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Shaunaka Rishi Das is Director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies (OCHS). Here he reflects on how the centre coped with a tumultuous 2020 with some important outreach projects coming to fruition, such as the Bhumi Project starting a new life as Bhumi Global.
The Project, named Bhumi after the Sanskrit word for Mother Earth, is an outreach project of the OCHS, aimed at exploring Hindu perspectives on environmental issues, creating networks of awareness and action among Hindu communities, and advocating these perspectives and awareness to a wider audience.
And, as the university retires the title of Recognised Independent Centre for all bodies, this year also marks a new journey for this academy founded in 1997 for the study of Hindu cultures, societies, philosophies, religions, and languages, in all periods and in all parts of the world.
This year a pandemic has swept the world and has swept us off our feet. My heart goes out to the families of those we have lost.
At such a time Studies – with its profound approaches to happiness, suffering, life, and death – is more important than ever. Research into the texts and traditions that give us yoga, mindfulness, meditation, and mantra is now more relevant. We will need these tools to survive our difficulties, to recover ourselves, and to nourish better global thinking.
The OCHS has worked with the for 23 years. For 14 of these we held the title of Recognised Independent Centre. The University is retiring this designation for all the bodies that held it. This marks a new maturation of our identity – in Oxford and globally – and a new formalisation of the relationship between Oxford and the OCHS. On the surface, all will look very similar, but a more collegial and cooperative arrangement with the University will permeate all our activities.
Among other developments this year, we are proud to note that one of our outreach projects, the Bhumi Project, has matured and will now act independently as Bhumi Global.
Our academics rose to the challenge of lockdown with merit and continue to teach students at all levels using web-based communication. And our Continuing Education Department shone with its online courses seeing a doubling of enrolments.
Even in these difficult days, our students and staff continue to explore topics from Hindu responses to environmentalism, contemporary Indian politics, feminism in texts, and study of classical texts.
*Info: and a copy of Annual Report 2020