Worshipers in Ajmer wait to enter the shrine of Muin-ud-din Chishti, an important Muslim pilgrimage site.
From the study of Bhakti (saintly, devotional literature) to an analysis of Buddhist, Hindu, and Islamic art, a four-week seminar in India has enriched Assistant Professor of English Jim Hannan’s work at Le Moyne College immeasurably. A scholar in world literature, Hannan spent two weeks of additional travel after the seminar, gathering insights into the symbolism of place, time, and pilgrimage as they shape centuries of Indian literature.
Hannan notes that numerous writers have been profoundly affected by their visits to this sprawling, incredibly complex nation, home to 1.15 billion persons. Tales from his studies and travels provide an extraordinary glimpse into intellectual and international connections taking place at Le Moyne.
Women in Jaipur welcome the monsoon season during a Teej procession
In and around Delhi, Hannan witnessed processions of kanwarias, Siva worshippers who carry water from the Ganges to their homes, walking distances of up to 150 miles. In Ajmer he joined worshippers waiting to enter the shrine of the Sufi saint Muin-ud-din Chishti.
“In addition to witnessing religious life,” Hannan says, “I also recognized Bollywood film songs playing from car radios and watched women in Jaipur participating in Teej, a festival that welcomes the monsoon season. My courses on Rushdie and other Indian authors will benefit from the diversity of experiences I had in India.” Hannan had participated in a Le Moyne College faculty trip to South Africa in 2007, organized by Dr. Barron Boyd and funded through a federal grant to globalize the curriculum. That experience powerfully affects his course on author Nadine Gordimer, and it also motivated him to apply to one of the prestigious summer institutes run by the National Endowment for the Humanities. He was one of only 24 faculty members in the nation accepted into the program: “Bharata Darshan: Past and Present in India.” The group visited sites in Shimla, New Delhi, and Agra, learning from prominent Indian scholars, activists, and other speakers who presented work on art, religion, literature, architecture, and history. Topics ranged from the Vedic and ancient India periods (600 b.c.e.) through colonialism and independence in 1947. While the program took place in July-August of 2008, Le Moyne students will begin to feel its impact in Spring 2010, when they read Salman Rushdie’s works in Hannan’s Major Authors course.