Religions of India

An Introduction, 2nd Edition

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Sushil Mittal, Gene R. Thursby
  • New York, NY: 
    , December
     344 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


India is host to over one billion people and the original home of many Indian immigrants. Indian region has also been the birthplace for four religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. These four religious traditions are still in practice globally and require continual investigation and understanding.  India, its regions, languages, and religions are vast and can be daunting to budding students. Sushil Mittal and Gene Thursby, both established scholars of South Asian religions, have put together another invaluable resource. They have spear headed another excellent edited collection which tapes into the varied religious traditions born in India. 

This is the second edition of Mittal and Thursby’s book. They have also provided other highly influential anthologies, including Religions of South Asia: An Introduction(Routledge, 2006), whichexplores a much larger geographical region. Their edited collection, Studying Hinduism (Routledge, 2007)is a pivotal resource in deconstructing key concepts and terms which surround the monolithic entity that is known as Hinduism. Religions of India provides a more in-depth analysis and overview of the key religious traditions that are hosted in India. Mittal and Thursby consider themselves a type of guru-śiṣyateam, the lineage of teachers and disciplines found in Indian culture. This is key not only to their drive to create quality resource materials but also in how the books themselves are structured. 

Mittal and Thursby’s writing styles are extremely accessible for both academics and students. They explore key terms, figures, and factors which influence the establishment and growth of each of the religions they present. Religions of Indiais a perfect textbook for students at varying points of study. Each section contains discussion questions, images, key terms, and further suggested readings. 

This second edition has a few additions which help to ensure that this resource is current for use in an increasingly technological classroom and a growing transnational audience. This new edition contains interactive digital materials and resources that could prove valuable for the classroom. This website, set up for both educators and students, provides additional resources for the study of the religions found within the book, as well as an additional piece concerning the Baha’i faith. 

The organization of the book is clear and precise and works in a larger narrative of constructing “Indian” history. Their introduction states the purpose in releasing a new edition with some additional material in the deliberate structure of chapters in varied lengths, thus reflecting the historical and influential depth that each religious tradition holds. Religions of Indiais meant to be an introductory resource to help parse out core values, customs, and practices to help enrich appreciation of a diverse world religious landscape. 

Part 1 entitled “What India Has Given to the World” is focused on religions which were created and still flourishing in the Indian subcontinent. Part 2, “What India Has Received from the World,” is focused on imported religions which have taken root in India, along with some which have heavily influenced the trajectory for the growth of modern India. The religions covered in part 2 include Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Part 3, “Beyond the Introductory Study of Religions,” serves as a conclusion and a challenge. It states the problematic tensions that can arise when making a generalized chapter on religious systems that host hundreds of different ways of understanding and experiencing these religious traditions. This resource provides a clear and precise overlook of the “movers and shakers” of the religious landscape found in India.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Anjeanette LeBoeuf is a doctoral candidate in Women's Studies in Religion at Claremont Graduate University, an Adjunct Professor at Whittier College, a Wabash Teaching Fellow at Claremont McKenna College, and the Queer Advocate for the AAR, Western Region.

Date of Review: 
April 27, 2018
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Gene Thursby is Emeritus Associate Professor of Religion at the University of Florida in Gainesville, USA. 

Sushil Mittal is Professor of Hindu Studies and Gandhi Studies at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, USA, and Honorary Professor of Gandhian Studies at GITAM University in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, India. Together the guru-sisya team has also edited The Hindu World and Studying Hinduism, both published by Routledge.



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