Writer is to choose 1 of the 4 questions to answer.
Write a paper of 1500-2000 words that addresses one of the questions below pertaining to devotional theism and the
gods of the Hindu tradition. Your paper should draw upon direct analysis of assigned texts, and it should integrate
one or more of the theoretical perspectives from the beginning of the course to support your thesis. Choose only 1 question.
1. Compare the “new” generation of gods in the Hindu tradition (e.g., Shiva, Vishnu [and/or his avatars], goddesses,
etc.) with the old guard from the Vedic texts. (Probably best to focus in on one god from each pantheon.) Pay
particular attention to a) the personality and characteristics of each divinity and b) the forms of worship he/she
inspired. Has the same kind of bhakti been present in the tradition from the beginning, or do the “new” gods inspire
a novel form of commitment and practice?
2. When I was a kid hanging out with my friends, we used to pose a question like “If Superman and Batman got into
a fight, who would win?” Then we would debate the issue for long periods of time. Well…if Shiva and Vishnu got
into a fight, who would win? Develop a sophisticated argument in response to this simple question, supported with
evidence from the primary sources (could include the Gita).
3. How would you characterize the relationship between the masculine and feminine principle in the “new”
generation of Hindu gods? How do gods and their consorts (shaktis) get along? Who has the upper hand? What
distinguishes worship of shakti from other forms of devotion? Focus on a carefully selected set of examples from the
assigned texts to address this topic.
4. Do the Hindu gods have a dharma, or a job to do? Are they bound by a code of morality or “social” expectation?
How are we supposed to understand moments when the gods do inappropriate things or go to excess? Work with
examples from the primary sources to respond.
Guidelines and Grading
In general, an outstanding (A-level) paper these features:
It responds to the assignment and follows its basic instructions (i.e., the paper actually does the assignment,
addresses the chosen topic, is the required length, etc.). (Baseline complete of the assignment: 80 pts.)
It has a clear, complex thesis that reflects independent thinking and a critical edge. (Thesis: 20 pts.)
It displays mastery of the relevant issues. (Mastery/comprehension: 20 pts.)
It contains careful analysis (not just summary) of the relevant readings and sources, in support the paper’s
argument. (Analysis/integration of primary and secondary sources: 20 pts.)
Within the confines of the required length of the paper, it addresses all of the most pertinent issues and
sources connected with the topic. (Comprehensiveness: 20
It has a coherent organizational structure that is signaled with effective transitions.
(Organization/transitions: 20 pts.)
It has an almost total lack of writing problems (grammatical, mechanical, stylistic). (Writing: 20 pts.)
Additional points: 1) Cite your sources carefully (using MLA or other citation styles). The use of outside sources is
discouraged and unnecessary; focus on the assigned materials. 2) You may go over the required word count, if
necessary, but your paper should not be under 1500 words. 3) Leave yourself enough time to do a good final
proofread of your paper. Writing issues count.
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