The idea of women in the military, making of war strategy and its implementation, formation of soldiers, and the art of wars and their formats — these are among the topics students will study as part of Banaras Hindu University’s (BHU) newly introduced postgraduate programme, said officials aware of the development.
The programme titled MA in ‘Hindu Studies’ will have 40 students in its first batch this year. The programme is launched as a collaborative effort of several departments at BHU like the department of philosophy and religion, department of Sanskrit, department of ancient history, culture and archaeology and the Bharat Adhyayan Kendra (BAK), which is part of the university’s Arts faculty.
Officials said it will be the first full-fledged master’s course in Hindu studies in the country. They said that the idea of introducing “military” in the programme is to “uncover” the references of ‘defence studies’ in Vedic literature to solve India’s present challenges.
According to an official document, a copy of which is with HT, under one of the papers titled ‘Indian military, science and strategy’, there are four units focusing on topics like “definitions of enemies and allies”, “ways to mitigate enemies and promote allies”, “idea of women military”, “construction of camp and fort”, “right time and place of way to war”, “making of war strategy and its implementation”, and “strategy after victory and defeat”, among others.
Explaining the idea behind introducing such a paper in the ‘Hindu Studies’ programme, a senior university official said, “We have references of military sciences and military strategies in vedic literature that are not brought into the knowledge and practice as of now. It is necessary for the students to study Hindu military science and strategy through the curriculum. In this programme, the students will study two important books: Vasistha’s ‘Dhanurveda Samhita’ and Vaishampayan’s ‘Neeti Prakashika’, both in Sanskrit, which exclusively deal with military strategy and nobody knows about them.”
“The knowledge and values depicted in these texts are very important so far as the formation of the strategies of national security is concerned. They not only mention strategies on how to deal with the external enemies of the country but only talk about the internal elements which are responsible for endangering the security of the country. Many countries, including China, use their ancient military knowledge in the present context. India also needs to move in that direction,” the official said, on condition of anonymity.
When asked about the introduction of the topic on “women military”, the official said, “We have a great history of participation of women in the military. For example, Rani Ahilyabai Holkar and Rani Laxmibai. Both have fought in the battlefields. Presently, women are part of our defence services. Students should know the origin of the concept of women in the military.”
The two-year programme will offer nine core (compulsory) and seven elective (optional) papers. Even as the core papers focus on developing the understanding of principles of Hindu civilisation, society, culture and practices, the elective papers emphasise on acquiring knowledge in areas like military, law, politics, economics, arts, and linguistics. Officials said the idea behind this is to help students to “contextualise” their understanding of Hindu systems and practices in the present context.
The core papers are based on Ramayana, Mahabharata, puranas, dharma, karma, western methods of understanding discourses, and Sanskrit knowledge, among others.
Arts faculty dean Vijay Bahadur Singh said there was a need for “expertise” in “Hindu Studies”. “Such need will only grow with time, because of India’s rapid emergence as an economic, military, technological, and cultural power on the global stage, and the consequential heightened interest in Hindus and their civilisation. Unfortunately, no Indian university offers such a programme. This programme will fill that gap,” he said.
At present, several universities offer courses in religious studies — Aligarh Muslim University offers courses in Islamic studies while Delhi University teaches Buddhism studies.
Singh said that BHU has been receiving requests from foreign students and NRIs seeking details about the course. “People from various parts of the world have shown great interest in this course as they want to learn more about Hindus and their civilisation. A large number of these queries are from NRIs who have a keen willingness in staying connected with their roots and gain more knowledge,” he said.
It might be good to get someone who teaches Hinduism studies abroad to comment on this course.
What do strategic studies experts have to say about implementing Vedic knowledge to resolve India’s current strategic worries?