, the Jama Masjid, as well as the vast Hindu Swami Narayan temple complex, a more modest Sikh Gurdwara, and include stops at important sites in the life of Mahatma Gandhi.  An investigation of Tibetan Buddhism in “Little Lhasa” (home of the Tibetan Government in Exile) located in the hill station of McLeod Ganj in the foothills of the Himalaya will round out our stay in the far north.

A trip east to Varanasi (aka “Benares”) will take us to Hinduism’s most sacred city where we will have opportunity to dip in the sacred river Ganges and examine Shaivite Hinduism.  Heading just a bit further east, we’ll visit Bodhgaya (the site at which the historical Buddha is said to have realized the true nature of reality and won enlightenment) as well as a number of other important Buddhist pilgrimage sites.

We’ll move between extremes not only in religious and cultural configurations but also in terms of geography and climate as well.  Please note that the itinerary is tentative and locations are subject to change. This trip is recommended for hearty travelers with intrepid curiosity and a real sense of adventure.

Division:Upper DivisionPrerequisites:

Successful completion of a college-level course in theology or religious studies.

Informational Meetings:

Attendance at one of these meetings is mandatory for enrollment (contact the instructor if you have conflicts):  

Tuesday 9/6, 5:00-6:30pm, Dante 218

Wednesday 9/7, 3:00-4:30pm, Dante 218

Wednesday 9/7, 5:00-6:30pm, Dante 218

Tuesday 9/13, 6:00-7:30pm, Dante 218

Thursday, 9/15, 5:00-6:30pm, Dante 218

Reading List:

1. A Course Reader

2. Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India, Third Ed., Diana Eck (N.Y.: Columbia University Press, 1998)

3. The Ramayana, Valmiki

4. Siddhartha, Herman Hesse

Basis for Final Grade:

Mid-term covering the basic outlines of Indian religious traditions (prior to travel, 25%); development and presentation of a research paper (1,500 – 2,000 words) investigating an aspect of the course we’ll be studying (prior to travel, 25%); active, thoughtful participation in every aspect of the course as demonstrated by contributions, behavior, and within an analytical journal integrating on-the-ground experiences with theoretical components of the course (30%); final exam (completed on return 20%).

Course Fee Per Student:$4,650Description of What the Course Fee Covers:

The course fee covers R/T airfare from San Francisco to India (arrive in New Delhi, depart from Mumbai), an entire month in India including in-country transportation, shared accommodations, breakfast and dinner (and some lunches depending on final budget), guides, most entrance fees and tips, and mandatory medical insurance.

Dates Traveling:

January 2 - February 3, 2017

Dates on Campus:

Three additional, mandatory organizational & instructional class meetings will be held prior to departure (tentatively scheduled for the evenings of Oct. 11, 2016; Oct. 18, 2016; and Nov. 8, 2016).

Schedule:Travel course, no on-campus dates during JanuarySpaces reserved for freshmen:n/a