Sanskrit and Indian Studies

Professor Leonard van der Kuijp, Director of Undergraduate Studies

A concentration in Sanskrit and Indian Studies provides students with the opportunity to study the languages, literatures, and cultures of South Asia and related civilizations. A central component of our program of study is developing competence in Sanskrit, Urdu-Hindi or another South Asian language approved by the department and examining its literature within the framework of religious and philosophical traditions, aesthetic and artistic traditions, as well as traditions of moral and social thought. The concentration also allows students to combine the study of one or more South Asian languages (at least four terms) with an interdisciplinary study of contemporary South Asian societies. While the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies is small, the resources available to the concentrator are quite substantial and include courses in anthropology, English and American literature, history, history of art and architecture, foreign cultures, linguistics, music, Near Eastern languages and civilizations, and the study of religion. It is possible to undertake a joint concentration between Sanskrit and Indian Studies and another department. The department offers concentration credit for study abroad programs in South Asia that have been approved by the director of undergraduate studies.

Sanskrit has been taught regularly at Harvard College since 1872. In 1951, what had been known as the Department of Indic Philology was renamed the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies in order to reflect more accurately the wider range of instruction that had developed over the years. Of the present courses offered by the department, those in Sanskrit and Vedic give students access to a language that for over three thousand years has served to record, transmit, and shape major movements of Indian thought. The courses in Pali make available the primary sources for the Theravada branch of the Buddhist tradition and those in Tibetan and in Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit do so for the Mahayana branch. The courses in Urdu-Hindi give instruction in the language of greatest political and practical importance in modern India and Pakistan. Further courses in Indian Studies teach aspects of Indian culture and thought without requiring the knowledge of an Indian language. With the establishment of a Chair for Tibetan and Himalayan Studies in 1995, a range of courses in Tibetan and Himalayan studies is now offered.

This wide range of interest is also reflected in the programs available to undergraduate concentrators in Sanskrit and Indian Studies. Three options for concentration are offered.

Option A, Sanskrit Language and Literature, is for those students who wish to focus intensively on the task of learning the Sanskrit language and developing the ability to read, in Sanskrit, such texts as the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, the Epics, and, at an advanced level, works of court poetry and philosophy, grammatical studies of the Paninean system, and the various Vedic texts in archaic Sanskrit. This is a challenging but rewarding program of study. In order to undertake Option A, a student must take Sanskrit 101a and 101b no later than the sophomore year. In the second year of Sanskrit study he or she will take intermediate Sanskrit and in the third year advanced Sanskrit. Beyond study of the Sanskrit language, students will work out a program of study with the Director of Undergraduate Studies or a designated adviser, drawing upon Sanskrit and Indian Studies courses and those listed as related courses.

Option B, South Asian Studies, is for those students who wish to gain a broad understanding of Indian or South Asian civilization as a whole—its complexity and multiplicity, as well as the sources of its unity. While students may develop a particular area of focus or expertise, the emphasis in this option is on the kind of wide-ranging and interdisciplinary studies that are essential to the appreciative comprehension of an ancient and still vibrant civilization. In this option two years of language study in either Sanskrit or Hindi-Urdu are required. In special cases another language may be offered in place of these, if it is culturally related to South Asian Studies and is studied in an academic program approved by the department. Beyond the language requirement, students will work out a program of study with the Director of Undergraduate Studies or a designated adviser, drawing upon Sanskrit and Indian Studies courses and those listed as related.

Option C, Joint Concentration, allows students to combine training in South Asian languages and cultures with a particular discipline in another department. The program of study is jointly agreed upon by both departments.

REQUIREMENTS

Sanskrit Language and Literature
Basic Requirements: 13 half-courses

  1. Required courses:

    1. Nine half-courses in Sanskrit, to be distributed as follows:

      1. Sanskrit 101a and 101b by the end of the sophomore year.

      2. Sanskrit 102a and 102b and one term of Sanskrit 98 by the end of the junior year.

      3. Four terms of advanced Sanskrit.

    2. Four additional half-courses in the field or in related subjects.

  2. Tutorial: Sanskrit 98 (one term), individual or group tutorial. Letter-graded.

  3. Thesis: None.

  4. General Examination: None.

  5. Other information:

    1. Pass/Fail: Courses counted toward concentration may not be taken Pass/Fail, except that a Freshman Seminar (graded SAT/UNS) may be counted for concentration credit if taught by a department faculty member and approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

    2. Related courses: Advanced courses in other languages and in various aspects of Indian studies approved by the department.

Sanskrit Language and Literature
Requirements for Honors Eligibility: 14 half-courses

  1. Required courses: Same as Basic Requirements, with the addition of a second term of Sanskrit 98 in the junior year.

  2. Tutorial: Sanskrit 98 (two terms) in the junior year. Letter-graded.

  3. Thesis: Optional.

  4. General Examination: Honors candidates must take an oral examination based on the work in the concentration.

  5. Other information: Same as Basic Requirements.

South Asian Studies
Basic Requirements: 13 half-courses

  1. Required courses:

    1. Four half-courses of language instruction in Sanskrit or Hindi-Urdu (unless the substitution described in item 5a is made).

    2. Nine additional half-courses in the field or in related subjects, including one term of Indian Studies 98 and either Foreign Cultures 12, Historical Study A-16, or another relevant survey course.

  2. Tutorials:

    1. Sophomore year: No tutorial is required, but either Historical Study A-15 or another survey course must be taken by the end of the sophomore year as the basis of concentration.

    2. Junior year: Indian Studies 98 (one term), an individual or group tutorial. Letter-graded.

  3. Thesis: None.

  4. General Examination: None.

  5. Other information:

    1. Language requirement: In special cases a student may propose another language in place of Sanskrit or Hindi-Urdu, if that language is culturally related to South Asian Studies and is studied in an academic program approved by the department. In such cases the course requirements will be adjusted appropriately.

    2. Pass/Fail: Courses counted toward concentration may not be taken Pass/Fail, except that a Freshman Seminar (graded SAT/UNS) may be counted for concentration credit if taught by a department faculty member and approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

    3. Related courses: Approved courses in various aspects of South Asian Studies.

South Asian Studies
Requirements for Honors Eligibility: 14 half-courses

  1. Required courses:

    1. Four half-courses of language instruction in Sanskrit or Hindi-Urdu (unless the substitution described in item 5a of the Basic Requirements is made).

    2. Eight additional half-courses in the field or in related subjects, including one term of Indian Studies 98 and either Foreign Cultures 12, Historical Study A-16, or another relevant survey course.

  2. Tutorial: Same as Basic Requirements, with the additional requirement of a full-year senior tutorial, Indian Studies 99, for the preparation of the senior thesis.

  3. Thesis: Required of all senior honors candidates.

  4. General Examination: Honors candidates must take an oral examination based on the work in the concentration and on the thesis.

  5. Other information: Same as Basic Requirements.

Joint Concentration Requirements
9 half-courses

  1. Required Courses: Four half-courses in Sanskrit, Hindi-Urdu or another South Asian language approved by the department and at least two other half-courses in the field or in related subjects, in addition to those listed below.

  2. Tutorials:

    1. Junior year: Sanskrit 98 or Indian Studies 98 (one term), or other tutorial as jointly arranged between the two departments.

    2. Senior year: Sanskrit 99 or Indian Studies 99 (two terms) if Sanskrit and Indian Studies is the primary field, or two terms of tutorial in the other concentration if Sanskrit and Indian Studies is not the primary field.

  3. Thesis: Required.

  4. General Examination: Same as Requirements for Honors Eligibility in South Asian Studies.

ADVISING

Students are assigned a faculty adviser. Students continue with the same adviser throughout their three years, unless there is a particular reason for making a change. Students meet with their adviser at least once a term and at other times as needed.

For up-to-date information on advising in Sanskrit and Indian Studies, please see the Advising Programs Office website.

RESOURCES

Harvard College Library contains one of the largest collections of Sanskrit manuscripts and printed texts in the West. Together with the Harvard-Yenching Library its holdings of Buddhist texts are perhaps the finest in the world. The Sanskrit Library (Widener A) offers to all concentrators a convenient collection of reference works and periodicals together with a collection of tape recordings of oral recitations.

STUDY ABROAD

The department strongly encourages concentrators to spend either a summer or term in South Asia as an integral part of their studies. For advice on study abroad programs eligible for concentration credit, please see the director of undergraduate studies.

HOW TO FIND OUT MORE

Questions about the concentration should be discussed with the director of undergraduate studies, Professor Leonard van der Kuijp, 617-496-6871.

CORE AND GENERAL EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS

Non-exempt areas:

Exempt areas:

†Historical Study A

Foreign Cultures

†Historical Study B

Literature and Arts A

†Literature and Arts B

Literature and Arts C

Moral Reasoning

ONE of the areas marked †.

Quantitative Reasoning

 

Science A

 

Science B

 

Social Analysis

 

For more information on fulfilling the Core requirement, see the Core Curriculum Requirement.

 

ENROLLMENT STATISTICS

Number of Concentrators as of December

Concentrators

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Sanskrit & Indian Studies

5

3

1

1

2

Sanskrit & Indian Studies + another field

1

1

1

1

1

Another field + Sanskrit & Indian Studies

5

5

3

3

2