Episodes
In Opening Kailasanatha: The Temple in Kanchipuram Revealed in Time and Space (U Washington Press, 2020), Padma Kaimal deciphers the intentions of the monument’s makers, reaching back across centuries to illuminate worldviews of the ancient Indic south. By focusing on the material form of the complex—the architecture, inscriptions, and sculptures, along with the spaces they carve out that guide light, shadow, sound, and footsteps—Kaimal offers insights that complement what surviving texts...
Published 01/26/23
For many centuries, Hindu temples and shrines have been of great importance to South Indian religious, social and political life. Aside from being places of worship, they are also pilgrimage destinations, centres of learning, political hotspots, and foci of economic activities. In these temples, not only the human and the divine interact, but they are also meeting places of different members of the communities, be they local or coming from afar. Hindu temples do not exist in isolation, but...
Published 01/19/23
Published 01/19/23
Divine Descent and the Four World-Ages in the Mahābhārata reflects on the theology of time in this early Hindu text and poses the key question: why does the Krishna avatāra inaugurate the worst yuga? The Sanskrit Mahābhārata describes a massive war facilitated by God and the gods. That war took place between the third and the last ages of a 12,000-year cycle; within the cycle, moral behaviour and human lifespan always decrease in steps before being rebooted for the next cycle (initial...
Published 01/12/23
"The close attention required for editing and translating gives Olivelle an unparalleled understanding of the texts and inspires numerous articles and essays contained in this volume that draw out key ideas and insights from those same sources. Only careful philological editing and the hard, interpretive choices of translation enable progress in our historical understanding of India. Among the advances that philology makes possible is an improved sense of chronology in ancient India. Although...
Published 01/09/23
Twenty-first century life is increasingly governed by artificial intelligence (AI) technologies such as machine learning, big data analysis, facial recognition, and robotics. For decades, an ideology of apocalyptic progress and cosmic transformation has accompanied the advancement of AI in the United States; that vision is intimately connected to transhumanism, the idea that humanity can transcend its limits, even mortality, using technology. By describing the arrival and reconfiguration of...
Published 01/05/23
In this episode, we focus the use of religious myths, icons and deities in Hindu nationalist politics in India. More specifically, we discuss the political invocation of Lord Parshuram, a deity in the Hindu pantheon who has, in recent years, become more visible as a mobilizing political symbol for the Hindu nationalist movement. But who is Lord Parshuram? Why has he now become politically salient? And what does his politicization tell us about Hindu nationalist politics in India today? We...
Published 12/30/22
Today I talked to Mani Rao about her translation Saundarya Lahari: Wave of Beauty" (HarperCollins, 2022) Saundarya Lahari is a popular Sanskrit hymn celebrating the power and beauty of Sakti, the primordial goddess. In one hundred verses, it underlines the centrality of the feminine principle in Indian thought. Attributed to Adi Sankaracarya, Saundarya Lahari is a valuable source for understanding tantric ideas. Every verse is associated with yantras and encoded mantras for tantric rituals,...
Published 12/29/22
In The Dancer's Voice: Performance and Womanhood in Transnational India (Duke UP, 2022) Rumya Sree Putcha theorizes how the Indian classical dancer performs the complex dynamics of transnational Indian womanhood. Putcha argues that the public persona of the Indian dancer has come to represent India in the global imagination—a representation that supports caste hierarchies and Hindu ethnonationalism, as well as white supremacist model minority narratives. Generations of Indian women have been...
Published 12/22/22
Today I talked to Holly Walters about her new book Shaligram Pilgrimage in the Nepal Himalayas (Amsterdam UP, 2020). For roughly two thousand years, the veneration of sacred fossil ammonites, called Shaligrams has been an important part of Hindu and Buddhist ritual practice throughout South Asia and among the global Diaspora. Originating from a single remote region of Himalayan Nepal, called Mustang, Shaligrams are all at once fossils, divine beings, and intimate kin with families and...
Published 12/22/22
India celebrates itself as a nation of unity in diversity, but where does that sense of unity come from? One important source is a widely-accepted narrative called the “bhakti movement.” Bhakti is the religion of the heart, of song, of common participation, of inner peace, of anguished protest. The idea known as the bhakti movement asserts that between 600 and 1600 CE, poet-saints sang bhakti from India’s southernmost tip to its northern Himalayan heights, laying the religious bedrock upon...
Published 12/20/22
McComas Taylor discusses the upcoming 18th World Sanskrit Conference January 9-13, 2023. The conference is held online. All are welcome to register here.  Raj Balkaran is a scholar of Sanskrit narrative texts. He teaches at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and at his own virtual School of Indian Wisdom. For information see rajbalkaran.com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Support our show by becoming a premium member!...
Published 12/16/22
The mission of The Dharma Academy of North America (DANAM) "is to identify strategies for, and undertake, the recovery, reclamation and reconstitution of Dharma traditions for the contemporary global era, with initial focus on Hindu Dharma and subsequently on other Dharma traditions." Where did DANAM come from? What is its future? Listen into this candid discussion with Rita D. Sherma about DANAM past and future.  Raj Balkaran is a scholar of Sanskrit narrative texts. He teaches at the...
Published 12/13/22
This book addresses the recent transformations of popular Hinduism by focusing upon the religious cum artistic practice of Ramkatha, staged narratives of the Ramcharitmanas. Focusing on the sensory and media experiences, the author examines the aesthetics and dynamics of the Ramkatha ethnoscape through participant-observation in everyday practices, and how it particularly, translates politics from the realm of religion. Besides being socially constructed, the Ramkatha heavily relies on...
Published 12/12/22
Suspect Others: Spirit Mediums, Self-Knowledge, and Race in Multiethnic Suriname (U Toronto Press, 2021) explores how ideas of self-knowledge and identity arise from a unique set of rituals in Suriname, a postcolonial Caribbean nation rife with racial and religious suspicion. Amid competition for belonging, political power, and control over natural resources, Surinamese Ndyuka Maroons and Hindus look to spirit mediums to understand the causes of their successes and sufferings and to know the...
Published 12/10/22
Words for the Heart: A Treasury of Emotions from Classical India (Princeton UP, 2022) is a captivating treasury of emotion terms drawn from some of India’s earliest classical languages. Inspired by the traditional Indian genre of a “treasury”—a wordbook or anthology of short texts or poems—this collection features 177 jewel-like entries evoking the kinds of phenomena English speakers have variously referred to as emotions, passions, sentiments, moods, affects, and dispositions. These entries...
Published 12/08/22
In Human Being, Bodily Being: Phenomenology from Classical India (Oxford UP, 2021), Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad offers illuminating new perspectives on contemporary phenomenological theories of body and subjectivity, based on studies of diverse classical Indian texts. He argues for a 'phenomenological ecology' of bodily subjectivity in health, gender, contemplation, and lovemaking. Raj Balkaran is a scholar of Sanskrit narrative texts. He teaches at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and at his...
Published 12/01/22
Russell McCutcheon shares his views on the academic study of religion, and the path ahead for religion graduates and the field itself. McCutcheon is a professor of religious studies at the University of Alabama and a contributor to the Religious Studies Project podcast.  Raj Balkaran is a scholar of Sanskrit narrative texts. He teaches at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and at his own virtual School of Indian Wisdom. For information see rajbalkaran.com. Learn more about your ad choices....
Published 11/28/22
During the thirteenth century, the Persian naturalist and judge Zakariyyāʾ Qazwīnī authored what became one of the most influential works of natural history in the world: Wonders and Rarities. Exploring the dazzling movements of the stars above, the strange minutiae of the minerals beneath the earth, and everything in between, Qazwīnī offered a captivating account of the cosmos. With fine paintings and leading science, Wonders and Rarities inspired generations as it traveled through madrasas...
Published 11/24/22
Given the popularity and success of the Hindu-Right in India’s electoral politics today, how may one study ostensibly ‘Western’ concepts and ideas, such as the secular and its family of cognates, like secularism, secularisation and secularity in non-Western societies without assuming them simply as derivative, or colonial legacies or contrast cases of Western societies? While recognizing that the dominant language of political modernity of Western societies is not easily translatable in...
Published 11/23/22
The Tattvasaṃgraha of Śāntarakṣita: Selected Metaphysical Chapters (Oxford University Press, 2022) collects excerpts from a massive encyclopedic work of the late period of Buddhism in India. Translator Charles Goodman has selected sections of this Sanskrit text which cover debates over the existence of prime matter, God, and an immaterial soul, as well as controversies around the cause and effect, karma, and Jain perspectivalism. Within these chapters, through a translation of the verses of...
Published 11/21/22
What are the pleasures of reading translations of South Asian literature, and what does it take to enjoy a translated text? Sensitive Reading: The Pleasures of South Asian Literature in Translation (U California Press, 2022) provides opportunities to explore such questions by bringing together a whole set of new translations by David Shulman, noted scholar of South Asia. Together, the translations and the accompanying essays form an essential guide for people interested in literature and art...
Published 11/18/22
Ruth Vanita's book The Dharma of Justice in the Sanskrit Epics (Oxford UP, 2021) shows that many characters in the Sanskrit epics - men and women of all varnas and mixed-varna - discuss and criticize discrimination based on gender, varna, poverty, age, and disability. On the basis of philosophy, logic and devotion, these characters argue that such categories are ever-changing, mixed and ultimately unreal therefore humans should be judged on the basis of their actions, not birth. The book...
Published 11/17/22
Today I talked to Jame Malinson about The Amṛtasiddhi and Amṛtasiddhimūla: The Earliest Texts of the Haṭhayoga Tradition (Institut français de Pondichéry, 2021), a critical edition and translation of the Amṛtasiddhi, the earliest Haṭhayoga text. The book is available open access here.  Raj Balkaran is a scholar of Sanskrit narrative texts. He teaches at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and at his own virtual School of Indian Wisdom. For information see rajbalkaran.com. Learn more about...
Published 11/16/22
Hinduism in Five Minutes (Equinox Publishing, 2022) is an accessible and lively introduction to common questions about the practices, ideas, and narratives often identified as Hindu. Suitable for beginning students and the general reader. Steven W. Ramey is a Professor in Religious Studies at the University of Alabama, where he also directs the Asian Studies Program. Raj Balkaran is a scholar, online educator, and life coach. For information see rajbalkaran.com. Learn more about your ad...
Published 11/10/22