2018 Oct 18

Hard-Hearted Rāma: Saying by Not Saying in the Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, by Emily Hudson


Thursday, October 18, 2018, 5:30pm to 7:30pm


CSWR Conference Room

This talk offers a rereading of the Vālmīki Rāmayāṇa, a text considered to be not only the first work of sophisticated literary art (kāvya) in the Indian tradition but also a source of inspiration for all subsequent literary compositions. Utilizing the concept of dhvani (meaning-without-saying), taken from the 9th century literary theorist Ānandavardhana, this talk will call into question the general assessment of Euro-American scholars that the text functions as an exemplary narrative. The questions to be addressed are how are we to read the Sanskrit epics as works of literature and how does reading them as such help us understand what they are telling us about the most ubiquitous and important concept in the history South Asian religious traditions: dharma?

All SARC events are free admission and open to all, snacks and refreshments will also be provided. We look forward to seeing you soon!

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2018 Nov 08

Strīśūdrādīnām Adhikāraḥ: The Study of Sanskrit and the American Caste System, by Anand Venkatkrishnan


Thursday, November 8, 2018, 5:30pm to 7:30pm


CSWR Conference Room

Abstract: If caste and gender are the fundamental fractures in the sociology of Sanskrit itself, fractures of race and gender define its study in America, insofar as they define America itself. A pedagogical interest in redressing these inequalities prompts me to think about their genealogy. Is there a fault line that runs through this field, in both its philological and area studies guises, that we can trace historically? Is this a question of research method or, also, a research imperative? This talk features elements of my research into the papers of C.R. Lanman and the early study of Sanskrit at Harvard and Radcliffe. I draw particular attention to the number of women who populated the turn-of-the-century Sanskrit classroom, and attempt to follow the threads of their careers. Ultimately, I suggest that we think of American Sanskritists not just as Orientalists but as Americans, for understanding their view of what it meant to be an American may provoke similar reflection among scholars of the present.


South Asian Religious Colloquium (SARC) at Harvard Divinity School is free admission and open to all, snacks and refreshments will also be provided!

2019 Feb 21

Sighted by the Invisible: On the Nature of Caste in Medieval Hindu Law, by Donald Davis


Thursday, February 21, 2019, 5:30pm to 7:30pm


CSWR Conference Room


In spite of the reasonable fatigue for more studies of caste, the present paper examines a debate in medieval India about whether caste (jāti) is empirically observable. Two major commentators in the Dharmaśāstra tradition, Medhātitihi (9 th cent.) and Vijñāneśvara (12 th cent.), both conclude that it is not. Other major authors such as Kumārila and Jayantabhaṭṭa, representing Mīmāṃsā and Nyāya traditions, respectively, claim that caste is visible. The points made on both sides
echo contemporary studies of race, especially the work by Obasogie on how and why blind people understand race in visual terms. The social construction of caste in visual terms, therefore, and the challenge to that view offer something new in our understanding of the ideologies of social stratification in medieval India. At a time when misinformation about the
history of caste practices and ideologies is growing, close readings of the language and ideas around caste in traditional texts are essential to dispel false claims.

SARC welcomes Donald R. Davis, Jr., Professor in the department of Asian Studies at University of Texas at Austin. For more on Prof. Davis' research, please see:

All SARC events are free-admission and open to public, refreshment will also be provided! 


2019 Mar 28

Talk by Elaine Craddock


Thursday, March 28, 2019, 5:30pm to 7:30pm


CSWR Conference Room
2019 Apr 11

The Tacit Tirukkuṟaḷ: Religion, Ethics, and Literary Style in a Tamil Poem and Its Commentaries, by Jason Smith


Thursday, April 11, 2019, 5:30pm to 7:30pm


CSWR Conference Room

This presentation will focus on two distinct topics. First, the talk will discuss the process of actually choosing a dissertation topic, offering some background information on how one narrows the field of potential topics at the dissertation prospectus stage and discussing how the project changes, develops, and is shaped by the fieldwork experience. Second, the talk will point toward new ways of reading the Tirukkuṟaḷ that pay close attention to the relationship between ethics and poetic style and the larger religious themes at play within the text. In contrast to previous readings of the Tirukkuṟaḷ that emphasize textual criticism and manuscript history or merely use the text to make inferences about the author's caste and religious identity, this presentation will propose a mode of reading the text on its own terms that pays careful attention to the relationship between content and form at both the level of the individual verse and the level of the structural whole.

All SARC events are free admission and open to all. Refreshments will also be provided!

2019 Apr 25

“Living with Shiva in the 21st Century," by Nilima Chitgopekar, Delhi University


Thursday, April 25, 2019, 5:30pm to 7:30pm


CSWR Conference Room

Scriptures, myths, icons and beliefs, arising over many centuries, have coalesced in affording a robust and composite aura to Śiva as an enduring presence in Indian religious life. While many people today are not concerned with the ritual worship of Śaiva tradition, they still believe there is something enigmatic and worthwhile in Śiva. Drawing on her years of studying representations of Śiva in textual and visual media, Professor Chitgopekar proposes a way to speak of the enduring relevance of Śiva for 21st century Hindus, attuned to their shifting life experiences in India and abroad. She will share with her insights into the core of Śiva devotion that, while yet rooted in the old traditions, flourished in unexpected ways today.

All SARC events are free admission and open to all, snacks and beverage will also be provided!


42 Francis Avenue, CSWR 202
Cambridge, MA 02138


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Free and open to the public
All colloquia start at 5:30 in CSWR
(unless otherwise noted)
Refreshments served


SARC is made possible by the funding and support of HARVARD DIVINITY SCHOOL.
Harvard Divinity School