Oxford Summer School: Creativity in Hinduism
29 June – 1 July 2018


Prof. Julius Lipner
Dr Crispin Branfoot
Shaunaka Rishi Das
Prof. Francis X. Clooney
Prof. Adam Hardy
Anuradha Dooney
Dr Rembert Lutjeharms
Dr Nicholas Sutton


29 June–1 July 2018




Balliol College
Corpus Christi College
Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies

In stock


This is the fourth year for our Oxford Summer School.

The 2018 Summer School will run from Friday 29 June to Sunday 1 July at Balliol College, Corpus Christi College, and the OCHS.

The theme this year is Creativity in Hinduism and speakers are: Prof. Julius Lipner, Dr Crispin Branfoot, Shaunaka Rishi Das, Prof. Francis X. Clooney, Prof. Adam Hardy, Anuradha Dooney, Dr Rembert Lutjeharms, and Dr Nicholas Sutton.


Friday and Saturday 10am–5.30pm (Lunch from 1–3pm)
Sunday 10am–1pm


The Summer School fee is £500 (excluding meals and accommodation). We do book restaurants for some meals and invite attendees to come together to continue the discussion. As for accommodation, there are the usual sites such as booking.com or tripadvisor.co.uk, or the adventurous can stay in one of the colleges at www.universityrooms.com/en/city/oxford/home


Hindu theories of creativity

Shaunaka Rishi Das

By way of introduction to our theme we will explore the idea of creativity in Hindu cultures from different perspectives. There are many disciplines today that study theories of creativity: trying to discern how creativity emerges, how it is nurtured, and how it can be arrested. The results of such research are important to educationalists and mental health professionals, in the areas of the arts, media, marketing, business, communications, economics, and politics. Does Hindu thought have anything to offer the global discourse on creativity? Creatively, we will examine a number of angles of vision from Hindu literature that might help us consider possible Hindu theories of creativity.

The creative process in Hindu temple design

Prof. Adam Hardy

This talk will look into the principles by which Hindu temples have traditionally been designed, illustrating a characteristic pattern of evolution in temple-building traditions, by which successively emanating forms grow, proliferate, and emerge one from another in a way that recalls recurrent Hindu notions of the creation of the universe. Collectively, across centuries, temple architects would gradually extrapolate the formal potential of a tradition, drawing out forms that must have seemed inevitable, svayambhu (self-creating), and derived ultimately from a supra-human source. A tradition of architectural practice, with associated theoretical texts and in a ritual context for the production of temples, would be understood and experienced as part of a natural, cosmic process.

The art of the procession in the Tamil temple

Dr Crispin Branfoot

In the many large temples of Tamil south India the gods are often on the move. Processions are a central feature of the many festivals that are held on a daily, weekly, or monthly occasion each year. In this lecture we will examine the visual and material culture of the Tamil temple procession over the past thousand years, from the beautiful bronze images that are carried around, the vehicles on which they are carried, the temple buildings the deities visit, the urban spaces through which they process, and the paintings that give an insight into the people of the procession.

Three ways to tell a tale

Anuradha Dooney

The Churning of the Milk Ocean is one of the most famous creation stories in Hindu culture. The fabulous image of an upturned mountain atop a giant tortoise being churned by a snake-rope is the height of creative storytelling. Stunning graphics aside however, what does this story tell us about Hindu views of cosmic creation? How does it reconcile its inclusion of conflict in creative action? How is this story relevant to a world with nuclear weapons in questionable hands? This talk explores three layers of meaning in this Hindu tale, in a collaborative ‘churning.’

Once more with feeling: A brief introduction to Sanskrit literature and the rasa theory

Dr Rembert Lutjeharms

What is the point of literature? And what makes us enjoy literature? The Natya-sastra of Bharata, India’s classical text on drama, was likely composed around 2000 years ago and formed the basis for most critical thinking about literature in India, especially in the last millennium. The answer to both questions, Bharata argues, is rasa or aesthetic emotion. The poet’s aim is to infuse his work with emotion, which the audience can then ‘taste’ through their emotional involvement in the literary work. In this session, we will explore this concept of rasa and use it to analyse some of the best poems in Sanskrit literature.

Everyday Hindu worship in the middle ages: Learning from how Ramanuja prayed

Prof. Francis X. Clooney

Ramanuja (1017–1137) was one of the greatest Hindu theologians in the Vedanta tradition. He is revered even now, at the time of his millennial anniversary, by the Srivaisnava Hindu community in south India and globally. Known for his scholastic commentaries on scripture and robust defence of Narayana and Sri Laksmi as the supreme divine couple, he was also the author of long devotional prayers of surrender to the divine couple, as well as a little-studied Manual for Daily Worship. I propose that the Manual constitutes exemplary practice and theology, creativity in act nourishing creativity in thought. It is thus, too, the site for a richer interreligious learning that attends to practice and experience, as well as theology.

Hinduism and creativity: The origin and end of the new in Hinduism

Prof. Julius Lipner

Unless a tradition is creative and gives room to the New, it cannot survive. But the New in Hindu tradition has a different dynamic from that of the New in the Abrahamic faiths. This talk will inquire into Hindu creativity in religious and artistic contexts with reference to various examples.

Who really knows?

Anuradha Dooney

Narratives of creation are retold and remoulded throughout Hindu sacred texts from their earliest expression. Sometimes however it is poetry that calls the imagination to grapple with the big questions of existence. The Nasadiya Sukta hymn from the Rig Veda is one such poem. This session critically engages with the paradoxical reflections of this beautiful poem and challenges readers to create their own response.

‘With the sacrifice they sacrificed the sacrifice’: Sacrifice and creation in the Vedas

Dr Rembert Lutjeharms

Nothing is more central to the Vedas than sacrifice (yajña): it is the focus of all Vedic ritual practice, all Vedic texts, and the entire Vedic worldview. Indeed, the Vedic texts claim, this world is both created through sacrifice and sustained by it, and the performer of sacrifice is therefore often said to create the world anew through ritual acts. In this session, we will explore the correlations between Vedic ritual and creation, between the world of men and those of the gods, and between order and chaos, by examining several key passages from the Rig Veda and various Brahmanas – the supplementary texts to the four Vedic collections.

Divine art: A celebration of graven images

Dr Nicholas Sutton

In this discussion we will consider the reasons why Hinduism has made use of elaborate works of art to adorn its places of worship and why the accusation of idolatry is misplaced in relation to murti-puja. The Hindu temple is traditionally a richly decorated building that displays the work of the finest artists and craftsmen. At the heart of the complex are images representing the divine in various forms which are themselves objects of worship and veneration. In this talk we look at the history and development of temple art and architecture and consider the religious ideas that support the ritualised and spontaneous practices that take place within the context of temple worship.