T5095 – The Religions and People of India

Chennai, Madurai, Thanjavur, Mamallapuram, Varanasi, Khajuraho, Agra, Delhi
Faculty: Mladen Turk and Catherine Crawford
12/31/2018 – 01/26/2019

The Religions and Peoples of India is a stunning introduction to the religions, beauty, diversity, history, and challenges of the world’s largest democracy.

Academic Overview
The Religions and Peoples of India is an interdisciplinary study of the pluralistic culture and religions of India. Students will arrive in Chennai where Madras Christian College will host the class for the first portion of the course. From Chennai, students will travel to Madurai to experience its famous Meenakshi Amman temple, visit Tamil Nadu Theological Seminary, and Gandhigram University. Then we will go to Thanjavur to visit Brihadeeswarar Temple. Other day trips will include cultural, religious, historical, and recreational sites such as the Mamallapuram Dance Festival, a beach resort on the Indian Ocean, ancient religious ruins, an artists’ colony, temples, mosques, Protestant and Roman Catholic churches. Course lectures will address India’s religions, caste system, poverty, political economy, population, family issues, and the fine arts. Students will have the opportunity to practice yoga with a guru, play cricket, attend a Bollywood blockbuster, and learn to cook with Indian spices. Students will travel north to Varanasi (Benares), India’s holiest city, Khajuraho, famous for its temples, Agra home to the Taj Mahal, and lastly to New Delhi to study the history of India from its ancient roots to the contemporary moment, the National Museum of India, the oldest mosque in India, as well as the largest mosque of India, the Baha’i Temple of India, a Sikh Gurdwara, and the Gandhi Museum built at the site of the Mahatma’s tragic assassination. Numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites will be visited.

Program Fee/Cost
Program Fee includes:  Transportation and course arrangements as indicated, hotel accommodations in twin and triple rooms, continental breakfast daily, twenty three lunches and twenty three dinners (subject to change).

A genuine interest in cultural and religious diversity in India is required but there are no academic prerequisites for this course. Since this course requires frequent walks of up to several miles over rough terrain a reasonably good physical condition is helpful.

Required Readings
Trautmann, Thomas R. India: Brief History of a Civilization. 2nd Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.
Clothey, Fred. Religion in India: A Historical Introduction. New York: Routledge, 2007.
The Bhagavad-Gita. trans. Juan Mascaró. London: Penguin Classic, 2003.

Lopez, Donald S. ed. Religions of India in Practice. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995.
Luce, Edward. In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India. London: Abacus Press, 2007.
Mahabharata. trans. R. K. Narayan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978.
Ramayana. trans. R. K. Narayan. London: Penguin Classic, 2006.

15% – Attendance: Students are required to attend all course activities (e.g., lectures, group discussions, cultural events, common meals, and site visits) unless they are indicated as optional.
15% – Participation: Students are required to engage each other and the course activities constructively.
20% – Readings: Evidence of readings will appear in and be evaluated through the students’ journals and the final papers. While in India, students will also read one of the several English language Indian daily newspapers evidence of which will appear in their journals and final papers
30% – Journal: Students will keep an academic journal through which they will reflect critically on their experiences, observations, readings, and group discussions. The professor will review journals regularly, at least once a week. 
20% – Comprehensive Response Paper: Students will write a final paper that requires a synthesis of their experiences, readings, and judgments into a coherent response to the religions and peoples of India.

Faculty Directors
Mladen Turk, Elmhurst College (630) 617-3782, email: turkm@elmhurst.edu  


Description of Faculty Directors
Dr. Turk’s area of specialization is religion and science with special focus on scientific theories of religion and methodology of the study of religion, but teaches broadly in the areas of history of Christianity in 19th and 20th century and religious traditions of South Asia. Dr. Turk studied philosophy, ethnology, Indology and theology in Zagreb, Croatia; philosophy of religion at University of Bergen, Norway; and religious studies at Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. His recent publications include a book Being Religious: Cognitive and Evolutionary Theories in Historical Perspective

Dr. Catherine Crawford teaches Mathematics at Elmhurst College, Il. She received her Ph.D. from Northwestern University, and her research interests include Nonlinear Dynamics, Pattern Formation, and Applied Mathematics.  She has previously co-led student travel courses to Paris, Rome, Prague, Berlin, & Amsterdam.


Application Procedures & Deadline
· Select the How to Apply link to start your online application.
· All applications received by your home institutions priority deadline will be sent to the faculty immediately. Applications will be taken after that deadline for programs with space still remaining until the final application deadline of October 1, 2018.

Final Application Deadline: October 1, 2018

For more information on course content, contact Mladen Turk
On application procedures or logistical information, contact your study abroad office.


Travel Packet

Travel ePacket (Link)

Click the image at left to access the course Travel Packet. The ePacket contains important information about traveling abroad, including your itinerary, frequently asked questions, participant letter and culturegram.

Preliminary Itinerary will be posted by October 16.
Final Itinerary will be posted by December 7.


The Orientation process includes 3 components:
– an online self-study and quiz on the UMAIE student handbook.
– an online orientation webinar conducted by your faculty director(s)
– an on-site orientation upon arrival.

You are REQUIRED to participate in and complete all 3 steps within the deadlines specified below. Failure to do so may result in your removal from the course.

Student Handbook and Online Quiz

2018 Student Manual (PDF)

We have put together this handbook to provide you with helpful information for planning and spending your time abroad. The handbook is also your primary study guide to pass your online quiz. There are excellent tips in this handbook, and it is organized in a way we hope will be user-friendly and straightforward.

Please carefully read the UMAIE student handbook and complete the quiz on the UMAIE student handbook by October 20, 2018.


quiz_thumbYou can access the online quiz through your online application by logging in to your school’s study abroad website. Complete the 2019 UMAIE Participant Quiz under Assessments on your online application portal.


 Orientation Webinar

The online orientation webinar for this course is on:

Wednesday, October 12, 2018 – 4:00pm-5:30pm

Your participation is required. Please review the sign-in instructions below and make yourself available to participate on this date.

Click the webinar icon below to access the launch and sign-in screen for Zoom.

Instructions (PDF)

Instructions (PDF)

Webinar Link (Zoom)


(Alternate Access to Webinar)

Topic: T5095 – The Religions and People of India
Time: Oct 12, 2018 4:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android: https://stthomas.zoom.us/j/906019447
Or Telephone:
    Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):
        US: +1 669 900 6833  or +1 646 876 9923  or +1 877 853 5247  (Toll Free) or +1 877 369 0926 (Toll Free)
    Meeting ID: 906 019 447
    International numbers available: https://zoom.us/u/adZPv3H1Bb


Participants are required to bring their Student ID card with them on the course to qualify for reduced student entrances at many sites. Without your ID, you could be responsible to pay any difference in entrance fees.