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RELS511 Readings in Hindu Texts

A critical study of a selected Hindu text or texts. Provides an introduction to the methods appropriate to the study of ancient texts.

The text we will read is the tenth chapter of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa. The Bhāgavata Purāṇa (BhP) is one of the most significant Hindu texts, as notable for its poetic quality as for its philosophical sophistication. It has been the subject of more than eighty commentaries in Sanskrit and innumerable reworkings in every Indian language and every conceivable artistic medium.

The BhP is a very large text, so we therefore focus on the ninety chapters of the tenth book (together with five chapters of the eleventh), which contain the most coherent narrative account of the mythology of Kṛṣṇa and one of the most developed accounts of the theology of Kṛṣṇa devotion. This section is conveniently available in a recent scholarly translation by Edwin Bryant (2003), which will form the basic text for this paper. All students, and especially those with some knowledge of Sanskrit, however slight, are encouraged also to engage with the Sanskrit text of the BhP. This is available in the English translation of the entire BhP by C. L. Goswami and online at GRETIL (Göttingen Register of Electronic Texts in Indian Languages).

Paper title Readings in Hindu Texts
Paper code RELS511
Subject Religious Studies
EFTS 0.25
Points 30 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2023 (Distance learning)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $2,162.75
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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Limited to

Professor Will Sweetman:

Teaching staff

Lecturer: Professor Will Sweetman

Paper Structure
This paper is divided into 13 modules:
  1. The Bhāgavata Purāṇa as Text
  2. The Bhāgavata Purāṇa as Scripture
  3. The Divinity of Kṛṣṇa: The Theology of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa
  4. Yoga, Sāṅkhya, Vedānta: The Philosophy of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa
  5. Rāsa, Līlā: Divine Love
  6. The Bhāgavata Purāṇa as Literature
  7. 'Even an outcaste': The Sociology of bhakti in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa
  8. Embodiment: The Bhāgavata Purāṇa in Stone
  9. The Bhāgavata Purāṇa and the Harivaṃśa
  10. Editing the Bhāgavata Purāṇa
  11. The Bhāgavata Purāṇa between Insiders and Outsiders
  12. Other Bhāgavatas: From the Āḻvārs to Vedāntadeśika
  13. The Bhāgavata and the West: From Maridas Poullé to Swami Prabhupada
  • Essay One (4,000-5,000 words) 40%
  • Essay Two (4,000-5,000 words) 40%
  • Seminar Discussion 20%
Teaching Arrangements

The Distance Learning offering of this paper is taught remotely.

On-campus and Distance: Weekly seminars


Required: Edwin Bryant, ed. and trans., Krishna: The Beautiful Legend of God. New York: Penguin, 2003.

Course outline
View the sample course outline for RELS 511
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Information literacy, Research.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
On successful completion of this paper, learners will be able to:
  • Demonstrate an informed understanding of key concepts and major themes within the text(s) studied
  • Discuss critically the context of origin, history of transmission and reception of the text
  • Outline the traditional methods of exegesis of the text and its place within the wider canon of Hindu literature
  • Critically analyse the doctrinal stance of the text, its relation to other Hindu traditions and to Hindu practice
  • Assess the secondary literature on the text and evaluate the different approaches to the text in contemporary scholarship
  • Demonstrate that they have acquired the basic methodological skills to undertake independent research on Hindu texts, working on primary sources

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Not offered in 2023

Teaching method
This paper is taught through Distance Learning
Learning management system