This course embraces the major Asian religious traditions we will encounter on our journey. These religions provide values and ideals that are foundational to many of the countries we will explore. We begin by heading east to Japan and the religions of Shinto and Zen Buddhism. Onward to China and Hong Kong and the religions of Confucianism and Taoism. Southeast Asia then unfolds with the Mahayana Buddhism of Vietnam, Myanmar’s Theravada Buddhism and then to the heart of Hinduism in India. As our journey tacks westward to Africa we will explore the globalization of these religions and contrast and compare them with the traditions of South Africa, Ghana, and Morocco. On ship we will discuss within an historical framework the sacred stories, beliefs and rituals of these religious ways of knowing. Disembarking we will explore sacred sites and practices, and try to discern the place of these traditions in their adherents lives. Though the places will seem distant, the time remote, and the themes beyond space and time, if we take these religions seriously we may come to see their followers as people much like us with whom we share our global village.
Field WorkCountry: Mauritius
Date: March 11, 2018
Some of the most remarkable Hindu temples can be found outside of India—and Mauritius is no exception. Under British rule from 1810 to 1968, the Indian-Mauritians are descended from Indian immigrants who came to Mauritius to work in the sugar fields as indentured servants after slavery was abolished in 1835. The treatment of Indian indentured servants by the British was quite cruel, and there was actually a thriving trade in “coolies,” workers of Asian descent. Thousands of Indians from Calcutta and other parts of India came to Mauritius to work; others went on to the West Indies. Their continued presence in Mauritius has meant that Mauritius has a number of important nineteenth century Hindu temples. Our field class will explore two of them. After an orientation on the ship, students will take a bus to the Hindu Temple Maheswavath in Triolet, located north of Port Louis. Built in the 1850s, this is one of the largest Hindu temples in Mauritius, with white buildings that are brightly painted. After a tour of the temple in Triolet, we will head south into the mountains of southeast Mauritius to visit the Grand Bassin Shiva Temple, built in 1891. There students will see large statutes of Shiva, Lakshmi, and Hanuman, among others. Many Hindus in Mauritius make a yearly pilgrimage to the Grand Bassin Shiva Temple where there is a lake made of water from the River Ganges; this lake has mythic origins that span from when Shiva and Parvati brought water with them from the Ganges but spilled it where the lake stands today. Students will climb up a trail to a Hanuman Temple that will give them a splendid view of all of Mauritius. While we will have a tour guide, students will have the freedom to explore. Learning Objectives: 1. The primary objective is to expose students to the deities, iconography and practice of Hinduism in Mauritius through visits to two temples. 2. Become more closely acquainted with the nature, details, and meanings of Hindu ritual. 3. Study the relationship between architecture, worship and Hindu ideals 4. Understand the relationship between Hinduism and Mauritius society. 5. Gain insight into the relationship between Hindu values and how these shape and are shaped by Mauritian society.