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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Divinity : Religious Studies

Undergraduate Course: The Hindu Epics: Mahabharata and Ramayana (REST10051)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Divinity CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course explores the two great Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Using English translations and secondary scholarship it will examine the key characters and plots, and relate them to wider Hindu debates about the nature of gods, the obligations of humans, and the cosmic battle between good and evil. It will also pose questions about the reception of the epics, and their role in Hindu and Indian religious history.
Course description Academic Description:
This course explores the two great Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Using English retellings and secondary scholarship it will examine the key characters and plots, and relate them to wider Hindu debates about the nature of gods, the obligations of humans, and the cosmic battle between good and evil. It will also pose questions about the reception of the epics, and their role in Hindu and Indian religious history.
The two epics are dated, in their classical Sanskrit versions, to around the 4th century BCE to 4th century CE, thus falling in an important period of Hindu development. As the old Vedic culture that dominated the Northwest of India is challenged by the new religious movements of the Northeast - namely Buddhism and Jainism - a new form of Hinduism begins to emerge. Karma and rebirth is incorporated into the ideology, and new paths to liberation become the focus of religious activity, while the dominant teachings continue to emphasise the importance of fulfilling one's worldly duties. Meanwhile, devotional traditions surrounding key deities such as Visnu, start to develop and rise in popularity. The Mahabharata and Ramayana are key contributors to this exciting religious scene, with their teachings about the nature of gods, the obligations of humans, and the cosmic battle between good and evil. Developing into multiple versions in multiple languages, the epics are also a window into the changing religious landscape of India.

Syllabus/Outline Content:
After an introductory week that introduces key historical and thematic considerations, the course is broadly split into two halves: in the first half of the semester we focus on the Mahabharata, and in the second half on the Ramayana. We will read key episodes from the epics in English translation, and discussion of these will be accompanied by lectures on related themes and questions. The two are tied together at the end of the semester with a discussion of key common features and distinctive elements.

Student Learning Experience Information:
The course will be delivered through a weekly two-hour class. The first hour will usually be a student-led discussion of the week┐s readings from the epics, while the second hour will constitute a lecture introducing key themes relevant to the week ahead. Students will be expected to keep up with the primary source readings and to write a short response to the reading each week; this will serve as an opportunity for formative feedback but also constitute 20% of the course mark. Lectures will also point to relevant secondary scholarship, which students will need to seek out. A coursework essay of 2,000 words will form a further 20% of the course grade, and feedback on essay plans will provide formative assessment; this essay will address a question on the Mahabharata. A two-hour end of course examination will count for the remaining 60% of the mark, and will ask students to answer three questions: one on the Mahabharata, one on the Ramayana and one on a point of comparison or contrast between the two epics.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesThis course is available to visiting students, though it is advisable that the student have some basic knowledge of Indian religions prior to taking it.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Outline the main features of the two epics, including major plotlines and characters.
  2. Identify the key themes of the epics or episodes therein, relate them to wider Hindu concerns and teachings, and evaluate their significance for our understanding of Indian religious history.
  3. Assess the thematic and religious links between the two epics, and between different versions of each epic.
Reading List
None
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills By engaging with and completing this course, graduates will be able to:
- Collect and synthesise evidence from a wide range of primary and secondary sources;
- Evaluate and critique the work of scholars who have studied religions, both in the contemporary period and in the history of the discipline;
- Formulate questions emerging from the study of religions and structure an argument to express resolutions to the questions critically and analytically.
- Read and interpret a range of different sources for the study of religions within their historical, social and theoretical contexts and be able to differentiate primary from secondary sources.
- Organise complex and lengthy arguments and draw these together into a coherent conclusion
- Analyse and explain how religious communities are shaped by and interact with their social, cultural and physical environments;
- Express clearly ideas and arguments, both orally and in writing and in electronic media;
- Develop oral presentation and participation skills during seminars and group-work, and in written form through online blogs and other e-learning tools, dissertations and essays;
- Organise their own learning, manage workload and work to a timetable;
- Effectively plan, and possess the confidence to undertake and to present scholarly work that demonstrates an understanding of the aims, methods and theoretical considerations relevant to Religious Studies; and
- Work independently on the creation of essays and research based dissertations using the standards current in the academic field of Religious Studies.

KeywordsHindu,India,epics,Mahabharata,Ramayana,Religious Studies
Contacts
Course organiserDr Naomi Appleton
Tel: (0131 6)50 8976
Email: Naomi.Appleton@ed.ac.uk
Course secretaryMs Roisin O'Fee
Tel: (0131 6)50 8921
Email: Roisin.OFee@ed.ac.uk
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