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Approaches To The Study Of Religion - Book By Harbans Singh

Preface To 'Approaches To The Study Of Religion' By Harbans Singh

The study of religion has yet to secure in the Indian university the status which legitimately belongs to it. However, academic opinion has lately been consolidating infavour of making this aspect of human experience the subject of serious intellectual and scholarly enquiry. The Kothari Commission report came out decisively in support of this idea. In 1967, a seminar was held at Bangalore on the Study of Religion in Indian Universities. Participants included the distinguished comparativist thinker Professor Wilfred Cantwell, Smith, Director, Centre for the Study of World Religious, Harvard University, and representatives from Indian universities such as Visva-Bharati, Banaras, Osmania, Delhi, Madras and Mysore. The Punjabi University, Patiala, had, by then, worked out a scheme for starting a department of religion. The Vice­Chancellor of the University, Sardar Kirpal Singh Narang, took part in the Bangalore seminar. The Pubjabi University's plans firmed up and a Department of Religious Studies-perhaps the first under this name in an Indian University-materialized.

A set-up embracing five major religious traditions-Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim and Sikh, was developed. In 1969, came the quincentennial of Guru Nanak's birth and the Department undertook to hold on that occasion an international seminar on the life and teachings of the founder of the Sikh faith. The Department, which had started out as a research complex, was not without ambition to break into teaching. In this context, a seminar was planned to help define the scope and methodological and curricular procedures for the study of religion as a scholarly discipline. The papers given at teh seminar are being presented inthe form of this book. These papers cover a wide range of topics. More than presenting any orthodox or difinitive viewpoints, the papers raise some very basic and pertinent points. This is important, especially at this stage of the growth of religious studies in our country. We have continuned reflecting on these questions and trying to find answers and solutions. One concrete outcome is that our scheme for the introduction of a teaching-cum-research course for the degree of M. Litt., has been finalized. This will be a two-year course after a Master's degree in a subject like Religious Studies, Philosophy, Linguistics, Literature or History. Field work and comparative study will be encouraged. A student in this programme will have to acquaint himself with at least one religious tradition besides his own. He will also have to take up a course in the canonical language of his area of specialization.

I must here acknowledge our sincerest gratitude to the President, Professor Niharranjan Ray, who chaired the different sessions of the seminar with his characteristic intellectual fifnesse and address and provided direction and focus to the discussions. We must similarly thank all other scholarly friends who accepted our invitation and participated in the seminar. Thanks are also due to Shri Sardar Singh Bhatia, Senior reserch Fellow in the Encyclopaedia of Sikhism section, who helped with checking proofs, and Shri Anand Spencer, Research Scholar in Christian Studies, who prepared the index.

Guru Gobind Singh Bhavan Punjabi University, Patiala.


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