In a first, the Harvard University has started an online free of cost course on ‘Sikhism Through Its Scriptures’. At least 1.30 lakh persons have already registered for the course and online classes for the same begin Monday (August 6), said Harpreet Singh, scholar of Sikhism and South Asian Religious Traditions at Harvard University, speaking to The Indian Express over phone.
The course in Sikhism is a part of university’s course series titled ‘World Religions Through Scriptures’ which was started in 2016 but without including Sikhism. It is for the first time this year that Sikhism has been included in it after varsity received high demand for the same, said Singh. “Many complained that why Sikhism is not included in the series. So it has been included this year,” he said.
Other religions included in the course are Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism.
Interestingly, majority of applicants among 1.30 lakh who have registered for the course are non-Sikhs and from the US, UK, Europe, Australia and other countries. “Almost 90% of applications that we have received are from non-Sikhs. People from different backgrounds living in US, UK, Europe, Australia and other countries have registered for this four-week online course. This shows people from different ethnicities and countries want to learn about Sikhism,” he added.
The online classes for the course begin Monday and reading material will be uploaded on university’s online interface for students which they can access with a login ID and password. A team of three experts including Harpreet Singh and two other teaching assistants- Damanpreet Singh and Ravinder Singh- have prepared course curriculum and will be communicating with students through an online message board where students can post their queries after each session.
There will be eight sessions in total which will also cover 38 stanzas of Sikh text Japji Sahib, composed by founder of Sikhism Guru Nanak Dev. At end of each session, there will be question-answer round too.
The other topics that will be covered in course include: Place of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh scripture, in Sikh life; Gurmat Sangit, the Sikh musical tradition, as represented in the Sikh scripture and its cultural context; The aesthetics of Sikhi, including literature, art, and music; The political dimensions of Sikh scripture and its impact on the evolution of Sikhs as a Panth or community; Introduction to Sikh traditions; Anand Karaj (marriage), Mul Mantar- The Sikh Creedal statement among others.
The course has been innovated by Harvard Divinity School and HarvardX (a branch of university which offers free online courses aimed at global access to education).
“The best part of course is that an applicant can access course material anytime and leave their messages or queries which we will reply to. It doesn’t demand fixed hours but applicants have to devote 5 to 10 hours a week. On day 1, we will be starting with Guru Nanak Dev, introduction to Sikhism and Mool Mantra (Ik Onkar Satnam),” said.