Vaishnavism: History, Teachings, and Practice

Vaishnavism course

Vaishnavism is one of the major denominations of Hinduism and has had an enormous impact on the development of Hinduism in general.

We begin with a history of Vaishnavism from its earliest roots in the Vedas to its developments in South and North India, before moving on to consider Vaishnava practice and some of the forms that Vaishnavism takes today.

Throughout the course we allow the traditions to speak for themselves through Vaishnava texts.

Start Date: 13 October 2024

Course Duration: Seven Weeks

Course Tutor(s): Dr Måns Broo

Course Creator(s): Dr Måns Broo

201 pages

Optional Assessment: Essay

Pathway(s): Hindu Traditions

On-Demand Video

The main video component of your course. On-demand means you can watch at the time that suits you.

4hr 45min

Vaishnavism: History, Teachings, and Practice



Vaishnavism: History, Teachings, and Practice

Session One: Vishnu in the Vedas

In this session, we look at how Vishnu is addressed and described in the Vedas, the oldest textual sources for Hinduism. While we may not find much about Vaishnavism as a social entity or a distinct practice here, we do find much intriguing information on Vishnu, much of which will be developed in later texts.

Session Two: The Epics

From the Vedas we move on to the epics (itihasa): The Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and its appendix, the Harivamsa. In these texts, we witness an almost explosive growth of material on Vishnu and his avatars.


Session Three: The Puranas and Pancaratras

In this session, we take a closer look at how Vaishnavism is conceptualised in the Purana and Pancaratra texts, texts important particularly for the ways in which the social and ritual sides of Vaishnavism is developed in them. We also look at the oldest archaeological traces of Vaishnavism.

Session Four: Vaishnavism in South India

From texts, we now move to looking at individual Vaishnava teachers and the movements that they founded. We begin in the South, looking at the Alvars, Sri Vaishnavas, Vaikhanasas, and Madhvas. We also look at Shankara and his importance for all Vaishnava Vedantins.

vaishnavaSession Five: Vaishnavism in North India

In this session, we begin in West India, then moving east and west according to a rough historical chronology. A particular focus in given to the developments in the Vraja area, as they impact many of the movements traced here.

Session Six: Vaishnava Practice

Here, we will look at what differentiates Vaishnavas from other Hindus. Topics covered include initiation, meditation, kirtana, and diet.

Session Seven: Vaishnavism Today

In our final session, we examine how the Vaishnava traditions we encountered in previous sessions fare today. We will also learn about completely new developments. We will encounter both continuities and innovations and see something of the richness these traditions retain in the modern world.


Your Tutor

Måns Broo

Dr Måns Broo

Måns Broo is a senior lecturer in Religious Studies at Åbo Akademi University, Finland. His research interests include yoga, tantra, and Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Dr Broo is a Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies.

Vaishnavism course
Vaishnavism: History, Teachings, and Practice
News & Offers?

Subscribe to our regular updates and never miss the latest courses, news, or offers.