Introduction to Hinduism: Ritual, Yoga, Caste, and Gender

Tutor: Gitte Poulsen
Start date: 10 October 2021
Enrolments still open for a limited time


In this introduction to Hinduism, we look first of all at Hindu religious practice, including temple ritual and the meditational techniques of classical yoga. We then move on to explore social Hinduism, and in particular issues of caste and gender, before considering the ways in which the religion has sought to respond to the challenges posed by foreign rule and the onset of modernity. In the final part of the course, we take the opportunity to look in a little more detail at some of the great works of Hindu religious literature.


Course Video

Videos are one of the most important parts of an online course.

Our courses offer two distinct types of video.

  1. Video on demand. Core videos for your course available to watch at any time. Audio versions are also available for download.
  2. Live Zoom sessions. We have six Zoom sessions open to all our students. These cover a range of topics. They let you explore other areas of study, and to meet tutors and students from other courses. Recordings are also made available after the session has ended.

This introduction to Hinduism consists of seven sessions delivered on a weekly basis.

Introduction to Hinduism, Session One: Devotion, Worship, and Ritual

In this session we consider how devotional teachings are reflected in ritual and spontaneous worship. We also include a brief discussion of Vedic fire rituals and Hindu temple worship.

Session Two: Knowledge and Yoga

We continue our consideration of Hindu religious practice with a look at how spiritual knowledge is pursued, with an emphasis on yoga exercises.

Session Three: The Caste System

Turning to social Hinduism, we now consider the caste system, and how it is related to Hindu beliefs. We also look at examples of Hindu opposition to caste barriers.

Session Four: Gender Issues

In this session, we consider the role and status of women in Hindu religious teachings as well as marriage and family life.

Session Five: Modern Trends, Part 1

We begin to consider how a number of modern Hindu teachers have sought to reinterpret and reform the tradition. How have they challenged established practices in relation to caste and gender? How do they seek to establish forms of Hinduism appropriate for the modern age.

Session Six: Modern Trends, Part 2

We move into the post-independence (1947) era, considering how Hinduism has been affected by secularism and the pervasive influence of modernity.

Session Seven: Reading Hindu Texts

We conclude by looking at some of the most important Hindu texts, including passages from the Upanishads and Bhagavad-gita, as well as Hindu devotional literature.


Course delivery is 100% online

7–9 weekly sessions

Study in your own time

Your tutor is available by email and forums

Communicate online with your fellow students

All course materials are delivered via the web

Student forums with tutor participation

Recorded lectures available in video and mp3 format

All required lecture notes included

Audio interviews with specialists in Hindu Studies

Supplementary materials taken from the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies teaching and research programme

Assessment is optional and is on the basis of successful completion of a single essay of 2000 words, with the exception of our Sanskrit courses which are assessed on weekly course work.

Courses can be completed in as little as seven weeks. There is a final deadline for essays or course work of twelve weeks from the beginning of the course.

Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies
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