Living Religion in North India

  • October 14th through November 5th, 2009
  • Registration deadline: August 1st, 2009
  • Capacity: 25
  • Cost: $5400.00 (plus airfare)

India has been described as a land intoxicated by the divine, and this is no less true in the twenty-first century than in ancient times. Explore the diverse and colorful religious life of India’s northern heartland with religion professor Roger Jackson, on a journey that will take us toward the core of the subcontinent’s enduring spiritual traditions. Assisted by local scholars and practitioners, we will approach these traditions both as profound attempts to find meaning in human life and as movements of great historical, social, political, and cultural complexity.


India is the source of four great religions: Hinduism (a variegated set of ideas and practices shared by a majority of Indians), Buddhism (a world religion whose great pilgrimage sites are in India), Jainism (an ancient, austere, and influential tradition), and Sikhism (a dynamic faith of more recent vintage). It also is home to practitioners of many other religions, including Christians, Jews, Baha’is, Parsis—and over a hundred million Muslims. Few societies anywhere have produced such sustained attempts to plumb the human spirit or witnessed so fully the triumphs and failures of human attempts to live in harmony amidst deep cultural and religious differences.


Although India contains over a billion people who speak dozens of languages, and includes every type of topography imaginable, the center of its civilization has for millennia been on the plains of its great northern rivers: the five rivers of the Punjab, the Yamuna, and, above all, the Ganges and its tributaries. Along these rivers developed the Sanskrit culture of ancient and classical India, with its refined court life, sophisticated art and literature, and Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain religious institutions. There, too, arose the brilliant medieval synthesis of Indian and Muslim cultures that gave the world some of its greatest architecture, painting, music, and religious poetry. And it is in the north as well that modern India has been forged, with its heady mix of traditional and contemporary, spiritual and secular, existing side-by-side in often startling juxtaposition.


Our exploration will begin in the capital city of New Delhi, where the entire spectrum of Indian religiousness can be surveyed against a background of the subcontinent’s long and complex history. Among other places, we then will visit Amritsar, whose golden temple is the holiest site of the Sikh tradition; the battlefield at Kurukshetra, where Krishna uttered the Bhagavad Gita; Bodhgaya, site of the Buddha’s enlightenment and crossroads for the world’s Buddhists; Varanasi, the ancient city on the Ganges sacred to Hindus; the medieval temple-complex at Khajuraho, perhaps the acme of Indian temple architecture and sculpture; Agra, site of the extraordinary "poem in marble," the Taj Mahal; the sacred groves of Vrindvana, where Krishna flirted with lovestruck milkmaids; and Pushkar, in Rajasthan, where we will attend the annual religious pilgrimage popularly known as the “camel fair.” We will conclude the trip, as we began, in New Delhi.


As the occasion demands, we will travel by plane, private motor coach, or—a form of transportation not to be missed in India—train. Accommodation will typically be at excellent hotels that provide comfort and a full range of services but without extravagance. Towards the end of the trip we will have the opportunity to stay for a night in a converted palace and, at the camel fair, in luxury tents.


Roger Jackson is the John W. Nason Professor of Asian Studies and Religion. His scholarship focuses on philosophical, meditative, poetic, and ritual traditions in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism. He has taught at Carleton for twenty years, offering introductory and advanced courses on the religions of South Asia, especially Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. Over the past thirty-five years, he has spent extended periods of time living in the subcontinent, and has led undergraduate programs to both India and Sri Lanka.


$5400 per person double occupancy. Single supplement is $2475. Balance is due August 4th.


-Insight and expertise of a Carleton professor
-Accommodation in first-class hotels
-Breakfast/lunch/dinner every day in India
-Indian brand mineral water at the time of meals
-Sightseeing as listed
-Air-conditioned transportation by Deluxe Coach
-English speaking guide at all the places listed on itinerary
-All entrance fees for sites in itinerary
-Still camera fees
-Two-tier air-conditioned train ticket
-Indian escort from the tour operator throughout trip

-Group transfer on air-conditioned coach from airport to hotel and from hotel to airport


- International airfare to/from your home to India
- Drinks at all meals
- Personal expenses
- Gratuities


If written notice of cancellation is received from the passenger:

- More than 91 days prior to departure--$100 per person cancellation fee
- 46-90 days before departure--$900 deposit is forfeited
- 45 days or less--No refund


To reserve your spot, please complete the reservation form in the blue box and return it to Amy Goerwitz at the Alumni Affairs Office. While we accept your credit card number when taking your deposit, all balances due must be paid by check.


Contact Amy Goerwitz at the Alumni Affairs Office: 800-729-2586 or 507-222-5645 (direct line) or by e-mail at