Classes begin at SOAS

Thiruvalluvar on SOAS campus


Thursday was my first day of actual class at SOAS (for you who are not familiar with the name, it is short for the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London). I’m just starting an MA programme in “Traditions of Yoga and Meditation”.

It was a lovely autumnal day, perfect for starting a new major project – and, for me, this programme is quite a big step. Since my first visit to the SOAS campus, I’ve felt particularly welcome, perhaps because of being greeted by the statue of the Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar, who probably lived sometime between the 4th and 1st centuries BCE.

On the left you see the famous 113 foot high Thiruvalluvar statue at Kanya Kumari, the southernmost point in India




Our class began with a welcome from Dr Ulrich Pagel, the convenor of the programme. Then we had the lecture of the day, the first lecture of the course; it was given by Dr Ted Proferes on the “Chronology and Geography of Ancient India”. The talk included a look at the Indus Valley-Harappan Civilization, pre-Vedic and early Vedic periods – mostly based on archological and linguistic evidence. It gave a quick survey of the period from 3000 BCE to 500 CE – and really helped to put things into historical perspective.

I recommend one of the books that we are using to anyone who might be interested: “The Hindu Religious Tradition” by T.J. Hopkins. You can buy used copies on Amazon. The second chapter, which is on my reading list for the coming week, contains a really good explaination of the different Vedas and their divisions – better than I’ve read or heard any place else.


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