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Announcing 21 New Research Fellowships

We had earlier announced establishing  “100 Ideas Bank” for rolling research fellowships. We sought to crowdsource research topics vide our announcement :

Vishal Aggarwal, one of the foremost thinkers and repository of Shastras, Indic Knowledge Systems, and Indology in our times has come forward with the following list of topics. Some of them he has also agreed to mentor and some even co-author.

IGUC is now pleased to invite public intellectuals, research scholars, academics to come forward and apply for these fellowships. For some we have prescribed the time and for some we have kept it open.  Selected candidates will be suitably remunerated on a monthly basis.

We are calling this set of  Research Fellowships  “Vishal’s 21” as mark of gratitude for his extraordinary service to our Dharma.  Do apply. Write to us at mentioning Research Fellowships in the subject field.

Topic 1:

Representation of Muslims in the Bhakti Literature

Category: Incremental/Disruptive (with respect to Marxist representations)

Details: Review the Bhakti literature from the entire Indian subcontinent and examine how Muslims and Islam have been described and whether there are repeated stereotypes seen, and how the data correlates to actual history. The scope should cover the literature of Sikhism as well. Modern Marxist views, especially of the Nirguni tradition, are that the Bhakti tradition was eclectic as opposed to the ‘Brahmanical Hindu tradition’. The project explores whether this generalization is correct.

Topic 2:

Hindu Sikh Relationship

Category: Disruptive with respect to modern Akali scholarship and colonial British writings.

Details: The following genres of literature should be examined – Guru Granth Saheb and its traditional commentaries, Dasham Granth and its traditional commentaries, Hukumnamas of Gurus, works of Bhai Gurdas (Kabitts and Vars), the Hikayats of Bhai Nandlal Goya, Janamsakhis, pre-modern Rahits, pre-modern histories, historical records of Muslims, historical artefacts like the Pothi-Mala-Padam and Seli Topi of Guru Nanak and grants made by Guru Gobind Singh to Hindu shrines of Himalayas, frescos depicting Hindu Deities in Gurudwaras, old paintings of the Gurus showing them worshipping Hindu Deities and sporting Tilak etc.

Possible Mentor(s): Vishal Agarwal (could co-author as well)

 Topic 3:

Vedic-Harappan Geography

Category: Incremental (with respect to Hindu scholarship) and Disruptive (with respect to Western Indology and Marxist historiography)

Details: Explore the co-relationship between archaeological data of the Harappan Civilization and geographical data in the Vedic texts in a chronological fashion. Study how the movements of Vedic communities as deduced in the Vedic texts correlates to archaeological and historical record of the Indian subcontinent. The period of 1500-600 BCE is often referred to as the ‘Vedic Night’ due to absence of much archaeological data that can be correlated to the Vedic literature, according to the Indologists. The project will endeavor to show how this period was in fact quite formative for the Indian civilization, and how newer evidence from archaeology can now be correlated to data from the extant literature.

Topic 4:

Pre-Shankara Vedanta

Category: Incremental

Details: Hajime Nakamura, Thangaswami, Sangam Lal Pandey and other scholars have collected fragments of pre Shankaracharya Vedantins. This research will aim to update this research and make it more comprehensive and complete.

Possible Mentor(s): Vishal Agarwal (could co-author as well)

 Topic 5:

The Brahmasutras as a Syncretic Hindu Scripture

Category: Disruptive of Traditional viewpoints

Details: Shariraka Bhashya and other traditional commentaries interpret sections or individual aphorisms in the Brahmasutras as refutations of rival Darshanas. This is especially true of the interpretations found in the first six Padas. The commentaries however do clarify that the Brahmasutras refute only those portions of these Darshanas that are opposed to the Shruti, but not those that are consistent with the Shruti. This research will explore how the Sutras are actually quite syncretic like the Gita and the Mahabharata in general, that they oppose only specific erroneous interpretations of the Shruti passages, and not the rival Darshanas in reality.

 Topic 6:

The Genesis of Hindu Dharma

Category: Disruptive of both modern (Indological and Marxist) and Traditional Viewpoints

Details: Prevailing accounts of the origin and evolution of Hindu Dharma are of two types. The first group assumes the Aryan Invasion/Migration Theory, followed by the compilation of the Vedic literature between 1500-500 BCE. Prominent features of Hindu Dharma that are not represented well in the Vedic literature are then consigned to mysterious sources like ‘pre-Vedic’, ‘Harappan’, ‘Greater Magadha’ and ‘Interior India’ etc.

On the other end of the spectrum are theories that assign a very deep antiquity to Hindu Dharma, ranging from 10000 years BCE to even lakhs of years. This project will attempt to harmonize all the available data from literature, archaeology and genetics to understand how the traditional Hindu accounts in different genre of literature (Puranas, Vedas, Itihasas, Agamas) etc., correlate to the modern formulations.

Topic 7:

The Hindu Heritage of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh

Category: Incremental

Description: The entire Indian subcontinent including Afghanistan constitute the cradle of Hindu civilization. However, in the last 1300 years, Hindus have been moving towards extinction outside India and Nepal in this region. In recent decades, there has been a flurry of publications documenting specific aspects of the ancient Hindu civilization in these countries, like surviving temples, archaeological remains, merchant communities and so on. This project will attempt to synthesize this entire body of research and give a comprehensive account of how these countries have truly been a cradle of Hindu Dharma, and how Hindus came to decline in the region since 650 CE.

Time: 1 Year

Possible Mentor(s): Vishal Agarwal (could co-author as well)

Topic 8:

Hindu Dharma without Varna and Jaati

Category: Disruptive of both Traditional and Marxist/Indological Viewpoints

Description: The fourfold Varna system has been a double-edged sword for the Hindus. Sometimes, it has prevented Hindu Dharma from collapse, and at other times, it is often used to belittle the faith and term it as ‘obscurantist’ and ‘exploitative’. Some traditional as well as modern scholars argue that these social and family institutions are central to Hinduism, whereas others disagree. In modern times, millions of urban Hindus in India, and many in the diaspora populations outside the Indian subcontinent appear to be losing memory of their ancestral varna and jaati. This project will explore whether it is possible to be a Hindu without belonging to any varna or jaati, and whether the varnajatiinstitutions are an ‘essential feature’ of Hindu Dharma.

 Topic 9:

Historical Hindu Dynasties outside India

Category: Incremental

Description: This project will aim to compile a comprehensive account of Hindu ruling dynasties in Indonesia, Malaysia, Kampuchea and other countries in the region where Hindu Dharma is no longer the dominant tradition for several centuries now. Attention will also be paid to the little-known scriptures of Hindu Dharma that were written in these regions before the faith started moving towards extinction there.


Topic 10:

Islamic Patriarchy and Iconoclasm in Medieval India

Category: Disruptive

Description: Some of the worst victims of Islamic iconoclasm in the Indian subcontinent and Afghanistan were shrines to the Devi, and shrines that honored the feminine traditions of Hindu Dharma. For example, there was a large-scale destruction and vandalism of shrines to Sarasvati, Durga and Kali in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir (India and POK) and in interior India. This project studies whether there is a correlation between Islamic patriarchy and the extinction or weakening of Devi and other feminine traditions within the subjugated Hindu society. 

Topic 11:

The Indianness of the Delhi Sultans and the Mughals

Category: Disruptive to Indian Marxist and Western Indological paradigms

Description: European Imperialists are sometimes considered the sole invaders and colonizers of India in the discourse of Indian Marxist and Western historians. This project will explore the ‘Indianness’ of Delhi Sultans and Mughals by investigating the languages they wrote or propagated, their customs, their promotion of non-Indian Muslims even over Indian converts, and how they perceived other Indians who were their subjects. 

Topic 12:

Interrelationships between the Jain and the Hindu Puranas

Category: Incremental

Description: It is close to impossible to precisely date the Hindu Puranas, more so because there have been numerous rendering, editions, and additions over a very large period of time. Traditionally, they are all attributed to the pen of Rishi Veda Vyasa. In contrast, the Jain Puranas, which are named after the corresponding Hindu scriptures, are securely dated and have historically known fixed authorship. The project will endeavor to compare the contents of corresponding pairs and explore if this data can assist in dating the Hindu Puranas.

Topic 13:

Impact of Shifting River Courses on Indic Civilizations

Category: Incremental

Description: In recent decades, there has been considerable attention paid to the shifting and drying up of the Sarasvati River and its impact on the Harappan Civilization. However, most of the Himalayan Rivers have changed their courses completely or in sections during historical times. Many of these changes had lasting historical impacts. For instance, the silting up of the old Bhagirathi and Hooghly channels, and shift of the main flow of the Ganga through the eastern Padma channel is related to the growth of Islam in Bangladesh. The northward shift of Sutlej to meet Beas in the 18th century probably ensured that Muslim majority cis-Sutlej areas of the Ferozepur district were awarded to India in 1947. This project will historically study the geographical changes in courses of all the rivers and their tributaries in the Indian subcontinent, and the impact of these changes on the course of history.

Topic 14:

Hinduphobia in American School History Textbooks (with a special focus on California)

Category: Rebuttal, Indology

Description: In several states of the United States of America, a module on Indian history, with a focus on ancient India and its faith traditions, is taught sometime between grade 6 and 10. There are a handful of mega-publishers who prepare and print these textbooks all over the country. In some states like California, the State Board of Education selects a subset of textbooks from among those presented to it by the publishers after a public comment process. Since 2005, the Indian (and particularly the Hindu) community in the US has opposed the distorted and stereotypical representations of ancient India and Hinduism in these textbooks. But their efforts have sometimes been supported and at other times, opposed by the heterogenous scholarly community and other activist organizations. This project focusses on the controversies in California during the years 2005-2006 and 2014-2017 with brief forays into similar controversies in other states like Virginia.

Time: 6 months – 1 Year

Possible Mentor(s): Vishal Agarwal (could co-author as well)

 Topic 15:

History Textbook Wars in India

Category: Rebuttal of Marxist interpretations, Indology

Description: For over four decades, NCERT has published school history textbooks authored by Leftist historians in India. These textbooks are prescribed by schools adhering to the CBSE and are also used with or without much change in several State Boards in India. These textbooks have thus been studied by at least three generations of Indians. For an overwhelming majority of these students, the textbooks have been their only formal education in Indian and world history. For a short interregnum, the textbooks were replaced by those written by authors perceived to be Hindu Nationalist historians. This project gives a comprehensive history of the controversies surrounding the NCERT textbooks from the time of their initial introduction and makes excursions into state school textbooks as well as a few texts prescribed for reading in college level history courses.

 Topic 16:

The Tantra Tradition and the Varnashrama System

Category: Disruptive

Description: In the Tantra tradition, there is no varna for the sadhakas. They are classified as Pashu, Veer and Divya, depending on the merits of their sadhana. The Tantric literature is no less vast than the Vedic one. Many great men in this tradition are born into non-Brahmin family. The tentacles of this tradition is widespread in many parts of India. In these communities, the Varnasharama is absent. We need to document this phenomenon. A lot of these have percolated to Baul and Vaishnav traditions.


    1. i) Going through the Tantric texts and chronicling absence of any varna-related or sex-related discrimination
    2. ii) Documenting tantric traditional view as narrated in Indian languages

iii) Ethnography in staying with some Tantric communities in different parts of Bengal/Assam

    1. iv) Interview of some people from the Tantric traditions and their understanding

Addendum: We can repeat the same project for Vaishnav or Shaiva traditions.

Topic 17:

Absence of Regional Chauvinism in Indic tradition

Category: Disruptive of Marxist narrative of no India before 1947; will boost national integration

Description: In India, sub-nationalism and regional chauvinism are on the rise. Historically, this was not the case, Historian  Anant Sadashiv Altekar writes (1946) that all the Indian states had more or less same culture, language and religious denominations. Therefore, no sub-nationalism was seen in the ancient times. People used to be given important portfolios even in other states. We need to document them and highlight well.

Methodology: Cataloging historical texts and documents and documenting these issues

Topic 18:

Environmentalism in Hindu Communities

Category: Incremental

Description: Pankaj Jain documented the case of Hindu environmentalism for three communities, Swadhyaya movement, Bishnoi and Bhils of Rajasthan in his book Dharma and Ecology of Hindu Communities. We can take up  the same issue for other Hindu communities across the country.

Methodology: Ethnography and description through interview

Topic 19:

Temple, Environmentalism and Cultural Ecosystem

Category: Incremental

Description: The role of temples in supporting ecological, cultural and community-consciousness needs to be documented. The role of temples has become limited after take-over of temples by the government. A historical comparison of their roles will reveal how Hindu temples were community centres for centuries. We can also use the understanding of Elenor Ostrom (Nobel laureate winner 2012) regarding desirability of community centres.

Methodology: 1) Interview of some temple management; ii) Historical text analysis about their roles

 Topic 20:

Rituals and Food habits 

Category: Science of Dharma, environmentalism

Description: Do our rituals have any role in controlling our desire to vegetarian food and  thereby creating sustainable solutions for the planet? We can conduct this in many levels. In an apparent level, we can document various rituals (the methods, extent) in different communities and note the food habits of the communities. For a deeper study, we can choose some subjects and  offer them different rituals. We can observe how they decide their food choice.


    1. i) Description and interview of different communities
    2. ii) Statistical analysis with the suitable preparation of the experiment

Addendum: We can use a version of the experiment to document rituals and memory, rituals and non-violence and so on.

Topic 21:

Hindu Dharma for Teenagers Series

Category: Incremental and Disruptive

Description: Marxist and other Hinduphobic narratives have been targeting the minds and hearts of Hindu teenagers of India for the past three generations. This series of booklets will be compiled specifically for teenagers in a reader friendly and attractive format to introduce Dharmic concepts to Hindu young adults as well as teenagers and counter the distorted narratives to which our society has become used too. A Hindu perspective on topics relevant to this demographic (like dating, arranged marriages) etc., will also comprise the list of topics addressed.

Time: Ongoing, with the goal of publishing at least 2 booklets each year.

Possible Mentor(s): Vishal Agarwal

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