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Hindu Traditions

The Field

The word Hindu can refer to some of the world’s most ancient religious texts and practices, as well as to traditions that are present throughout every part of the globe today. As a field of study Hindu Traditions emphasizes research on languages, communities, texts, performances throughout history and around the globe that are Hindu. Our faculty work with the arts and architecture, languages and literatures, philosophies and theologies, performing arts, healing traditions, women’s studies, and environmental studies, as well as on issues related to water, gender, and social justice. Dr. Narayanan directs CHiTra (the Center for the Study of Hindu Traditions), a program which emphasizes interdisciplinary work and the study of Global Hindu traditions, and which serves as an essential resource for graduate students. This field connects with Religion in the Americas in considering the ways in which parts of Hindu traditions have been imported to or coopted by the West, and with Religion and Nature in providing opportunities to examine nature-human relationships in South Asian cultures and religions.

The Hindu Traditions faculty collaborate with faculty across the campus, including the Samuel Harn Museum of Art, UF Performing Arts, the Department of Philosophy, the Water Institute, and Women’s Studies.


Jonathan Edelmann (Hinduism, Science and Religion, Sanskrit) is an editor for the International Journal of Hindu Studies and author of the award winning Hindu Theology and Biology (2012). Edelmann was a fellow with the American Academy of Religion for two years and held a post-doctoral fellowship at Oxford University. His research is on the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, an important source of culture, fine arts, philosophy, theology, and narrative in South Asia. Edelmann is also interested in the manner in which Hindu thought might respond constructively to contemporary issues in the philosophy and science. He has published in a wide variety of leading academic journals including the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, the Journal of Consciousness Studies, Zygon: Journal of Science and Religion, and the Journal of the American Oriental Society.

Vasudha Narayanan (Hinduism, Global Hindu Traditions) is a Distinguished Professor in Department of Religion and a past President of the American Academy of Religion.  Her fields of interest are the Hindu traditions in India, Cambodia, and America; visual and expressive cultures in the study of the Hindu traditions; and gender issues. She is currently working on Hindu temples and traditions in Cambodia. Dr. Narayanan is the author or editor of seven books and numerous articles, chapters in books, and encyclopedia entries. Her research has been supported by, among others, the American Council of Learned Societies, National Endowment for the Humanities, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the Social Science Research Council. Dr. Narayanan was named the University of Florida’s Teacher Scholar of the Year in 2010.

A. Whitney Sanford teaches and researches in two main areas: Religion and Nature and Religions of Asia, and her current work lies at the intersection of religion, food (and agriculture), and social equity. She is currently conducting ethnographic research on the St. Johns River and nearby springs, exploring human attachment to place and water. Her books include Living Sustainably: What Intentional Communities Can Teach Us About Democracy, Simplicity, and Nonviolence (2017), Growing Stories from India: Religion and the Fate of Agriculture (2012) and Singing Krishna: Sound Becomes Sight in Paramanand’s Poetry (2008).

Graduate Students

Recommended courses (beyond Method & Theory I and II and the Interdisciplinary Seminar): REL 6319 Interpreting Asian Religions; REL 5937 Hindu Traditions; and REL 5937 Hindu Traditions 2.

Language requirement: All students are required to demonstrate adequate mastery of at least one language relevant to their study of Hindu Traditions—which can be either a classical or a modern language—selected on the basis of its relevance to the student’s area of study. Depending on the student’s research topic, competence in additional classical or modern languages may also be required, as determined in consultation with the faculty supervisory committee.

Students are expected to take Sanskrit courses at UF. We also strongly encourage students to take language courses in the South Asia Summer Language Institute or through the American Institute of Indian Studies in India.

Qualifying examinations: 1) Primary religious tradition (Hinduism or Jainism); 2) Secondary religious tradition or the religions of a geographical area (e. g. China); 3) Approaches to the academic study of Asian religions. This exam will usually be based on the Interpreting Asian Religions course, but it can alternatively consist of (1) an examination offered by one of the other tracks in the department, or (2) an examination in a relevant subfield in another discipline (such as history, women’s studies, or anthropology); 4) Student’s area of specialization; 5) Oral examination, to be taken upon successful completion of all written qualifying exams. The oral examination will be based on the answers to the written examinations.