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Religion Conflict and Globalisation Student

Garima Raghuvanshy

I was always interested in religion and the way it plays out in society, culture and politics. A research paper I wrote in my bachelors, on colonial scholarship on the Mahabharata and its implications on our understanding of ourselves as Hindus, further crystalised this interest. India is a country where religious and caste identity plays a major role in peoples’ lives, even though we are famous for our vibrant diversity. This field of study, and this programme allowed me to delve into an issue that deeply affects India and the rest of the world. With its focus on contemporary events and case studies it allows us to link academic theory to political and religious events as they unfold around us, making it relevant, but also, relatable, and hence, captivating.

Garima Raghuvanshy
Garima Raghuvanshy

Why Groningen?

The course in Religion and culture in Groningen is the best amongst the ten universities across Europe that are part of the Svagata programme and the university itself has a vibrant, recognised and respected academic and research tradition. The city of Groningen is of course a very attractive destination for students, given its young population, its dynamic social and cultural scene and the multitudes of bikes everywhere - the city promises a great student lifestyle.

As someone who has never left India before coming to the Netherlands, I had my set of fears and anxieties. When I got here, however, I found that the people were warm and welcoming, and the city itself allowed me to soak in the newness of culture and systems without overwhelming me with the strangeness of difference. I’m learning a lot in class everyday, but also, a lot outside it, on the streets, in the cafes and by the canals. So honestly, for me, studying here and just being here is unique - but it helps to find that I can carve out a niche for myself in a vibrant community of international students, while still learning how to say ‘pannenkoek’ and ‘alstublieft’.

Why should someone from India study Religious Sciences here in Groningen?

I can best answer this if I quote one of my professors from India, Dr. Sufiya Pathan; “there is much we just don't understand about the much documented and discussed, yet misunderstood european relationship to religion.”, even though, the Indian study and understanding of religion is so greatly influenced by european academic traditions in the field. Indian students should study religion in Groningen if they are looking for an academic environment that encourages perspective and practical engagement, but also, given the presence of faculty members that specialise in Indian religions, its an opportunity to experience the European, perhaps ‘Western’, understanding of India and its relationship with religion. Whether you’re standing on one side of the lens or the other, or investigating the lens itself, studying in Groningen will add greatly to your academic pursuit.

What is it you like most about the faculty?

I like the structure of our classes - which essentially lack structure! In our discussions, each of us brings forth her/his understanding of the paper, theory or event at hand - and given our diverse academic and cultural backgrounds, this is an exercise in perspectives! But more importantly, we’re encouraged, in fact, asked to bring to class analytical questions on the text, investigating and critiquing its internal consistencies and inconsistencies, relating it to contemporary situations, other theories or other cultures - encouraging an engagement with the material that goes beyond the purely rhetoric.

Also, in all honesty, I did not expect a faculty of theology and religious studies to be so vibrant and active! (I guess I had a few stereotypes). The faculty has its own fraternity ‘Gerardus van der Leeuw’ and it includes everything from a film committee to an environment club with its own vegetable garden, several debating associations, a travel committee, a committee that celebrates different cultural and religious festivals from all over the world and even a dating committee!

Last modified:20 November 2013 1.44 p.m.
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