n this intensive course, students will explore the exotic and enigmatic land of India. They will begin in Kolkata (Calcutta), a port city that sits on the Ganges Delta. Kolkata is the country’s artistic and intellectual heart and the home to Mother Teresa, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Next, students will take an overnight train to Varanasi, one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities. Famous for the burning Ghats on the Ganges River, Varanasi is the Hindu’s holiest city. From there, students will take the overnight train to Rajasthan. Train travel affords an unparalleled view of the countryside and a unique cultural experience. In Rajasthan, students will visit some of the farmlands and villages where the Green Revolution began, visit a tiger refuge in Ranthambore National Park, sleep under the stars in the Thar desert, explore the cities of Udaipur and Jaipur and the small camel and temple town of Pushkar (one of India’s oldest), and visit the 16th-century Mughal capital of Fatehpur Sikri, a city abandoned because of water shortages. Students will
spend the afternoon in Agra exploring the fabled Taj Mahal, and will end in New Delhi, the seat of national government and the embodiment of India’s dilemma, where the ancient and the postmodern collide and fuse and make India a model for the future. Students will document their travels through various media with interviews, photographs, and video, and use these to integrate their experience of this diverse and powerful land. They will attempt to gain a sense of India’s rich cultural history and examine its place in a planetary vision of sustainability. By crossing India from east to west, students will get a lay of the land and will encounter the press of huge numbers of people, both urban and rural. They will witness the complexity of the challenges facing India, including population pressures, resource exhaustion, food security, climate change, environmental degradation, poverty, external threats, and internal tensions. A case study in complex dynamical systems, India is a composite of numerous cultures, religions, languages, and cultural mentalities. The ancient and the postmodern walk side by side, barefoot sadhus and Silicon Plateau executives, oxcarts and private jets, meditation and material consumption. The empires that invaded and occupied India for centuries have left a deep residuum—architectural wonders, an expansive mass transportation system, an embedded bureaucracy, one of the world’s largest Muslim populations within a deeply Vedic culture, and the world’s largest democracy. Despite its formidable challenges, India ‘s dynamic history suggests a resilient culture adapted to change.