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Religious studies doctoral student wins highly competitive grant

October 29, 2010

Mugdha Yeolekar, a doctoral student in ASU's School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, has been awarded a grant from the Taraknath Das Foundation. The South Asia Institute at Columbia University administers the foundation's grant to aid persons or institutions working to further understanding between India and America. All recipients of the grant are Indian passport holders who have completed or are about to complete at least one year of graduate study in America.

The size of the grant is typically $3,500, which will defray the costs of studies or projects. The selection process for these grants is highly competitive since the number of qualified applicants far outnumbers the available funds.

Mugdha Yeolekar's project will take her to India this spring, where she will study the religious practices of a Hindu deity by the name of Dattatreya. Mugdha believes Dattatreya, the avatar for the divine trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, is very important historically, yet grossly neglected today. The fieldwork for this ambitious project will take eight months in the temples of the western Indian state of Maharashtra, and will explore the adaptations of the ritual practices associated with this deity.

Taraknath Das was a revolutionary Indian patriot committed to international scholarship. He believed that education and discourse with sympathetic westerners would be valuable to his goals of liberation from British rule. In his time outside India, he was a prominent figure in the South Asian community in America, and taught political science at Columbia University.

Das began helping Indian students living abroad with their expenses in the 1930s; the program is now represented by 12 universities including Columbia, which is the prime benefactor.

Media contact:
Roxane Barwick
School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies