Welcome to the Department of Indian Sub-Continental Studies

The Department of Indian Sub-Continental Studies offers both undergraduate and postgraduate programs of study in language and non-language areas, introducing students to traditional and modern cultures, religions (especially Hinduism and Buddhism), history, literature, politics and social structures of South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan) as well as Tibet and Central Asia. The Department, which runs the Buddhist Studies program, receives substantial financial support from the University Buddhist Education Foundation, which funds a Visiting Professorship in Buddhist Studies, a Pali prize, funding for library resources, and a fixed-term lectureship in Buddhist Studies, and from the Dhammakaya Foundation, which funds a fixed-term lectureship in Buddhist Studies. We also receive funding from the Khyentse Foundation for a student prize, the Khyentse Foundation Award for Excellence in Buddhist Studies. (See Prizes and Scholarships.)

Language-based units of study at undergraduate level are offered in Sanskrit and Pali. Non-language-based units of study devoted to traditional and modern Indian culture and society, religious and philosophical traditions, Hinduism and Buddhism are taught in English as part of the Asian Studies and Buddhist Studies.

The study of the Sanskrit language, the most important classical language of the Indian subcontinent, is the gateway for exploring the various intellectual, literary and artistic traditions – associated especially with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism – that have shaped South Asian civilization, and which have indeed played a profound role in forming Asia as a whole. Sanskrit may be taken as a major and into fourth year Honours, with students also having the opportunity to study introductory Pali and Prakrit.

The Sanskrit major is designed to foster a sophisticated grasp of developments in religion, literature and philosophy throughout South Asia, Central Asia, South East Asia and Tibet, as well as an understanding of the broader social and historical contexts in which these developments took place. Students who complete the major will find themselves well placed to adopt a critical yet self-aware and balanced ‘big-picture’ perspective upon South Asian society and culture (and more broadly, Asian society and culture). Their background in seeing South Asian civilization as a whole by way of their exposure to formative Sanskrit texts such as the Mahābhārata, Rāmāyana and Bhagavad Gītā will enable them to see beyond stereotypes and media hype in forming sophisticated and insightful responses to critical issues in contemporary South Asia, such as human rights abuses, caste, inter-religious tension, dowry and arranged marriages.

The Sanskrit course is aimed at developing reading competency of classical Indian texts. Class sizes for Indian Studies language-based units are generally small, allowing students to benefit from close interaction with the academic staff. No other university in NSW teaches classical Indian languages. Senior-level Sanskrit is satellite linked with the Australian National University in Canberra.

Sanskrit may also be undertaken through the Diploma of Language Studies by students enrolled in a degree other than the BA at the University of Sydney, or any degree at another University, or those who have completed a prior degree.

The department also has an active postgraduate program, supervising postgraduate research degrees in a number of subject areas including both language and various fields of research in Hinduism, Buddhism and Indian and Tibetan culture (see our Postgraduate Research page).