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Introduction to Hinduism


Admission requirements



This course provides a general introduction to Hinduism, from a historical as well as thematic perspective. The course traces the historical background and development of a variety of 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 Hinduism, presenting the diversity of traditions that have contributed to the religion as a whole, but also aims at defining general features 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 to be discussed 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 Hinduism.

  • Familiarity with the historical background and development of Hinduism.

  • 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.


Timetable Minor Religion in a changing world

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

Course Load

  • Classes (13×2) and exams (2×2): 30 hours

  • Reading: 50 hours

  • Revision and preparation for exams: 60 hours

  • Total: 140 hours (5 EC x 28 hours)

Assessment method

2 written examinations: one written examination (w) at the end of the first block (40%) and one written examination with essay questions (we) at the end of the second block (60%).

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

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.



Reading list

  • Gavin Flood, An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. (entire book)

  • Selected articles announced on Blackboard.


Students are required to register through uSis before August/January 15. 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.


Dhr. Dr. D. Cuneo
Dhr. Prof.dr. P.R. Kanungo


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).