Hindi/Urdu at the University of Toronto
Hindi and Urdu, historically primarily associated with Hindu and Muslim speakers in India and Pakistan respectively, are both standardized registers of the Hindustani language, the third most widely spoken language in the world after Mandarin and English. Whoever plans to move around present-day North India and Pakistan to research religion will not get far without basic competence in this twin idiom. In fact, Hindi and Urdu have long since been in use all over South Asia, regardless of any region or religion, and in places as diverse as the multiple South Asian diasporas throughout the world. And that says nothing yet about the vast amount of religious literature written and published in Hindi and Urdu reaching back several centuries: from its early phase as Braj and Awadhi with Kabir’s songs and Tulsidas’ Rāmacaritamānas to the modernist engagements with religion by Munshi Premchand, Bhartendu Harishchandra and Rahul Sankrtyayan in the 19th and 20th centuries, or with Urdu verse epics (dastan) or the rich and thriving tradition of ghazals by poets like Mirza Galib and Muhammad Iqbal. South Asian Muslims and Hindus, Jains, and modern Buddhists, all resort to one or the other for divulging their scriptures, articulating their faith, and finding a place for religion in the public sphere.
UofT has a strong group of faculty working on Hindi/Urdu language and sources. In the field of South Asian Islam, Karen Ruffle focuses on Shi’i ritual, material culture, and gender, and Shafique Virani is a specialist of Twelver and Ismaili Shi’ism, Sufism, and Bhakti. North India is the focus of several more researchers and teachers engaging Hindi/Urdu sources. The historian Malavika Kasturi interrogates Hindu institutions, nationalism, and urban communities. In the visual sciences, Kajri Jain studies popular religious imagery, gigantic statues, landscape/”nature”, and vernacular capitalism. J. Barton Scott engages with media, particularly print, the reception of liberalism, and socio-religious reform. The interests of linguist Sunil Bhatt include Hindi grammar, socio-linguistics, language endangerment, and language education.
At the University of Toronto Hindi/Urdu is taught by Sunil Bhat and can be studied on all levels (introductory, intermediate, and advanced) in the Department of Language Studies at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus. Shafique Virani also teaches advanced students at the undergraduate level (through the course “Search and Research: A Journey in Muslim Civilizations”) and graduate students (through directed readings courses) who would like to deepen existing native or semi-native linguistic skills through studies of literature and manuscript traditions in Hindi/Urdu.