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Introduction to Hindu Religions


Admission requirements



This course provides a general introduction to the religious cultures associated with Hinduism, from a historical as well as a thematic perspective. The course traces the historical background and development of the various religious and cultural traditions that converged into the notion of a pan-Indian religion under the label Hinduism. The course takes an open and pluralistic approach to the study of Hindu religions, drawing attention to the diversity of traditions, but also aims at defining general features of the notion of a unified religion. Students will also be introduced to the modern and contemporary lives of Hinduism through the colonial, post-colonial and contemporary periods, both within India and in Hindu communities spread across the world.

Topics addressed in the course will include: identity formation of ‘Hinduism’; ritual and religion of the Vedas; Hindu mythology, theology and philosophy; devotion and pilgrimage; Hinduism and society; relation to other religions such as Buddhism, Jainism and Islam; Hindu social, intellectual and political movements in the modern period; rise of contemporary Hindu nationalism; and Hinduism beyond India.

The course will welcome students to understand Hinduism historically, both as theory and practice, and also, as a social, cultural and political formation.

Course objectives

Knowledge of key terms, concepts, texts and traditions of Hindu religions.
Familiarity with the historical background and development of Hindu religions.
Awareness of the diversity of Hindu religious cultures and traditions.
Familiarity with the cultural and political dimensions of Hinduism in the modern and contemporary world.
Critical awareness of the relation between theory and practice in studying Hinduism.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

Assessment method


2 written examinations: one written examination (w) at the end of the first block (50%) and one written examination with essay questions (we) at the end of the second block (50%).

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.


Both written examinations: 50%.


The individual exams cannot be retaken. There is one opportunity for a re-sit of the entire course (100%).

Exam review

If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will be organized.

Reading list

Selected readings will be announced on Blackboard.


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 being 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. Contractonderwijs.


For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar. * For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Vrieshof


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 accomodations 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).