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The Department of Religious Studies offers graduate training in classical and contemporary Hinduism, with an emphasis on historical, textual, and philosophical methods. Supported languages include Sanskrit, Hindi, Braj Bhāṣā, and Kashmiri (though students sometimes work beyond these languages as well). Our faculty has particular strengths in śāstric traditions, including metaphysics, theology, logic, grammar, and aesthetics. Areas of faculty research include Śaiva traditions, Tantra, Sanskrit narrative literatures, works on state formation and social history, Vedānta, Hindu-Buddhist philosophical debates, Hinduism and the environment, and traditions of encounter between Hinduism and Islam.   


PhD students in Hinduism are required to take two seminars on theory and method. One of these must be RELG 7360 (“Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion,” which is required of all PhD students in Religious Studies).  The second seminar may be a theory or method course offered either in Religious Studies or in another department, with the approval of the student’s advisor. Students must additionally complete at least 11 seminars or tutorials on topics related to their research interests. Typically, students will take 6 seminars or tutorials in their field of specialization, 3 seminars or tutorials in a secondary field, and 2 electives, in order to fulfil the GSAS requirement of at least 45 credit hours of graded graduate coursework. Students who enter the PhD program with a relevant prior graduate degree should petition for “advanced standing” by the end of their first year, in order to obtain up to 15 transfer credits toward their UVa degree, thereby reducing the graded graduate coursework requirement to 30 credit hours. In all course planning, the student should work with their advisor(s) to construct a sequence of study that balances depth in one’s area of specialization with a wider field of research. As appropriate, students can and should take classes in other departments of the university.   


Students must complete the equivalent of four years of a primary research language (usually Sanskrit or Hindi) and at least two years of a second South Asian language. Satisfactory completion of coursework is typically sufficient to fulfill these requirements, though it is also possible to demonstrate proficiency through language exams. Additionally, students must pass a reading competency exam in one modern research language (usually French or German) relevant to the student’s field of research. The plan of language study should be determined in consultation with the student’s advisor(s). 

Study Abroad 

PhD students in Hinduism are typically expected to complete at least one academic year of study or research in South Asia. 

Comprehensive Examinations 

Students will take three comprehensive exams, in addition to any required language exams. The first exam will focus on Hinduism (consisting of a general reading list as well as one specialized list chosen by the student); the second will cover a secondary area of research chosen in consultation with the student’s advisor(s); the third will be on theory and method in the study of religion. Students must complete all examinations by the end of the semester following the completion of coursework (although it is possible and often useful to take some of the exams earlier during coursework). Each exam will be supervised by two faculty members: a primary examiner and a secondary examiner. The format of the exams and the reading lists will be arranged by the examiners in consultation with the student.