In what seems to be a proud moment for Indian culture and literature, the students of the prestigious Harvard University are all set to study a course on the Indian epics ‘Ramayana’ and ‘Mahabharata’.
Entitled “Indian Religions Through Their Narrative Literatures”, the course aims to study the religious traditions and communities of South Asia through the stories, ballads and folklore, as included in these epics. The course will be taught by Anne E. Monius, who is the Professor of South Asian Religions at the University. According to professor Monius, the course will study Indian religions from the poetic visions of Valmiki and Vyasa and shall also venture into the modern day performances of the epics, especially in television and urban street theaters.
Elaborating on the universality of the two epics, professor E. Monius said:
The Indian epics are long and complex narratives that speak to virtually every aspect of human experience. While the Mahabharata is a sobering tale of cataclysmic war and loss, the Ramayana is one of India’s great love stories.
Furthermore, professor Monius said that since centuries now, scholars have researched on and studied these texts as primarily philosophical and scriptural texts, ignoring India’s great wealth of narrative literature.
In doing so, the course will not only examine the ancient texts in Sanskrit but will also venture into their modern reproductions, such as classical dance performances, shadow puppet plays, televised renditions of the stories and modern fictional retelling. Professor Monius further believes that these two epics naturally transcend boundaries of genres “both in history and today”.
She also believes that once the course is over, her students shall be in a better position to appreciate the richness of the texts and also develop the necessary critical stance to examine the different practices and traditions that make up what scholars have called “Hinduism” since ages now.