This fall, students in Harvard University will study Indian epics Mahabharata and Ramayana. The course in question is "Indian Religions Through Their Narrative Literatures" which will be taught starting 30th August, 2017, by Anne E. Monius, who is the Professor of South Asian Religions at the University. These great Sanskrit epics will be focus of the graduate level “Indian Religions Through Their Narrative Literatures.
Professor Anne E. Monius of Harvard Divinity is a historian of religion specializing in the religious traditions of India. Her research interests recline in examining the practices and products of literary culture to reconstruct the history of religions in South Asia. Talking about the universality of the two epics, Anne E. Monius says, “The Indian epics are long and complex narratives that speak to virtually every aspect of human experience. While the Mahabharata is a sobering tale of cataclysmic war and loss, the Ramayana is one of India's great love stories”. She believes that once the course is over, her students would be able to appreciate the richness of the texts and develop varied lenses with which to examine the different practices and traditions that make up what scholars have called ‘Hinduism’. Her future research projects will explore the relationship of Hindu devotional and philosophical literature in Tamil to its Sanskritic forebears, as well as consider the transmission of South Indian strands of Buddhism and Hinduism to Southeast Asia.
Interestingly, Ramayana, a narrative poem of about 25,000 slokas is divided into seven ‘khandas’, while the Mahabharata, the longest poem ever written, contains around 100,000 verses, and is divided into eighteen ‘Parvan’ and Bhagavad-Gita forms part of it. Hinduism, the third largest religion of the world, has about 1.1 billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in the US.
Harvard University, whose motto is Veritas (Latin for “truth”) has about 22,000 students, boasts of “48 Nobel Laureates, 32 heads of state, 48 Pulitzer Prize winners”.