Kalpesh Bhatt (kalpesh.bhatt @ mail.utoronto.ca) joined the Department for the Study of Religion and the Centre for South Asian Studies as a doctoral student in 2013 after receiving a Master of Theological Studies degree from Harvard Divinity School. Prior to that, he spent several years as a software developer with a Bachelors in Computer Science and a Masters in Physics from BITS Pilani, India. Then, fusing his interests in technology and Hinduism, he led a number of creative projects, including the production of Mystic India, an IMAX film, and the creation of a high-tech water spectacular on the Upaniṣadic story of Naciketā.
As a doctoral student, Kalpesh aims to study the function, value, and relevance of pre-modern Hindu texts, such as the Bhagavad Gītā, in modern contexts and modern texts, paying particular attention to ways in which globalized Indian communities reinterpret the early texts to create meaningful frameworks for living. He intends to examine the nexus between these new theological frameworks and present-day practices to trace the formation, representation, and transmission of a contemporary Hindu ideology that interacts with the social, cultural, and personal concerns of its adherents. Kalpesh’s interdisciplinary PhD project will focus on textual and ethnographic study of the foundational texts and praxis of a modern Hindu community known as the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha that has developed an increasingly globalized presence in the last three decades.
Kalpesh’s academic interests include modern Hindu theology; the interaction of neo-Hindu ideologies and neo-Vedāntic worldviews with the daily lives of those who hold them; the impact of Hindu cultural constructions and ideological perspectives on the formation of multidimensional Hindu identities; the function and value of religious customs, traditions, arts, festivals, places of worship, and modern media in contemporary society; and Sanskrit intellectual cultures.