The Irishman who revived Hindu Studies in Oxford

Last year it was ten years ago that the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies was founded.

How? I hear you ask. When Jewish, Islamic, and other institutes are well-established institutions, well-funded, turning out D.Phils every year and respected for their contribution to the fabric of Oxford University? How come the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies is only just over 10 years old?

Hindu studies in Oxford were interrupted when after Indian independence, the motives of the study of “Indology” at the Monier-Williams-established Indian Institute were questioned. They were mostly used to form civil cervants with exactly the right attitude to carry out the “intellectual and spiritual” colonialisation in India, and since there was no demand for it after India’s independence in 1945, it was closed down.

The new Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies was started from an idea in a terraced house in Oxford’s suburb, and founded in 1998 with massive support from the Hindu community in Britain. It fulfils the function of a bridge between the community and Academia, Press, Business and Government and provides a facility for young Hindu and non-Hindu scholars – and if you’re a practitioner or teacher of yoga, and want to learn more about its philosophical background, the OCHS is working on online courses for you too.

Professor Flood wish Shaunaka RishiIrishman Shaunaka Rishi, who has carried its management through since inception, has recently celebrated the achievement of the status of a Recognised Independent Centre of Oxford University together with the patrons and supporters of the Centre. Says he, “With educational centres like this, Indian cultures and philosophies will make themselves felt in subtle ways, as India’s cultural impact grows.”

A brief history

  • Founded in 1998 as the only academic centre of its kind.
  • First D.Phil. student graduated in 2002.
  • Since 2002, Shivdasani Fellowships bring renowned Indian scholars to Oxford to teach and research.
  • In 2003, Continuing Education Department began teaching Higher Education Certificate courses to adults at venues across the UK.
  • 2004, began publishing partnership with Routledge, producing nine titles to date in Hindu Studies book series.
  • Awarded status of ‘Recognised Independent Centre of Oxford University’ in 2006.
  • 2007, publishing partnership with Oxford University Press producing the Journal of Hindu Studies.
  • 2007, brought together leading scholars in Indian text and archaeology for first international conference.
  • 2008, brought together advisory board for Dow Jones Dharma Index and oversaw the creation of the document outlining dharmic principles in relation to investment.
  • This year, to raise awareness of these achievements, the IK Foundation has secured a place in the London Marathon for the Academic Director of the Centre, Professor Gavin Flood. Professor Flood’s field of study, most interestingly, is Hindu Tantra, and he has published a book on Body and Cosmology in Kashmir Saivism (San Francisco: Mellen Research University Press, 1993), as well as An Introduction to Hinduism (Cambridge University Press, 1996), which is a standard text used in Hindu studies.

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