Śākta Traditions Symposium III

Monday, 17 June 2019 – 10:00am to 6:00pm

Venue: OCHS Library and Campion Hall, Oxford.

Hinduism cannot be understood without the Goddess (Devī/Śakti) and the goddess-oriented Śākta traditions. The Goddess pervades Hinduism at all levels, from aniconic village deities to high-caste pan-Hindu goddesses to esoteric, tantric goddesses. Nevertheless, these highly influential forms of South Asian religion have only recently begun to draw a more broad scholarly attention. Taken together, they form ‘Śāktism’, which is by many considered one of the major branches of Hinduism next to Śaivism and Vaiṣṇavism. Śāktism is, however, less clearly defined than the other major branches and sometimes surprisingly difficult to discern from Śaivism in its tantric forms. These sometimes very complex and challenging forms of Śākta religion provide a test case for our understanding of Hinduism and raise important theoretical and methodological questions with regard to the study of religious traditions in South Asia as well as to the more general and comparative study of religion.

This Śākta symposium is a contribution by a number of scholars to the Śākta Traditions project and its endeavor in tracing developments in the history of goddess worship among the orthoprax brahmans, among the tantric traditions and at village level in South Asia. Thus, the symposium acts as a historical exploration of distinctive Indian ways of imagining God as Goddess (and goddesses), a survey of important origins and developments within Śākta history, practice and doctrine in its diversity, as well as an insight into the fascinating Śākta religious imaginaire and ritual practice that may be considered distinctive and thus sets ‘Śāktism’ apart from other forms of South Asian religion.

Speakers, titles and abstracts will be announced primo June.

Upcoming exhibition at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies

This exhibition aims to discover and reveal an unknown aspect of the lives of Oxford academics at the Centre of Hindu Studies (OCHS). It brings their individual interests closer to the public. The idea is to display unusual examples of what these scholars collect, as a matter of personal preference, when they travel. What you will see is hidden treasure, objects of special affection kept privately, at home or in an office, far from the public eye. For those of us studying at the Centre, viewing these examples contributes to, and enhances, the fascination we feel for utilising a Study of Religion perspective. This is especially so since the provenance of the exhibits strongly suggests that, in order to advance our understanding of religion in South Asia, we need to combine textual studies and material culture. Furthermore, the exhibition shows how religious objects can be seen from new angles, and take on added significance, when gathered together and displayed in a non-religious setting.

All the exhibits originate from the South-Asian region and have been generously loaned by four academics related to the OCHS.

Kathmandu Summer 2018

This summer many different activities have been going on at our newly started OCHS Kathmandu office. Here are a few examples:

A number of tutorials in Sanskrit and Haṭhayoga have been taking place at the office involving students from this year’s OCHS-NSU summer school.

We had a photo session at Dwarika Hotel with Professor Yatiraj from Nepal Sanskrit University’s Yoga Department, who demonstrated āsanas and kumbhakas. The photos will be published in a new translation of the Haṭhapradīpikā by Dr Bjarne Wenicke-Olesen and Silje Lyngar Einarsen.

 

Lena Molin, MA student in Religious Studies and Sanskrit at Aarhus University and former exchange student at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, spent one month in Nepal in relation to the OCHS Kathmandu office doing field work for her Masters dissertation on Nādayoga (‘Yoga of Sound’). While in Kathmandu she spent most of her time successfully interviewing Nāth Yogis staying at the Goraknāth temple in the Paśupatināth Temple complex (one of the largest Śiva temples in the world). She has been focusing on their practice of Kuṇḍalinīyoga and Nādayoga and has amongst other things been studying their ārti pūjā which is performed at the Goraknāth temple every morning at 5am and in the evening at 8pm

“I was really fortunate to be able to do my field work via the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and its office in Kathmandu. It gave me the chance to immediately get down to work in the field, which would most likely not have been possible in such a difficult area as mine (traditional yoga and tantric studies) without this opportunity. On top of this the staff and research assistant at the Kathmandu office was so friendly and helpful that it made it relatively easy to get started on the data collection, transcription and translation in a sensible and manageable way”.
– Lena Molin

 

Dr Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen has also arranged a number of fieldtrips to visit Nāth Yogīs and Śākta Aghorīs in the Kathmandu Valley with students from Oxford and Aarhus. The pictures posted here are from a visit to Kālī Bābā (Yogīrāj Kālīnāth Aghorī Phalahārī Bābā) at a hilltop near Nagarkoṭ.

 

Opening week at OCHS Kathmandu Office

”The opening of the OCHS office in Kathmandu is a very exciting and important development. It will be a point of interaction between Oxford and the Nepal Sanskrit University and will provide opportunities for collaborative research. Dr Wernicke-Olesen is to be congratulated on this development, along with his team including the local manager Gitte Poulsen, Tanja Louise Jakobsen and Dr Rajan Khatiwoda. I look forward to seeing how the centre unfolds and to reading the fruits of the research that will be done here”.

– Professor Gavin Flood FBA Professor of Hindu Studies and Comparative Religion, Oxford University Academic Director, OCHS

Śākta Traditions Symposium II

Friday 1 June 2018

Programme

10.00-13.15 Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies
13-15 Magdalen Street, Oxford, OX1 3AE

10.00-10.15 Welcome by Professor Gavin Flood (Oxford)
10.15-11.00 Dr Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen (Oxford):
Mapping Śākta Traditions

11.00-11.15 Tea and biscuits


11.15-12.15 Professor Knut Jacobsen (Bergen): Tamil Śākta traditions in Europe
12.15-13.15 Dr Astrid Zotter (Heidelberg): Durgā and the Kings of Nepal

15.00-18.00 Campion Hall
Brewer St, Oxford, OX1 1QS

15.00-15.15 Campion Hall small tour with Professor Gavin Flood

15.15-16.15 Dr Silvia Schwarz Linder (Leipzig): The Doctrinal Teachings of the Tripurārahasya

16.15-16.30 Tea and biscuits

16.30-17.30 Dr Julian Strube (Heidelberg): Modern Śākta Identities in a Global Context
17.30-18.00 Jesper Moeslund (Aarhus):
Philosophy as a Meta-language in Tantric Studies