This course is discontinued

SAS1502 – Religion and Politics in South Asia

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

Choose semester

Course content

The course deals with the relation between religion and politics in South Asia. Is it possible to separate religion from politics? How has the relation between religion and politics been interpreted in the past and how shall we understand it today?
We begin with the basic distinction of “class” (varṇa) and “caste” (jāti) as it is depicted in ancient religious and political texts and proceed to consider the question of how caste was “(re)created” under the British rule in India.
We will also consider the emergence of (then) new religious movements such as Buddhism and Jainism from the perspective of the relation between political rulers and religious leaders, including its transformations into ethnic conflicts, for example in contemporary Sri Lanka.
The course will also deal with the most central socio-religious reform movements from the 19th century onwards, how religious leaders reinterpreted South Asian religions (Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism) in the context of colonialism. One of the most prominent figures in this context is Mahatma Gandhi – a reformer who as a person especially connected religious reinterpretation and political acting.
The differentiation between politics and religion will also be analysed from other perspectives, such as the oscillating relation between political agenda and temple administration, the political impact of contemporary religious leaders (such as the Śaṅkarācāryas), in the context of local expressions of “folk religion”, possession, and Brahmanic rituals, and Sant and Bhakti movements in mediaeval and contemporary Hinduism.

Learning outcome

On the basis of ancient, mediaeval and contemporary examples this course aims at providing you with a basic knowledge of and tools for understanding and analysing the interconnection between religion and politics in South Asia.


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.

Singular course students may apply after January 11th depending on capacity.


Formal prerequisite knowledge

General university entry requirements

Recommended previous knowledge

Good knowledge of English


The course consists of 14 weekly double hours of lectures throughout the semester, a total of 28 hours, of which 8 will be seminars. Active student participation (written and verbal assignments) and preparation for the seminars in advance is expected.

Students will submit 2 minor assignments during the course, both in English. 1 of 2 must be approved by the course teacher before the student is allowed to take the final exam. The assignment must be 2-3 pages long (2300 characters per page, not including spaces) and shall be submitted in Fronter. The Obligatory statement concerning cheating must be submitted along with the assignment. Due dates for the assignments will be published in the detailed teaching plan.

Students are responsible for obtaining information regarding the approval of their assignments.

See Retningslinjer for obligatorisk undervisningsaktivitet ved IKOS


1 of 2 assignments must be approved before the student is allowed to take the final exam.

Evaluation: 3-day take-home exam at the end of the semester.

Students will have 3 days to complete the exam. The length of the exam should be approximately 4-6 pages long (2300 characters per page, not including spaces). The exam must be submitted in Fronter. Together with the take-home exam, students shall submit the Obligatory statement regarding cheating.

Examination support material

No examination support material is allowed.

Language of examination


Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


This course can be included in a Bachelor in South Asian Studies or Religious Studies.

Facts about this course






Every spring


Every spring

Teaching language