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DEGREE REGULATIONS & PROGRAMMES OF STUDY 2020/2021

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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Divinity : Religious Studies

Postgraduate Course: Understanding the Hindu Epics: Mahabharata and Ramayana (REST11022)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Divinity CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) 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.
If the student has some Sanskrit language competence, reading portions of the text in the original language will be encouraged.
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 and ideas. 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, which will be a mixture of lecture and seminar discussion and will run concurrently with the level 10 version of the course. In addition, the PGT students will meet for four extra seminars with the CM, based around more advanced readings on variant traditions and reception history. Weekly written responses to primary source readings will serve as both formative and summative assessment, with comments on these pieces returned to students prior to the subsequent week┐s class; together the weekly work counts for 20% of the grade. The remaining assessment (80%) is a 4,000 word essay on a topic agreed between the student and the CM. An overview /plan for the coursework essay will be presented to other PGT students during a session in week 11, allowing for feedback from peers and the CM. Written feedback will also be given on essay plans.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesNone
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Identify the main features of the two epics, including major plotlines, characters and themes, and relate them to wider Hindu concerns and teachings, by engaging with both primary and secondary sources.
  2. Assess the thematic and religious links between the two epics, and between different versions of each epic, reflecting on how the differing versions and stories address the needs of communities in different times and places.
  3. Evaluate the significance of the epics, or of episodes and characters therein, for our understanding of Indian religious history.
Reading List
None
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
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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