Spring 2012

REL 327: Divine Feminine in Hinduism and Buddhism

Course syllabus pdf

Offered: Mondays from 7:00 pm to 9:50 pm

Professor Deepak Shimkhada, Ph.D.
Office Hours: by appointment

Teaching Assistant: Bhikshuni Lozang Trinlae, B.Sc., Ed. M.

CGU Religion 327 course Late Registration Open!

Fall 2011

REL 394: Yoga and Ultimate Reality

Course syllabus pdf

Yoga, whose origins can be traced to the Indus Valley in the 3rd millennium BCE, has been an enduring philosophical and health tradition in India.  Now it has taken root in the West.  Yoga also has been used and misused in recent years, leading to controversy and tensions between India and the West.  In this course, Yoga will be examined in light of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra along with health, economic, and political forces that have shaped it.  Yoga proponents complain that today’s Yoga, as practiced in the West, strips away the spiritual aspect.  Without the spiritual component, Yoga has no soul.  How much of this is justified?  The course will ask several important questions, including: “What is Yoga and what is the goal of Yoga?” in the context of six Indian schools of philosophy.  What does ultimate realty mean to true Yoga followers?  Ultimate reality or not, Yoga has always attracted many people from different faiths and creeds.  What are those alluring aspects?  Universal—now the global—phenomenon that the Yoga has will set the students on the path to explore the subject from many angles. The students will have an opportunity to visit a couple of different Yoga studios in the area to see Yoga in action and then write a report after interviewing the operators, the teachers, and the students.  The course will be augmented by primary and secondary readings, images, videos, music, asana demonstrations by an expert yoga instructor, and guest speakers. 

Offered: Mondays from 6:00 p.m. to 8:50 p.m.

Professor Deepak Shimkhada, Ph.D.

Teaching Assistant: Amelia Greene


Fall 2010 


REL327: Visions of the Feminine Divine in Hindu Cosmology 



School of Religion

Claremont Graduate University

REL327: Visions of the Feminine Divine in Hindu Cosmology

FALL 2010

Class meets: Mondays 4:00 p.m.—6:45 p.m.


Instructor: Deepak Shimkhada, Ph.D.


Teaching Assistant: LaChelle Schilling, 405.740.3560






Hindu traditions have traditionally allowed space for the feminine divine through the presence of female deities in worship, sacred texts, and/or iconography. Although it is acknowledged that such a presence does not always translate to privileged or even equal status for the women who are situated within these religious and cultural contexts, this presence can be argued to be potentially liberating for women and also may shed light on how gender is or can be read. This course will explore the concept of the divine feminine as a living tradition as it is perceived and put into practice.  In doing so, the course will examine various artistic, cultural, social, religious, and even political aspects of the divine feminine which have come to play a role in shaping Hindu societies.  Students will be introduced to the divine feminine from the Vedic literature to modern Hinduism while examining the many roles she has played in society and studying texts in which she is figured and glorified.


Our goal is to understand and be able to critique and problematize the concept of the feminine divine found in Hindu religion and culture. Because it is a seminar course, there will be no exams; however, each student is expected to actively participate in weekly discussion in the classroom. At the end of the semester a research paper is due, followed by a short oral presentation. The lectures will be illustrated with art, music and films. There will also be other presentations and papers due throughout the semester to encourage students to delve deeper into the material.




1.  Thomas B. Coburn. Encountering the Goddess: A Translation of the Devi-Mahatmya and a Study of its Interpretation. Albany: State U of NY Press, 1991.

2.  Alf Hiltebeitel and Kathleen M. Erndl, eds. Is the Goddess a Feminist? The Politics of South Asian Goddesses. New York: NY UP, 2000.

3.  Sarah Caldwell. Oh Terrifying Mother: Sexuality, Violence and Worship of the Goddess Kali. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999.

4. David Kinsley. Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine: The Ten Mahavidyas. Berkeley: U of California P, 1997.


The remaining reading assignments will come from other texts that will be accessible via Sakai.




Each student will sign up for two days on which s/he wants to lead class discussion. This will consist of a 15-20 minute presentation of the material/ideas/issues followed by a period in which questions are raised and discussion is facilitated by the presenter. It is a good idea to prepare by writing up notes/an outline to help yourself as well as about 10-12 discussion questions so that discussion is lively and thorough. Feel free to bring ideas from other texts/readings that you have found if relevant.




On each of the two days that you lead class discussion, you will turn in a 5-page (double-spaced) paper that contains your reflections on that day’s readings. This is not to be read in class, but is to help you prepare for your presentations. It is not necessarily a formal paper, but it will be graded.


Each week, you will post a single-spaced, one-page paper in the appropriate forum in Sakai at least 24-hours prior to the beginning of class. This post is to contain your reflections on the readings, hopefully trying to synthesize the ideas or thoughts and raise/answer questions prompted by the reading(s). On the week that you present, you may post a portion of your five-page paper or your 10-12 discussion questions.


It is assumed that you will read some of the posts of others and maybe even respond, but this is not required/graded.


*** In place of any two Sakai postings, you must complete the following assignments (one in place of one posting – you decide which weeks) and bring the assignment to discuss and turn in. The third assignment is due Oct. 25 as there can be no response to readings that day:

Assignment A: find a news article/website/blog/image, etc. about goddess ritual, worship, living goddess tradition, Hindu women, etc. on the internet. Examine it and write a one-page “post” concerning your response that you turn in (you don’t actually have to post this). Share in class.

Assignment B: write a poem or short story relevant to the class. This may be about the goddess, in the voice of the/a goddess, a re-visioning of the goddess, conversations between the goddesses. Be creative. Share in class.

Assignment C: (due on Kill Bill day) Create your own tangible sacred image/shrine of the goddess. This can be expressed through painting, drawing, sculpture, craft, etc. No video or literature please. Bring to class and share.




At the end of the semester, your final paper is due. It will be 12-15 pages.




Sakai/Other Postings               10

5-page papers                          20

Presentations                           20

Attendance/Discussion           10

Research paper                        40

Total                                      100




Knowledge area, especially theological and religious studies


After taking this course the students will be able to articulate the issues of a divine feminine presence in Hindu texts and Hindu/India societies with confidence, avoiding the usual pitfalls of romanticizing, demonizing, and making surface assumptions. The texts/narratives in which gender is significantly addressed will be familiar concerning Hindu spirituality/religion, and the religious, cultural, political, and social contexts in which these texts infuse will have been addressed.


WEEKLY TOPICS (please have all videos/texts watched and read by the date of discussion)


Aug 31 Intro to class. Discuss “Hinduism” from Serinity Young’s An Anthology of Sacred Texts by and about Women. Images/presence of the Goddess in art, video, and song.


Sept 6 – Labor Day, No Class


Sept 13 Encountering the Goddess pgs. 1-84.


Sept 20 Is the Goddess a Feminist? “Introduction” pgs. 11-23, 123-150; Introduction and “Mother Guru: Jnanananda of Madras, India” from Unspoken Worlds (Sakai); Introduction from Daughters of the Goddess (Sakai) pages 1-20.


Sept 27 “Golden Handprints and Red-Painted Feet: Hindu Childbirth Rituals in Central India,” “Hindu Women’s Family and Household Rites in a North Indian Village,” and “The Ladies of Lord Krishna: Rituals of Middle-Aged Women in Eastern India” from Unspoken Worlds (Sakai); pages 58-72 from Daughters of the Goddess (Sakai).


Oct 4 Oh Terrifying Mother “Female Frustrations, Women’s Worlds” pgs. 195-251.


Oct 11 Tantric Visions “The Mahavidyas as a Group” pgs. 1-63.


Oct 18 Tantric Visions “Kali: The Black Goddess” pgs. 67-91; Is the Goddess a Feminist? “Power in its Place: Is the Great Goddess of Hinduism a Feminist?” pgs. 151-165 and “A Garland of Talking Heads for the Goddess” (239-268); Oh Terrifying Mother “Male Experiences” pgs. 155-194.


Oct 25 Watch Kill Bill in class. Artistic tangible rendition of the goddess due.


Nov 8 Tantric VisionsTara,” “Tripura-sundari,” “Bhuvanesvari,” Chinnamasta,” pgs. 92-166.


Nov 15 Tantric Visions “Bhairavi,” “Dhumavati,” “Bagalamukhi,” “Matangi,” “Kamala” pgs. 167-232.


Nov 22 Is the Goddess a Feminist? “Is Shakti Empowering for Women?” “Is the Goddess a Feminist?” “Draupadi’s Question” pgs. 91-122, “The Feminist Vision of the Hindu Goddess” 181-202.


Nov 29 Is the Goddess a Feminist? “Real and Imagined Goddesses: A Debate” (269-282), “Is the Hindu Goddess Tradition a Good Resource for Western Feminism?” (187-202), “Seeking Ma, Seeking Me” (203-238); Tantric Visions “Concluding Reflections” pgs. 233-252.


Dec 6 Oh Terrifying Mother “Devikopam: The Wrath of the Goddess” and “Landscapes of Feminine Power” pgs. 64-154.


Dec 13 -17 Final Exam week. Paper due Monday 5 pm.



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