ANS 372 • Religions of Ancient India and Iran
3:30 PM-5:00 PM
India and Iran have not only developed rich civilizations of their own, but also have exerted profound influence over large parts of the world. Nowhere has that richness and influence found greater expression than in religion. While many people can identify Hinduism and Buddhism with their ancient Indian origins, and perhaps fewer Zoroastrianism with ancient Iran (Persia), most are unaware that both civilizations have a common heritage of religion, language and other forms of ideology in their Aryan forbearers. These Indo-European peoples from the steppes split into two groups, one settled and dominated the Iranian plateau, the other the Indian subcontinent. This course will examine the origins and development of the religions of these two Aryan peoples in the context of comparative study. Since both traditions have preserved rich literature and ritual practices there is an abundance of source material to study. Following a brief historical sketch the course will examine a number of themes: myths of creation; myths of social structure and group identity; issues of gender; hieratic poetry and orality; ritual and sacrifice; the deities; the meaning of human existence. The course has no prerequisites and all readings are in English.