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Cultural Dynamics of South and South East Asia: Ramayana


Admission requirements

Successful completion of at least 45 EC of the first year (propaedeutics) of the bachelor’s programme in South and Southeast Asian Studies including Classical Cultures of SSEA: Seminar I, and Premodern History of SSEA or Histories of Modern SSEA or Nation, Community, Self. Students interested in this course and not fullfilling the requirements should contact Prof.dr.M.J. Klokke before the start of the course.


This year’s course on Cultural Dynamics in South and Southeast Asia focuses on the Ramayana, one of the great Indian epics, that became known all over India and spread to other parts of South and Southeast Asia. The most well-known version is the Sanskrit Ramayana of Valmiki, consisting of 24,000 verses in seven books, which is thought to date from around the fifth to third century BC. Throughout the ages, the Ramayana tradition expanded to include myriad new versions in South and Southeast Asian vernacular languages, in local performances, and in various art forms. During this process it adapted to new religious, social and political contexts. Besides Hindu versions, Jain and Buddhist versions exist as well, and the story was also adopted in Muslim contexts, and helped to shape new social and political ideologies and agendas. The Ramayana still has a dominant position in the culture of India and beyond, functioning as a binding factor between South and Southeast Asian countries, but also providing heated debates related to cultural belonging and identity. Various lecturers contribute to this course, so that two aims of this course can be fulfilled. One is to provide a key to understand the rich Ramayana heritage of South and Southeast Asia and the cultural dynamics that helped to shape it, through confrontation with many different Ramayanas, from different times and in different cultural contexts. The other is to introduce students to the various disciplinary approaches that characterize South and Southeast Asia studies.

Course objectives

  • Advanced knowledge of the Ramayana in South and Southeast Asia.

  • Insight in the flexibility of the Ramayana tradition to adapt, in different media, to different religious, social and political contexts in South and Southeast Asia.

  • Academic skills to summarize and critically discuss scholarly publications and to apply the knowledge and insights acquired during this course in a written paper.



Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Attendance and participation are obligatory. Classes missed for a good reason (to the discretion of the conveners and to be discussed BEFORE the class takes place) will have to be made up with an extra assignment. Being absent without notification can result in a lower grade or exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

Course load

Total course load: 140 hours
Attending lectures/seminars: 24 hours
Studying and critically summarizing the compulsory literature: 80 hours
Writing a 2000-word paper: 36 hours

Assessment method


  1. Active participation: weekly web-postings, presentations, discussion
  2. Research paper


  1. Active participation: weekly web-postings, presentations, discussion (40% of overall mark)
  2. Research paper (60% of the overall mark)

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.


The research paper is written in two stages: a first version which will be commented on and a final version. Students who do not meet the deadline for the first version will lose the right to get comments and will only be graded based on their final version. (The paper deadline mentioned in uSis is a fictional date for administration purposes only. The actual date will be communicated by the convenor of the course.)

The course is an integrated whole. The final examination and the assignments must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.

Exam review

If a student requests in writing a review of his/her research paper within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will be organized.



Reading list

Texts will be made available after the start of the course.


Students are required to register through uSis. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “Act.nbr.”.

Not registered, means no permission to attend this course. See also the ‘Registration procedures for classes and examinations’ for registration deadlines and more information on how to register.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Studeren à la carte nor Contractonderwijs is possible for this course.


Mw. Prof.dr. Marijke Klokke


Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accommodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations).