Harvard teaching Ramayana & Mahabharata

Hindu epics Mahabharata and Ramayana will be taught in the upcoming Fall semester at Harvard University (HU), one of the world’s top and United States’ oldest institution of higher education established in 1636.

These great Sanskrit epics will be focus of the graduate level “Indian Religions Through Their Narrative Literatures: The Epics” class taught by Professor Anne E. Monius of Harvard Divinity School starting August 30.

Ramayana, a narrative poem of about 25,000 slokas beginning in BCE period is divided into seven kandas. Ramayana is not just a story: it presents the teachings of ancient Hindu sages in narrative  allegory, interspersing philosophical and ethical elements

Mahabharata, the longest poem ever written, contains around 100,000 verses beginning in BCE period, and is divided into eighteen parvan and Bhagavad-Gita forms part of it. The Mahābhārata is the longest epic poem known and has been described as “the longest poem ever written”. Its longest version consists of over 100,000 śloka or over 200,000 individual verse lines (each shloka is a couplet), and long prose passages. About 1.8 million words in total, the Mahābhārata is roughly ten times the length of the Iliad and the Odyssey combined, or about four times the length of the Rāmāyaṇa.

W. J. Johnson has compared the importance of the Mahābhārata in the context of world civilization to that of the Bible, the works of Shakespeare, the works of Homer, Greek drama.

HU, whose motto is Veritas (Latin for “truth”) and which has about 22,000 students, boasts of “48 Nobel Laureates, 32 heads of state, 48 Pulitzer Prize winners”. The Harvard Library—claimed to be the “largest academic library in the world”—includes about 20.4 million volumes. Drew Gilpin Faust is the HU President, while Scott A. Abell is President of its Board of Overseers. It was named after John Harvard, a Christian minister.

Hinduism, the third largest religion of the world, has about 1.1 billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in USA.

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