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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.



Mode of instruction

  • Lectures

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. If the average of both exams is less than 6.0 there is one opportunity for a resit of the entire course (100%).


Blackboard is used as the main means for communication and for distribution of additional course materials.
Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list

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

  • C.J. Fuller, The Camphor Flame. Popular Hinduism and Society in India. Revised and expanded edition. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004. (selected portions to be announced on Blackboard).


Students are requested to register through uSis, the registration system of Leiden University for this course. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Studeren à la carte


Prof. dr. P.C. Bisschop