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Module VPR-2305:
Hinduism in the Modern World

Module Facts

Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Joshua Andrews

Overall aims and purpose

This module examines the diversity that defines modern Hinduism. Initially, the course will establish a historical overview, exploring the central features of the Indus Valley and Aryan cultures, before examining how these cultures have inspired the practice of modern Hinduism. From here the module will investigate the central beliefs and practices associated with the three largest Hindu denominations, Vaishnavism, Shaivism and Shaktism. Here students will analyse how each denomination approaches central ideas found in Hindu philosophy, such as karma, dharma and moksha, before addressing practices that are distinct to each tradition. Finally, the course will concentrate on the significance of mythology within each of the Hindu denominations, evaluating the role that myth plays in establishing social norms and addressing contemporary ethical concerns.

Course content

This module explores the development of Hinduism over the last four millennia in order to establish what it means to practice Hinduism in the 21st Century. Focusing on the largest denominations of Hinduism, the course examines a wide range of religious practices, covering issues as diverse as yoga, aestheticism and animal sacrifice, exploring the philosophical and historical foundations of such practices. The course will continue by questioning the issues facing Hindus who practice their faith in diaspora, exploring how specific traditions have evolved and synthesised when practised within the west. The course will finally examine the rich mythology that central to modern Hinduism, addressing how myths are essential in establishing both identity and social values.

Assessment Criteria


Threshold: D- - D +. Submitted work is adequate and shows an acceptable level of competence as follows:  Generally accurate but with omissions and errors.  Assertions are made without clear supporting evidence or reasoning.  Has structure but is lacking in clarity and therefore relies on the reader to make links and assumptions.  Draws on a relatively narrow range of material.

C- to C+

Good C- - C +. Submitted work is competent throughout and occasionally distinguished by superior style, approach and choice of supporting materials. It demonstrates:  Good structure and logically developed arguments.  At least in parts draws on material that has been sourced and assessed as a result of independent study, or in a way unique to the student.  Assertions are, in the main, backed by evidence and sound reasoning.  Accuracy and presentation in an appropriate academic style.


Very Good B- - B+. Submitted work is competent throughout and distinguished by superior style, approach and choice of supporting materials. It demonstrates:  Very good structure and logically developed arguments.  Draws on material that has been sourced and assessed as a result of independent study, or in a way unique to the student.  Assertions are backed by evidence and sound reasoning.  Accuracy and presentation in an appropriate academic style.

Learning outcomes

  1. To examine how the three largest theological denominations express devotion to their chosen deity, both in India and as part of the Hindu diaspora.

  2. To assess the contribution of Hindu mythology in establishing a Hindu response to contemporary world issues.

  3. To examine common themes found within Hindu mythology.

  4. Have a clear understanding of the central doctrines of Hinduism and how they are interpreted by distinct denominations that exist within the religion.

  5. To recognise the historical and philosophical factors that led to the development of the three largest denominations within Hinduism.

  6. Develop a critical awareness of the historical foundations of Hinduism and their impact on the practice of the religion today.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
ESSAY Essay 70
ORAL Group Presentation 30

Teaching and Learning Strategy


Two 1hr a week lectures (12 weeks)


One 1hr seminar taught weekly for 10 weeks

Private study 166

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Mentoring - Able to support, help, guide, inspire and/or coach others
  • Management - Able to utilise, coordinate and control resources (human, physical and/or financial)
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others
  • Leadership - Able to lead and manage, develop action plans and objectives, offer guidance and direction to others, and cope with the related pressures such authority can result in

Subject specific skills

  • Precision of thought and expression in the analysis and formulation of complex and controversial problems.
  • Sensitivity in interpretation of religious and philosophical texts drawn from a variety of ages and/or traditions.
  • Clarity and rigour in the critical assessment of arguments presented in such texts.
  • The ability to use and criticise specialised religious and philosophical terminology.
  • The ability to abstract and analyse arguments, and to identify flaws in them, such as false premises and invalid reasoning.
  • The ability to consider unfamiliar ideas and ways of thinking, and to examine critically presuppositions and methods within the disciplines of philosophy and religion.


Reading list

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

Flood, Gavin (ed.) (2003) The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Knott, K (2000) Hinduism: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Mittal, Sushil & Thursby, Gene (eds) (2004) The Hindu World. London: Routledge.  Lipner, J. J., Hindus: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices (Routledge, 1994)

Courses including this module