Lecture series: Religious Traditions of India

In this lecture series, specialists in different aspects of Indian religious and philosophical traditions introduce their innovative research and insights.

  • The lectures deal with different traditions that originated or further developed in the South Asian region (Jainism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sufism) and touch upon historical as well as contemporary developments.
  • Together, these nine talks provide an overview of the unique religious and cultural diversity as well as the depth of philosophical enquiry that typify the South Asian region.

Religious Traditions of India aims to highlight the diversity of the South Asian religious, spiritual, and philosophical landscape and enable participants to compare and approach different forms of cultural and religious expression over time. The nine lectures show that this diversity goes much deeper than the variety of colors and styles that we see on the surface. In addition to a wide range of religious and cultural practices and expressions, the Indian subcontinent has produced thinkers who have developed highly sophisticated philosophical ideas and traditions. Throughout these lectures that highlight aspects of Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, and Indian Islam, we see how religious practices can clash as well as overlap. How different interpretations continue to exist parallel to each other, or give rise to tension and conflict (intellectual or physical) until one of them gains the upper hand. How some forms of religious expression remain almost unchanged for centuries, others only occur in a specific period, and still others turn out to be brand new.

Practical information

  • 9 Wednesdays
  • 19.30 - 21.00 
  • online or hybrid (see below for details by lecture)

Flexible pricing

  • Default: 8 euro (online: free)
  • Is this amount too high for you? It's also possible to register for 5 euro during check-out. 
  • Do you wish to support our academy? In that case, you can also choose to pay 12 or 15 euro during check-out.



  • Referentiality, homilies and preachers in early Buddhist narrative kāvya
  • Prof. Dr. Csaba Dezső; Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest
  • Online


  • Trads, Raytas, and Muscular Nationalism in Contemporary India
  • Prof. Dr. Dheepa Sundaram; University of Denver
  • Online
  • !! will start at 19.00PM



  • Ramayana murals in eighteenth century South India
  • Prof. Dr. Anna Dallapiccola
  • Online




  • Finding Bliss in Paradise: Kīrtan, Meditation, and the ‘Ukulele in a Hawaiian Yoga Community 
  • Prof. Dr. Christopher Jain Miller; Arihanta Institute; University of Zürich
  • Hybrid (@Campus Boekentoren, Blandijn, lokaal. 0.5)



  • Epistemology and the Problem of Certification: How Gaṅgeśa's epistemology can be used to diagnose controversies over the status of knowledge claims
  • Prof. Dr. Anand Vaidya; San Jose State University, California
  • Hybrid (@Campus Boekentoren, Blandijn, lokaal. 0.4)


How to register?

  • Click on the "toevoegen aan mijn winkelmandje" button in the blue box below, next to the lecture(s) you wish to attend.
  • Click on the shopping cart icon in the upper right corner of this page.
  • Check further instructions.

If you are a student at Ghent University, during checkout

  1. select the "I am eligible for a discount" checkbox. (="ik heb recht op een uitzonderingsprijs")
  2. in the dropdown menu next to "uitzonderingsprijs", select the category "I'm affiliated with Ghent University".

How to watch the livestream?

  1. Go to https://humanitiesacademie.ugent.be/.
  2. In the upper right corner, click on "Mijn profiel" (My profile).
  3. Click on "Inloggen" (Log in).
  4. Login with the same credentials you used while registering for this lecture series.
  5. Click on My profile - > "Dashboard".
  6. You will get on overview of all activities you have registered for.
  7. In the column "Video" click on "Bekijk live video" (Watch live video).
  8. You will automatically be redirected to the livestream, which will be available 15 minutes before the start of each lecture.

Lecture series versus course

  • If you register for one or more/all lectures on this page, you only attend the lectures, without evaluation, and you get a certificate of attendance.
  • However, we also offer these lectures as a course, which means you also take part in the evaluation and you obtain a certificate. If you wish to register for the course, go to our page Religious traditions of India - course. In this case, you can't choose separate lectures, you always register for the complete series.

Schrijf je hier in

Referentiality, homilies and preachers in early Buddhist narrative kāvya

Online beschikbaar

This lecture examines the role of referentiality and realism in early Buddhist narrative kāvya (Kumāralāta’s Kalpanāmaṇḍitikā Dṛṣṭāntapaṅkti and the Jātakamālās of Āryaśūra and Haribhaṭṭa) through the figure of the preacher, dhārmakathika. Such collections of edifying tales were used in the homilies of preachers, and the tales themselves give colourful illustrations of these preachers “in action”, revealing the social context of their work and the strategies used in delivering sermons.

Trads, Raytas, and Muscular Nationalism in Contemporary India

Online beschikbaar

In January 2022, charges were brought against two young men who were thought to be behind an app called “Bulli Bai” that created a mock auction of Muslim women to be harassed, assaulted, raped, and killed. This app was created five months after "Sulli Deals" which was also a platform to harass prominent Muslim women journalists and activists. The two suspects were granted bail in March 2022 with the court justifying their decision on "humanitarian grounds" and arguing that one was a "first time offender." The arrests of young Hindu male students behind the apps also revealed a secretive underground network of Hindu extremists who called themselves “trads.” Influenced by alt-right and neo-Nazi movements, trads or Hindu traditionalists espouse misogyny, caste-based violence, and genocide against minorities as the only viable method for making India into a Hindu nation. While trads offer a glimpse into the endgame of violent Hindu extremism, "raytas" or those whom trads view as “soft,” are those who see legislative and policy-based avenues as the best way to build a Hindu rashtra. This talk explores the rift between trads and raytas within the far-right world of Hindu nationalism to show how both groups reinforce the muscular nationalist politics that ground India's push towards becoming a HIndu nation. Specifically, it considers how this conflict reveals the depth of Hindutva chauvinism within the Indian polity such that the question of whether a Hindu rashtra is desirable is no longer the issue. Rather, the debate has shifted to how this goal can be achieved most efficiently.  

Islamic inflections, Indic imaginaires: cultural and religious 'translation' in the Sufi premākhyāns

Online beschikbaar

Ramayana murals in eighteenth century South India

Online beschikbaar

Understanding Bharatiya Parampara - Indic Thought

Online beschikbaar

Indian philosophy consists of orthodox (astika) and unorthodox (nastika) systems. Three primary principles form the cornerstone of Indian philosophical thought: the self or soul (atman), action (karma), and liberation (moksha). This lecture introduces different systems of Indian thought, while focusing on their common foundations, and presents ‘Indian common sense’ as good judgment of cognitions (jnanani) rather than of summary propositions, i.e. a judgment no longer sundered and stored isolated from psychology and epistemology, but inherently linked to the real human striving to recognize what is authentic in the world.

The Place of the Śivadharma in the History of Early Śaivism

Online beschikbaar

In this lecture, Florinda De Simini will explore the historical contexts of the spread of the Śivadharma, a set of texts regulating the behaviour of lay Śaiva devotees, in medieval South Asia (6th—12th cent.). On the basis of textual and epigraphical evidence, we will try to reconstruct the journey of the Sanskrit works of this tradition from their composition in Northern India to their transmission throughout India and Nepal.

Finding Bliss in Paradise: Kīrtan, Meditation, and the ‘Ukulele in a Hawaiian Yoga Community

Online beschikbaar

Swami Paramahansa Yogananda, one of America’s first famous yoga gurus, brought his cosmic chants and kriyā-yoga practice to the United States in 1920 and has since transformed the lives of countless yoga practitioners.

This lecture brings academic attention to Yogananda’s musical legacy. We will look at the ways colonialism reshaped Indian music, but also focus on the history of Yogananda’s own primary musicological influences and his choice instrument, the harmonium. And though seemingly unrelated, we will discuss another instrument that was not in Yogananda’s ensemble, the ‘ukulele, because not only does the ‘ukulele share similar practical characteristics with the harmonium, but it concurrently experienced comparable social transformations as it was continually remade in the image of its users.

Most significantly, alongside the harmonium, the ‘ukulele has become a key instrument in Polestar’s kīrtan ensemble. Polestar is a contemporary intentional spiritual community that was founded to follow and practice the teachings of Yogananda, and we will encounter their ensemble when we visit this community on the Big Island of Hawaii where I spent six months in 2017 participating in the community’s musical events. As we will see, though the ensemble has transformed at Polestar, Yogananda’s flexible and universal approach to sacred music enables the ‘ukulele to combine with the preliminary audible musical stages that initiate the process of listening for an internal, unstruck sound. Since Yogananda’s practices have medieval origins in South Asia, this lecture carefully unravels cultural entanglements that extend from the past into the present.

Goddess Worship among the Digambara Jainas of Karnataka

Online beschikbaar

Jainism is often considered a stern, ascetic religion of people who want to have as little to do with mundane life as possible, and one anthropologist has described it as an ‘impossible’ religion because, supposedly, in its extreme devaluation of worldly life it demands the impossible from its followers. Such views are based on a very limited, one-sided familiarity with Jaina thought and religious practice. The colourful and very worldly veneration of yakṣis, ‘lower’ female deities, has from earliest historical times till today been an integral part of South Indian Jainism, and this lecture is an introduction to this tradition.

Epistemology and the Problem of Certification: How Gaṅgeśa's epistemology can be used to diagnose controversies over the status of knowledge claims

Online beschikbaar

How can we understand the status of knowledge claims in our contemporary world? The skeptic tells us that we can simply hold that nothing is known by anyone. Following the 14th century Indian philosopher, I will develop the certificationist position that holds that we do know but that there are different standards of certification and as a consequence we often cannot certify. Furthermore, the failure to certify best explains the status of many knowledge claims accross different epistemic cultures.