Explore the social and political dynamics in the arts and architecture of the world’s largest democracy.
Explore New Delhi’s cultural and artistic offerings.
New Delhi, the program’s base, is vibrant with monuments, galleries, museums, music, dance, theater, film festivals, craft, and fashion design exhibitions. Here, you will have access to art of all periods, including contemporary and traditional art from all over India. All Indian states have cultural centers in New Delhi, which offer lectures and performances that showcase their regional arts. You may visit the National Crafts Museum, the National Gallery of Modern Art, the National School of Drama, the American Institute of Indian Studies, the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, the India International Centre, the National Academy of Art, the National School of Drama, and galleries and studios of practicing artists, architects, filmmakers, and students studying arts and aesthetics. You will also have exceptional opportunities to network with many local scholars based in the capital, and you can expect to meet a range of lecturers throughout the semester.
Experience the diverse art of India and Myanmar (Burma) during extensive travel.
Although the program is based in New Delhi, much of the semester is spent on the road. The program’s many excursions will take you to historically rich and vibrant cultural sites in India and Myanmar. You’ll see the Taj Mahal and Bodhgaya, where Siddhartha Gautama awakened to become the Buddha. You’ll visit Varanasi, one of the world’s oldest cities and the most sacred city of Hinduism. In each location, you’ll discover unique architecture, painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, film, dance, music, and theater. Through both guided city walks and visits to important historical sites, you will experience the art, architecture, and cultural identities of India and Myanmar in an immediately engaging way.
Explore social and political dynamics in the arts and architecture of India.
India presents an unparalleled diversity of religions, languages, and cultures. Its art, architecture, music, theater, and dance offer a dramatic reflection of the nation’s intricate cultural mosaic. On this program, you will develop the skills to analyze the relationship between the arts, religions, and politics shaping cultural and national identity in India today and in areas of historic Indic influence.
Participate in a weeklong series of workshops.
You will participate with a small group in intensive workshops that might involve training in classical dance or music with a renowned artist or studying the history and current preservation challenges of South India’s great temples. Other workshop topics might include theater, folk music, or painting.
Engage in a practicum with local artists or chefs.
In addition to workshops, you can engage in a practicum with a local artist for a hands-on study of a specific Indian craft or art. Or engage in a practicum in which you will learn how to cook Indian cuisine in the program center’s well-equipped kitchen.
No matter your level—beginning to advanced—you will study Hindi language daily. You will attend small-group classes or, if you test out of advanced Hindi, have self-guided study with a tutor. You will develop your language skills during your daily routine, with your homestay family, and during excursions.
Choose to do independent research or an internship.
Sample research topics include modern Indian cinema, Mughal culinary culture, and challenges of historical preservation in a developing society. Sample internships include working at Harper’s Bazaar India, assisting an architect or photographer, and helping with arts outreach for disadvantaged kids.
Gain something from the program—no matter what your major is.
You do not need to have a background in art to succeed on this program. The program will provide you with a strong foundation in the historic and contemporary art of India; you need only a strong interest in and curiosity about the program’s focus. Students from many different majors, including science and humanities majors, have thrived on this program. Recent majors of students participating in this program include English, anthropology, creative writing, religion, American studies, film studies, art history, theater, journalism, psychology, international studies, and Asian studies.
Critical Global Issue of Study
Media | Arts | Social Change
None, although previous coursework in history, art history, politics, or religions is recommended.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- Religious, political, and cultural dynamics of interpretation in the arts and architecture of India
- The study of Indic cultural expansion to Southeast Asia, especially Burma
- Buddhism as a Pan Asian vehicle for the expansion of Indic civilization
- The use of religion and the arts in creating new conflicts in national identity
- Critical theory, aesthetic theory, research ethics, and the methodology of how we study ancient texts
- The language of myths, rituals, signs, and symbols in the articulation of personal and national identity
- Historical preservation and conservation of historic monuments and urban spaces in the context of tourism, climate change, and funding challenges
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
Mary Storm, PhD, Academic Director
Mary has a PhD in Indian art history from the University of California, Los Angeles, and an MA in East Asian studies and Japanese Buddhist art from Stanford University. In a previous life, she acquired a law degree. Mary has lived in India for more than 20 years, roaming the back roads of India from West Bengal to Rajasthan and from Ladakh to Tamil Nadu in search of archaeological adventure. Mary has taught at various American institutions and at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, where she was a Ford Foundation Visiting Fellow and associate professor of art history. She is proud to report that her watercolor paintings are exhibited on refrigerator doors throughout the world. She has published numerous articles on Indian art history. Her book, Head and Heart: Valour and Self-Sacrifice in the Art of India, was published by Routledge India, an imprint of Taylor & Francis Books, in 2013. When not teaching or researching, she spends her time painting and writing. She loves to cook both Indian and French food and has a diploma from Le Cordon Bleu, Paris. She is married to Guy McIntyre, a British art dealer. They live in New Delhi with their Great Dane, Frida, and their cow, Gulabi.
Arjun Singh Chauhan, Program Coordinator
Arjun first joined SIT in 2007. He holds a BA in vocational training from the University of Delhi, and is a certified Wilderness First Responder. He enjoys basketball, travel, music, and good food. He lives with his family in South Delhi and is the father of two children. Arjun loves animals and would love to have a farm.
Lecturers for this program typically include:
Rameshwar P. Bahuguna, PhD
Rameshwar holds a PhD from the University of Delhi, and is a professor of history and culture at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, where he teaches courses on the religious and cultural history of medieval India. His research focuses on medieval sants and sant-based panthic formations. His publications include several articles in scholarly journals on the medieval sant movement, and he is currently working on a monograph about the historical dimensions of medieval vaishnava and sant hagiographies. He provides SIT students with an overview of Indian history and Islam in India.
Tapan Chakravarty, MA
Tapan is an architect and urban planner with an interest in historical conservation. He received his BA and MA in architecture and urban design from the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. He has taught at the TVB School of Habitat Studies and the School of Planning and Architecture and is professor of interior architecture and design at the Pearl Academy of Fashion, New Delhi. He is a consultant on architecture, urban design, and architectural conservation and worked with the Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage on the plan to develop Delhi as a World Heritage City. He teaches SIT students about the development of New Delhi.
Anjan Chakraverty, PhD
Anjan acquired his BA, MA, and PhD from Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, where he is dean of the Arts and Aesthetics Department. He has published essays and books on Indian painting and textile history, including Sacred Buddhist Painting and Indian Miniature Painting. Anjan is a painter and has organized five solo exhibitions in New Delhi, Kolkata, and Kathmandu, and ha has participated in about fifty group shows held in different countries. He lectures on Benarasi textiles and wall paintings.
Bishnupriya Dutt, PhD
Bishnupriya holds a PhD from Kolkata University, and is an Indian theater practitioner-researcher. She has acted in forty plays and directed five. She is an associate professor of arts and aesthetics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She has researched colonial and postcolonial theater in India, feminist readings of Indian theater, and performative practices and popular culture. Her recent publications include “Historicizing Actress Stories: English Actresses in India,” “Actress Stories: Binodini and Amal Allana,” Engendering Performance: Indian Performer’s Journey in Search of an Identity, and Actors from an Alternate Space. She has completed research for the University Grant Commission project on professional and semiprofessional female performers. She lectures on social theater.
Shikha Jhingan, PhD
Shikha holds a Phd in Cinema Studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University, and is an assistant professor at Delhi University, New Delhi. Her published works include “The Singer, the Star, and the Chorus” and a review of Ganesh Anantharaman’s Bollywood Melodies: A History of the Hindi Film Song. She teaches SIT students about Bollywood music.
Anjan is an architect and city planner, researcher, practitioner, and activist. He is a longtime advocate of sustainable design and is involved in studies of urban development, urban economics, conservation, and cultural issues. He has specialized in conservation, alternative technology, and tourism and is a member of the heritage subcommittee of Kolkata Municipal Corporation. He is also secretary of Sustained Actions for Value and Environment and advises the community on sustainable development. He guides SIT students on a heritage walk in Old Calcutta.
Urmimala Sarkar Munsi, PhD
Urmimala holds a PhD from Kolkata University, and is a social anthropologist and dancer / choreographer. She is visiting faculty at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her courses include Indian Dance: Theory and Practice; Living Traditions; Dance, Gender, Society; Therapeutic Use of Movement Systems; and Performance Documentation. Urmimala has contributed to numerous journals and edited Dance Transcending Borders. She is co-editor of Traversing Tradition: Celebrating Dance in India, part of the Routledge Celebrating Dance in Asia and the Pacific series. She lectures on Indian classic dance for SIT.
Yousuf holds a Bachelor of science from Aligarh Muslim University, a certificate in arts appreciation from the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, and an MA in Mass Communication from Jamia Millia Islamia. He is an independent filmmaker and researcher, currently managing the Tasveer Ghar archive of popular art. His career began in educational television (with the Times of India), where he co-directed the science series Turning Point and made documentaries, in 1990. His most prominent films include Inside Ladakh, Basant, A Life in Science: Yashpal, and The Train to Heaven. His most recent work is the feature-length Khayal Darpan, about classical music in Pakistan. Yousuf was arts editor for Encyclopedia Britannica (India) and was a Sarai Fellow (2004) and an Asia Fellow (2005). He has published essays about the devotional art of Indian Muslims and the book Muslim Devotional Art in India. He lectures on Islamic poster art for SIT, and is an adjunct faculty member at Ambedkar University, Delhi.
Shukla Sawant, PhD
Shukla received her PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University, where she is a visual artist and professor. Her research interests include contemporary art and art in colonial India. She has been a Commonwealth Scholar at the University of London and has studied at the Ecole Des Beaux Arts, Paris. She recently contributed articles on Sultan Ali, Sanat Kar, and Chittoprasad, among others, to the Delhi Art Gallery catalogue “Manifestations.” She has participated in artist residencies at Braziers College, Oxford, UK; Khoj Workshop, Modinagar, India; and Began Grond Residency, Utrecht, Netherlands. She has also had solo art exhibitions in London, Amsterdam, Mumbai, and Delhi. She lectures on modernism in Indian art.
This program integrates critical theory, aesthetic theory, research ethics, and the methodology of how the arts in India are studied. Students are asked to consider how they educate themselves to look deeply and develop more sophisticated observational skills. The program’s coursework encourages students to engage in the arts and to question what it means to be creative and how they assess the creativity of a society. Students are asked to consider why it is important to understand the creative traditions and contemporary politics around both traditional and new forms of artistic expression in India today.
The program accomplishes this by examining a range of India’s visual and performing arts—including architecture, painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, film, dance, music, and theater—in historic and contemporary contexts, with particular emphasis on the intimate relationship between art and religion in the historical past and in the context of the 21-century democratic nation-state.
Students are asked to analyze the meaning and theories of aesthetic response in one of the world’s founding civilizations. By using the rich and varied arts of India, students look into the fundamental human language of rituals, signs, and symbols.
The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term. The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.
- National Identity and the Arts Seminar – syllabus
- (ASIA3000 / 6 credits / 90 hours)
- The National Identity and the Arts Seminar offers a foundation in Indic arts, culture, and religion in the context of the ongoing formation of Indian and Burmese national identities (in architecture, painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, film, dance, music, and theater). The aim of this seminar is to provide a framework for the understanding of India as an ancient civilization that has shifted and reformed identity many times and, in that process, has also exported her civilization to shape many aspects of Asian civilization, especially Southeast Asian. The current identities of the modern nation states of India and Myanmar are the results of those centuries of religious, political, and artistic interactions. In this seminar, students will be challenged to consider the relationships between religion, politics, and art in the restructuring of cultural and national identity through three broad themes: 1) religion, social hierarchy, and the arts; 2) politics, patronage, nationalism, and the arts; and 3) aesthetic heritage and preservation. These three themes will be interwoven throughout the seminar in every seminar activity: in the classroom, at archaeological sites, in museums, during workshops, and on heritage walks. Lecturers are drawn from institutions such as the School of Arts and Aesthetics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jamia Millia Islamia, Benares Hindu University, and Delhi University.
- Beginning Hindi – syllabus
- (HIND1003-1503 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Intermediate Hindi – syllabus
- (HIND2003-2503 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Advanced Hindi – syllabus
- (HIND3003-3503 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Emphasis on speaking and comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction. Based on in-country evaluation, including oral proficiency testing, students are placed in beginning, intermediate, or advanced classes.
- Field Methods and Ethics – syllabus
- (ANTH3500 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- This course focuses on cross-cultural learning and developing field studies skills. It provides a framework for the Independent Study Project. Material includes cross-cultural adaptation and skills building; project selection and refinement; appropriate methodologies; field study ethics and the World Learning / SIT Human Subjects Review Policy; developing contacts and finding resources; developing skills in observation and interviewing; gathering, organizing, and communicating data; and maintaining a work journal.
In addition to taking the above courses, students will also need to enroll in one of the following two courses:
- Internship & Seminar – syllabus coming soon
- (ITRN3000 / 4 credits / 120 hours)
- This seminar consists of a four-week internship with a local community organization, research organization, business, or international NGO. The aim of the internship is to enable the student to gain valuable work experience and to enhance their skills in an international work environment. Students will complete an internship and submit a paper in which they process their learning experience on the job, analyze an issue important to the organization, and/or design a socially responsible solution to a problem identified by the organization. A focus will be on linking internship learning with the program’s critical global issue focus and overall program theme. The internship course includes a module designed to help students build a foundation on which to engage in the internship experience.
- Independent Study Project – syllabus
- (ISPR3000 / 4 credits / 120 hours)
- Conducted in New Delhi or in another approved location appropriate to the project. The project, developed and designed in the Field Methods and Ethic course, culminates in a 25- to 30-page research paper and formal presentation. Sample topic areas: challenges of historical preservation in a developing society; the expression of power in Mughal architecture; "Box Wallah" photography and the memorialization of the middle class; pilgrimage and environmental degradation; Kathak dancing; contemporary Indian cinema; considering whether Buddhism is still an "Indian" religion; political arts of the Shudra Raj; caste and Buddhism: considering whether Navayana Buddhism can change a social system?; a painting survey of the Buddhist pilgrimage route; preservation of the Kashmir shawl; photography, memory, and the nation; Sufi music and poetry and the challenges from Wahabi Islam; architecture and urban space; painting; conservation of the tomb of Akbar; culinary culture in New Delhi; seventeenth-century water systems of the Agra Red Fort; a survey of the arts of the eleventh-century Chandella dynasty.
Program in a minute-ish
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
This program is designed to take you to a diverse range of sites where art and architecture are emblematic of national identity formation, not only in India but also in Myanmar (Burma). In India and Myanmar (Burma), you’ll see sites where art and architecture are emblematic of national identity. You’ll visit Indian cities considered centers of sacred geography, such as Varanasi, Bodhgaya, and Madurai, as well as cities that exemplify the country’s shifting political identity, such as Thanjavur, Agra, Kolkata, and Delhi. A five-day workshop in Yangon and Bagan, Myanmar (Burma) brings the historic expansion of Indic culture to life and asks you to consider the relationship of Myanmar’s stunning art and architecture to Burmese national identity formation.
The program’s major excursion will take you to Myanmar for five days. Here, you’ll visit Yangon, the former capital of Myanmar and its largest city. It is a time capsule of Asian colonial architecture and home to significant religious architecture such as the Shwedagon Pagoda, constructed between the sixth and tenth centuries CE, and the Sule Pagoda, in the center of the city. It boasts the National Museum, which houses important Buddhist and Burmese ancient artifacts, decorative and textile arts, and traditional folk art.
You will also see the ancient city of Bagan. Myanmar has a devoutly Buddhist culture, and nowhere is the rich history of Burmese Buddhism manifested more dramatically than in Bagan.
Orchha, Khajuraho, Varanasi, Bodhgaya, and Kolkata
Following the excursion to Myanmar, you will visit major sites in India that represent a diversity of artistic expression and cultural identity and that offer opportunities for comparative analysis of national identity formation.
- Orchha, a quiet medieval village on the banks of Betwa River with two impressive palace-forts, along with Hindu temples and medieval chhatris (funerary memorials)
- The small town of Khajuraho, home to 25 11th-century Hindu temples lavishly embellished with finely preserved sculpture
- Varanasi, often referred to as the oldest city in the world, the most sacred city in Hinduism
- Bodhgaya, which marks the place of awakening of Gautama Siddhartha under the Bodhi Tree
- Kolkata, capital of British India, boasting a rich architectural heritage from that period
Agra and Taj Mahal
In the 17th century, before the Mughal capital was relocated to Delhi, Agra was the seat of the Mughal court. Because the city was strategically located on the banks of the Yamuna River and along the Grand Trunk Road, it attracted artists from Persia, Central Asia, and other parts of India who built the luxurious forts, palaces, and mausoleums that still stand. The best known are the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, both UNESCO World Heritage sites. Here, you will see many examples of Mughal and other art and architecture.
Visits in and around New Delhi include:
- Historical and cultural sites
- Museums and art galleries
- Concerts and recitals
- Dance and drama performances
The program expanded my academic study of South Asia by connecting the arts in India...
The National Identity and the Arts program expanded my academic study of South Asia by connecting the arts in India to a variety of topics relevant to an intensive study of Indian national identity. We studied history, religious traditions, and Hindi. Beyond the engaging academic study, we were given the opportunity to participate in practicums in the arts—making pottery, singing bhajans, and drawing madhubani art. This program expertly balanced academic engagement with appreciation for the expansive, diverse cultural context of India.
The homestay is an integral part of the SIT experience. During your homestay, you’ll become a member of a local family, sharing meals with them, joining them for special occasions, talking with them in their language, and experiencing the host country through their eyes. Homestay placements are arranged by a local coordinator who carefully screens and approves each family. Students frequently cite the homestay as the highlight of their program. Read more about SIT homestays.
You will live with Indian host families in New Delhi for about eight weeks. Most families are fairly close to the SIT program center, and are middle- and upper-middle-class professionals. You will have opportunities to practice your new Hindi language skills and learn about everyday life and family expectations. You may visit temples or mosques with your host family and learn to cook Indian dishes. In the fall semester, lucky students may be invited to an Indian wedding.
Before you start your homestay, you’ll have a four-day orientation at a meditation center in New Delhi. During these initial days in India, the program’s experienced academic director and staff will introduce you to the program and, importantly, to the city of New Delhi in a way that challenges you but allows you to get acclimated gradually while returning to a quiet and comforting ashram each evening.
Other accommodations may include ashrams, guest houses, hostels, or small hotels.
A glimpse into the program
Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project
In the final month of the program, you will complete an Independent Study Project (ISP), original research on a topic of interest to you. You will choose a topic in consultation with the academic director and other experts. Research sites may be in New Delhi, northern India, or another approved location.
Sample ISP topics:
- Challenges of historical preservation in a developing society
- The expression of power in Mughal architecture
- Photography, memory, and the nation
- “Box Wallah” photography and the memorialization of the middle class
- Pilgrimage and environmental degradation
- The image of “Romantic India” in 18th- and 19th-century paintings
- The creation of a “national” classical dance
- Modern Indian cinema and regional identity in Bengali films
- A painting survey of the Buddhist pilgrimage route
- Sufi music and poetry and the challenges of Wahhabi Islam
- Architecture, urbanization, and public space
- Conservation of the tomb of Akbar: Reconfiguring imperial identity during the British Raj
- Mughal culinary culture in New Delhi
- Seventeenth-century water systems of the Agra Red Fort
- A survey of the arts of the eleventh-century Chandella dynasty
- Is Buddhism still an “Indian” religion?
- The political arts of the Shudra Raj: The case of Mayawati
- Caste and Buddhism: Can Navayana Buddhism change a social system?
- The Burmese restoration of Indian Buddhist pilgrimage sites
You can choose to do an internship rather than an Independent Study Project. The internship can enrich your work experience in a field such as architecture, art conservation, crafts revival, museum studies, photography, publishing, and fashion.
SIT internships are hands on and reflective. In addition to completing the internship, you will submit a paper processing your learning experience on the job and analyzing an issue important to the organization you worked with, and/or you will design a socially responsible solution to a problem identified by the organization.
- Working at Harper’s Bazaar India, India’s premier fashion magazine
- Assisting Amrut Deshpande, an architect using sustainable materials
- Helping with an arts outreach program for disadvantaged children at Artreach India Home
- Assisting Behzad Larry, a noted Indian outdoor photographer
Students representing many colleges, universities, and majors study abroad on this program. Many of have gone on to do things that connect to their experience abroad with SIT.
Alumni of this program are currently working:
- as journalists, museum curators, teachers, arts conservators, dance therapists, musicians, filmmakers, psychologists, archaeologists, and advertisers.
- for the U.S. State Department, the United Nations, museums, and universities.
- in publishing, journalism, teaching, foreign service, marketing, and arts management.
Cost and Scholarships
Cost and Scholarships
SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.
SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding for the term during which they are studying with SIT. This award can be applied to any SIT program. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.
The tuition fee covers the following program components:
- Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
- Indian arts
- North Indian culture and society
- Field Methods and Ethics on research methods and Human Subjects Review
- All educational excursions to locations such as Gwalior, Datia, Khajuraho, Orchha, Bandhavgarh, Orissa or Kolkata, and Myanmar, including all related travel costs
- Independent Study Project or internship (including a stipend for accommodation and food)
- Intensive language instruction in Hindi
- Health insurance throughout the entire program period
Room & Board: $4,220
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
- All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (New Delhi), on all excursions, during the Independent Study Project or internship, and during the final evaluation period. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
- Homestay (eight weeks in New Delhi)
- All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
Estimated Additional Costs:
International Airfare to Program Launch Site
International airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.
Visa Expenses: $211
Books & Supplies: $150
International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.
Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.
Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.