Tag Archives: Scholarly Books on Hinduism

academic resources for teaching and learning about hinduism

Understanding Our Religious World (Series)

HINDUISM: Understanding Our Religious World

There is an assortment of reasonably-priced, richly illustrated, engaging digital texts for the academic study of the major religious traditions on this site. These include: Hinduism, Buddhism, East Asian Religions, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The site contains many free resources (for students and instructors), as well as PowerPoint slides and useful materials for instructors. These are best suited for teaching more than one religion in a given semester. In a World Religions course, one might assign the Western and Eastern Religions texts, or utilize various combinations of individual books to best suit the course needs. These books have a robust appeal for their pedagogic effectiveness.


Review from The International Journal of Hindu Studies

Hillary P. Rodrigues, Hinduism: Understanding Our Religious World. eBook. Robinest, 2020. 122 pages.

The year 2020 presented a number of difficulties for all of us, as the global COVID-19 pandemic upended our typical patterns of working, shopping, socializing, parenting, and everything else that involved human contact. For those of us used to teaching in the classroom on a college campus, our patterns and expectations were also altered, to say the least. Most of us needed to adjust our sources, lectures, and teaching styles as we taught from home, uploading audio-visual lectures and/or streaming lectures to one of the many available platforms, in an attempt to engage students in new ways that were sometimes successful. Though we won’t use all of the new forms of technology and new teaching strategies we adopted during the pandemic, we have all acquired some hints and tips that we and our institutions might take with us even after the pandemic subsides.

Though produced slightly before the pandemic, the book under review represents a teaching tool that not only would have been helpful then, but will also be helpful in a more standard classroom setting moving forward. Produced specifically as a digital source (eBook), Hillary P. Rodrigues’s Hinduism provides a concise and visually appealing introduction to Hinduism, ideal for an introductory course.

Its first section on History begins with the Indus Valley Civilization and ends with a number of short sections on modern India, including the British Colonial Period, Global Hinduism (for example, ISKCON), and Hinduism in Popular Culture (for example, Bollywood). Its second section on Beliefs includes larger sections on Hindu Texts, Deities, and Temples. Its third section on Structure outlines the Four Classes, Religious Specialists, and Gender and Sexuality. And its fourth and final section, Practice, details Yoga, Pūjā, and a number of Hindu festivals (for example, Holī).

Just eighty pages in length, the succinctness of the core of this text cannot be overstated. Each subsection named above is brief: the section on British Rule, Reform, and Independence is summarized in just one page, while more complex sections are somewhat longer, with each deity (for example, Śiva) or each text (for example, the Rāmāyaṇa) given its own single page. Nearly every page of the book also contains illustrations: photos of the Taj Mahal and Victoria Memorial detail Mughal architecture (12), the ten avatāra of Viṣṇu depict Hindu deities (41–43), the Bṛhadīśvara and Mīnākṣī temples illustrate northern- and southern-style Hindu temples (47–48), and Holī and the Kumbha Melā illustrate Hindu festivals (77–78). The text also contains useful maps of the Indus Valley (5), the Mughal Empire (11), and religious sites in India (18) and charts of Cosmic Time (24), the Four Classes and the Four Stages and Goals of Life (53–54), and the Hindu calendar (76).

A ten-page section containing a Quick Review and eighteen Vocabulary Audio Files (pushing a button, a reader hears a native speaker of Indian languages properly pronounce words like “Mahābhārata” and “Bhagavad Gītā”) makes this text even more accessible to introductory students in the physical or virtual classroom. The text concludes with a thirty-page Reader of selected texts culled from traditional ancient, medieval, and modern sources (for example, Ṛg VedaDevī Māhātmya, and Gandhi’s autobiography), all of which had been referenced earlier in the text.

The concise nature of this book is also in part a product of its publication. As the opening notes state, “This eBook has adapted and modified the text used in a chapter of [Thomas A.] Robinson and [Hillary P.] Rodrigues, World Religions: a guide to the essentials, published by Baker Academic.” The content of that book has been apportioned out into a number of texts, equally accessible and equally inexpensive (each available for $8 on the Google Play digital app). The content of Hinduism is also contained nearly verbatim in Rodrigues’s Eastern Religions: Understanding Our Religious World, which also covers Buddhism and East Asian Religions (Confucianism, Daoism, and Shinto), and Hinduism’s Reader is also contained in full in the larger Eastern Religions Reader.

The introductory notes state that Robinson and Rodrigues designed and developed this book while “team-teaching a world religions course numbering 500 students a year,” providing a key to the better uses to which it might be put. Not intended for a full-semester course on Hinduism or South Asian religions, this book provides an excellent, approachable, and financially prudent option for a larger World Religions course written by an engaged and respected scholar with a keen eye towards the needs of today’s students.

Michael Baltutis

University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh

Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA

Hinduism – the eBook

This is a very reasonably priced digital version of the widely-used Introducing Hinduism, 2e (Routledge), described below. It contains weblinks, color images, pronunciation guides, research resources. It is especially effective for courses that are taught and received through remote, digital instruction, but has been widely used in live classroom settings as well. The reviews for Introducing Hinduism listed below also pertain to this volume. The many other books listed on this site include: Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Tibetan Buddhism, Japanese Religion, Daoism, Islam, Christianity, and World Religions. These books are best suited for semester-long courses dedicated to a single religious tradition.



Introducing Hinduism, 2e

It is an ideal sourcebook for those seeking a comprehensive overview of the Hindu tradition. This second edition includes substantial treatments of Tantra, South India, and women, as well as expanded discussions of yoga, Vedanta and contemporary configurations of Hinduism in the West. Its lively presentation features: case studies, photographs, and scenarios that invite the reader into the lived world of Hinduism; introductory summaries, key points, discussion questions, and recommended reading lists at the end of each chapter; narrative summaries of the great epics and other renowned Hindu myths and lucid explanations of complex Indian philosophical teachings, including Sankhya and Kashmir Saivism; and a glossary, timeline, and pronunciation guide for an enhanced learning experience. This volume is an invaluable resource for students in need of an introduction to the key tenets and diverse practice of Hinduism, past and present.

The digital version listed above is also effective and easy to access for instructors and students.


“In this new edition Rodrigues extends his comprehensive approach to Hinduism’s long history and complex network of sacred stories, ritual practices, and philosophical thought that he constructed in the first edition. This new edition weaves case studies of communities, leaders, and perspectives that take the reader closer into the lived realities of Hindu life. For students and readers who want to know where to begin in their understanding of Hinduism, this is the book.” Paul B. Courtright, Emory University, USA

“This edition will provide a comprehensive and useful introduction, starting point, and reference to the Hindu tradition… . It is extremely well suited for the classroom.” Sushil Mittal, Professor of Hindu Studies, James Madison University, USA

“Introducing Hinduism is, quite simply, the best book of its kind. An instructor can, by being selective, use it quite effectively as an introductory text, but it has enough depth that it can be a springboard for more advanced examination of primary texts or anthropological case studies. It is comprehensive, thorough and engaging enough for the general reader to get an excellent grounding in the dauntingly complex web of Hindu traditions.” David McMahan, Franklin and Marshall College, USA


An Introduction to Hinduism

This book provides a much-needed thematic and historical introduction to Hinduism, the religion of the majority of people in India. Dr. Flood traces the development of Hindu traditions from ancient origins and the major deities to the modern world. Hinduism as both a global religion and a form of nationalism are discussed. Emphasis is given to the tantric traditions, which have been so influential; to Hindu ritual, more fundamental than belief or doctrine; and to Dravidian influences. It introduces some debates within contemporary scholarship.

Academically solid and once widely used, this book is in need of a new edition.


Studying Hinduism in Practice

Drawing on personal experiences of Hinduism on the ground, this book provides a reflective context within which religious practices can be understood and appreciated. It conveys the rich realities of the Hindu tradition and the academic approaches through which they are studied. The chapters cover a wide range of topics, including dance, music, performance, festival traditions, temples, myth, philosophy, women’s practices, and divine possession. The engaging narratives are accompanied by contextual discussions and advice on such topics as conducting fieldwork, colonialism, Hindu seasonal celebrations, understanding deities, and aesthetics in Hinduism. All the entries are accompanied by photographs and suggestions for further reading.

This is an excellent complement to any of the aforementioned textbooks on Hinduism, and best utilized in a semester-long course.


The Life of Hinduism

The Life of Hinduism brings together a series of essays—many recognized as classics in the field—that present Hinduism as a vibrant, truly “lived” religion. Celebrating the diversity for which Hinduism is known, this volume begins its journey in the “new India” of Bangalore, India’s Silicon Valley, where global connections and local traditions rub shoulders daily. Readers are then offered a glimpse into the multifaceted world of Hindu worship, life-cycle rites, festivals, performances, gurus, and castes. The book’s final sections deal with the Hinduism that is emerging in diasporic North America and with issues of identity that face Hindus in India and around the world: militancy versus tolerance and the struggle between owning one’s own religion and sharing it with others.

This is an excellent complement to any of the aforementioned textbooks on Hinduism, and best utilized in a semester-long course.


The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and Society in India

Popular Hinduism is shaped, above all, by worship of a multitude of powerful divine beings — a superabundance indicated by the proverbial total of 330 million gods and goddesses. The fluid relationship between these beings and humans is a central theme of this rich and accessible study of popular Hinduism in the context of the society of contemporary India. Lucidly organized and skillfully written, The Camphor Flame brings clarity to an immensely complicated subject. C. J. Fuller combines ethnographic case studies with comparative anthropological analysis and draws on textual and historical scholarship as well. The book’s new afterword brings the study up-to-date by examining the relationship between popular Hinduism and contemporary Hindu nationalism.

Especially effective for anthropologically oriented approaches to the teaching of Hinduism.


Hinduism: A Very Short Introduction

Hinduism is practised by nearly eighty per cent of India’s population, and by some seventy million people outside India. In this Very Short Introduction, Kim Knott offers a succinct and authoritative overview of this major religion, and analyses the challenges facing it in the twenty-first century. She discusses key preoccupations of Hinduism such as the centrality of the Veda as religious texts, the role of Brahmins, gurus, and storytellers in the transmission of divine truths, and the cultural and moral importance of epics such as the Ramayana.

As part of the Very Short Introductions series, these is a slim volume (160 pages), best suited if used in tandem with other materials for semester-long courses.