Wendy Doniger

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Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty (born November 20, 1940) is an American Indologist whose professional career has spanned five decades.

Reception[edit]

Since she began writing in the 1960s, Doniger has gained the reputation of being "one of America's major scholars in the humanities".[1] Assessing Doniger's body of work, K. M. Shrimali, Professor of Ancient Indian History at the University of Delhi, writes:

... it (1973) also happened to be the year when her first major work in early India's religious history, viz., Siva, the Erotic Ascetic was published and had instantly become a talking point for being a path-breaking work. I still prescribe it as the most essential reading to my postgraduate students at the University of Delhi, where I have been teaching a compulsory course on 'Evolution of Indian Religions' for the last nearly four decades. It was the beginning of series of extremely fruitful and provocative encounters with the formidable scholarship of Wendy Doniger.[2]

Doniger is a scholar of Sanskrit and Indian textual traditions.[3] By her self-description,

I myself am by both temperament and training inclined to texts. I am neither an archaeologist nor an art historian; I am a Sanskritist, indeed a recovering Orientalist, of a generation that framed its study of Sanskrit with Latin and Greek rather than Urdu or Tamil. I’ve never dug anything up out of the ground or established the date of a sculpture. I’ve labored all my adult life in the paddy fields of Sanskrit, ...[4]

Her books both in Hinduism and other fields have been positively reviewed by the Indian scholar Vijaya Nagarajan[5] and the American Hindu scholar Lindsey B. Harlan, who noted as part of a positive review that "Doniger's agenda is her desire to rescue the comparative project from the jaws of certain proponents of postmodernism".[6] Of her Hindu Myths: A Sourcebook Translated from the Sanskrit, the Indologist Richard Gombrich wrote: "Intellectually, it is a triumph..."[7] Doniger's (then O'Flaherty) 1973 book Asceticism and Eroticism in the Mythology of Śiva was a critique of the "Great tradition Śivapurāṇas and the tension that arises between Śiva's ascetic and erotic activities."[8] Richard Gombrich called it "learned and exciting";[7] however, John H. Marr was disappointed that the "regionalism" so characteristic of the texts is absent in Doniger's book, and wondered why the discussion took so long.[8][9] Doniger's Rigveda, a translation of 108 hymns selected from the canon, was deemed among the most reliable by historian of religion Ioan P. Culianu.[10] However, in an email message, Michael Witzel called it "idiosyncratic and unreliable just like her Jaiminiya Brahmana or Manu (re-)translations."[11]

Criticism[edit]

Her work was alleged to have a eurocentric bias and for per perpetuating Hinduphobia by many Hindu organisations and scholars.[12][13]

Beginning in the early 2000s, a disagreement arose within the Hindu community over whether Doniger accurately described Hindu traditions.[14] Together with many of her colleagues, she was the subject of a critique by Rajiv Malhotra[15] for using psychoanalytic concepts to interpret non-Western subjects. Aditi Banerjee, a co-author of Malhotra, criticised Wendy Doniger for grossly misquoting the text of Valmiki Ramayana.[16]

Christian Lee Novetzke, associate professor of South Asian Studies at the University of Washington, summarizes this controversy as follows:

Wendy Doniger, a premier scholar of Indian religious thought and history expressed through Sanskritic sources, has faced regular criticism from those who consider her work to be disrespectful of Hinduism in general.[17]

Novetzke cites Doniger's use of "psychoanalytical theory" as

...a kind of lightning rod for the censure that these scholars receive from freelance critics and 'watch-dog' organizations that claim to represent the sentiments of Hindus.[17]

Philosopher Martha Nussbaum, concurring with Novetzke, adds that while the agenda of those in the American Hindu community who criticize Doniger appears similar to that of the Hindu right-wing in India, it is not quite the same since it has "no overt connection to national identity", and that it has created feelings of guilt among American scholars, given the prevailing ethos of ethnic respect, that they might have offended people from another culture.[18]

While Doniger has agreed that Indians have ample grounds to reject postcolonial domination, she claims that her works are only a single perspective which does not subordinate Indian self-identity.[19]

Nicholas Kazanas, a European Indologist, also criticized Doniger's works and wrote that Doniger seems to be obsessed with only one meaning, the most sexual imaginable.[20] In the Journal of Indo-European Studies, Kazanas wrote, "[Doniger] seems to see only one function ... of fertility and sexuality, copulation, defloration, castration and the like: even bhakti 'devotion' is described in stark erotic terms including incest and homosexuality (1980:87-99:125-129). Surely, erotic terms could be metaphors for spiritual or mystical experiences as is evidenced in so much literature?".[20]

Religious scholar Christopher Framarin University of Calgary also writes that translation of Manusmrti has mistakes.[21] Other mistranslations in Rig Veda have been pointed out by Antonio De Nicholas, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of New York, who questions "What is one footed goat doing in the Rg Veda?"[22]

Wendy Doniger uses Freudian psychoanalysis in the study of Hindu texts and Hindu Mythology and this has been controversial.[23] One of her disputed interpretations is related to Mythology of Shiva, who she refers as "erotic ascetic".[24] Nicholas Kazanas, a European Indologist, referring to Doniger's psychoanalytical works and wrote that Doniger seems to be obsessed with only one meaning, the most sexual imaginable.[25] In the Journal of Indo-European Studies, Kazanas wrote, "[Doniger] seems to see only one function ... of fertility and sexuality, copulation, defloration, castration and the like: even bhakti 'devotion' is described in stark erotic terms including incest and homosexuality (1980:87-99:125-129). Surely, erotic terms could be metaphors for spiritual or mystical experiences as is evidenced in so much literature?".[23][20]

Wendy Doniger has been criticized by some Hindus and academic scholars, including Krishnan Ramaswamy and Antonio T. De Nicolás, who have argued that her works consists of mistranslations and misuse of psychoanalysis.[26]

Religious scholar Christopher Framarin of University of Calgary writes that translation of Manusmrti has mistakes.[27]

In 2001, the The Religions in South Asia ( RISA ) subsection of American Academy of Religion organized a panel entitled "Defamation/Anti-Defamation: Hindus in Dialogue with the Western Academy". Malhotra who was invited to the panel criticized few of the American scholars of Hinduism including Doniger as "denying agency and rights to non-westerners", "academic arson" and concluded by saying that Hindus in the diaspora should be included as "dialog representatives" in the joint study of Hinduism.[28] In September 2002 Rajiv Malhotra, wrote an essay "RISA Lila-1: Wendy's Child Syndrome" which criticized Wendy Doniger and argued the misuse of psychoanalysis.[28][29]

A detailed critique of Doniger's flawed, fraudulent scholarship demolishes the Doniger myth as a sanskritist or as a hinduism 'scholar'. [30]

Doniger's 2009 book The Hindus: An Alternative History has become a book with inaccuracies and biases. Several wrong facts with severe bias against the Hindu mythology can be found.[31][32][33][34] T Though this has been severely criticized by a large number of author and Philosophers. She is also well known for being the author with heavy biases against Hindu mythology[35][36][37][38][39]

"Myth scholar Wendy Doniger of the University of Chicago was on hand earlier this month to lecture on the Gita. “The Bhagavad Gita is not as nice a book as some Americans think,” she said, in a lecture titled “The Complicity of God in the Destruction of the Human Race.” “Throughout the Mahabharata, the enormous Hindu epic of which the Gita is a small part, Krishna goads human beings into all sorts of murderous and self-destructive behaviors such as war in order to relieve "mother Earth" of its burdensome human population and the many demons disguised as humans … The Gita is a dishonest book; it justifies war,” Doniger told the audience of about 150”

Doniger was the subject of a critique by Rajiv Malhotra[40] for using psychoanalytical concepts to interpret non-Western subjects. Malhotra claimed that Hinduism was being demonized to create shame amongst Hindu youth.[41] Christian Lee Novetzke, associate professor of South Asian Studies at the University of Washington, summarizes this controversy as follows: "Wendy Doniger, a premier scholar of Indian religious thought and history expressed through Sanskritic sources, has faced regular criticism from those who consider her work to be disrespectful of Hinduism in general." Professor Novetzke cites Doniger's use of "psychoanalytical theory" as "a kind of lightning rod for the censure that these scholars receive from freelance critics and 'watch-dog' organizations that claim to represent the sentiments of Hindus."[42]

While Doniger has agreed that Indians have ample grounds to reject postcolonial domination, she claims that her works are only a single perspective which does not subordinate Indian self-identity.[43]

Professor Vamsee Juluri of the University of San Francisco, on the other hand, noted the Hindus' factual errors, as well as numerous arguably dubious interpretations, but commented that the book is being acclaimed as a work of great scholarship despite its flaws is perhaps because of its accident of privilege; of nationality, of class, and of race, i.e., written by a non-Hindu outsider who was not acquainted with living Hindu traditions. [44] Professor Juluri also noted that scholars from the left have much to learn by learning to listen, by contrast with Hinduism's strong tradition of tolerance, as he commentated that the so-called top of the line seculars have equated any critique of racism and orientalism against Hindus with Hindu fundamentalism. [45]

Her work and that of her students has been severely criticised, especially in view of the impact they have on perception of Hinduism, a minority religion in the US. School texts and the general public, which rely on these sources for their information, are alleged to repeat many misconceptions[6] propogated about the religion. In an instance of this supposed negative downstream effect, as noted in a scathing article[7], US anthropologists have strangely concluded that nursing Hindu mothers do not bond with their babies the way white women do.

Earle Waugh, Professor Emeritus of Divinity at the University of Alberta, refers to the controversy as an example of the conflict between religious tradition and the use of Western analytic tools such as Freudian psychology.[46]

Encarta

Wendy Doniger has been criticized by Hindus and scholars from academia including Michael Witzel, Nicholas Kazanas, Antonio De Nicolas, Krishnan Ramaswamy, S.N. Balagangadhara for her negative portrayals of Hinduism;[47][48] in particular, her article on Hinduism for Microsoft's Encarta encyclopaedia was so criticised. Subsequently, Microsoft removed Doniger's article and replaced it with an article by Arvind Sharma, Birks Professor of Comparative Religion at McGill University.[49] A Washington Post article described the controversy in the following terms:

The attacks against American scholars come as a powerful movement called Hindutva has gained political power in India, where most of the world's 828 million Hindus live. Its proponents assert that Hindus have long been denigrated and that Western authors are imposing a Eurocentric world view on a culture they do not understand.[50]

Doniger was quoted as describing the controversy as follows:

"The argument," she said, "is being fueled by a fanatical nationalism and Hindutva, which says no one has the right to make a mistake, and no one who is not a Hindu has the right to speak about Hinduism at all."[51]

Aditi Banerjee co-author of Invading the Sacred, quotes BBC which calls her "rude, crude and very lewd in the hallowed portals of Sanskrit Academics". She describes Doniger's attacks on her critics as "straw man arguments, that deflect and not confront criticism, she quotes Michael Witzel who calls her Sanskrit "unreliable" and "idiosyncratic", she accuses Doniger of playing the "sex card and the race card without being discriminated against on the grounds of her gender or her race", which she allegedly does to "distract readers who are unfamiliar with the details of the substance of the critiques against her", Banerjee criticises Doniger's characterisation of Rama as a sex-addict as illogical and far-fetched, based on a part of Ramayana which Doniger herself has debunked as a later interpolation. Banerjee conjectures that the removal of Doniger's article about Hinduism in Microsoft Encarta Encyclopaedia was for Doniger's lack of scholarship and objectivity. Doniger is criticised for calling the Bhagwat Gita, a dishonest book that justifies war.[52]

Wendy Doniger's article on Hinduism for Microsoft Encarta Encyclopædia which was "unsympathetic and negative, in contrast to the articles on Islam and Christianity" in the encyclopedia. and replaced with an article by Arvind Sharma, a religious scholar at McGill University.[28]

Her authorship of the section describing Hindu Religion in Microsoft's Encarta Encyclopedia was criticized for being politically motivated and distorted. Following a review, the article was withdrawn.[53]

In 2003, Microsoft Encarta removed an entry on Hinduism by Wendy Doniger. This content was removed after protesters argued that its contents were prejudiced, deprecating, and reveal an unsympathetic tone. Sankrant Sanu, who initiated the dialogue [8], notes that the article focussed on external, and mostly fringe elements of myth, ritual, blood and gore, giving little space to either the highly developed systems of Hindu theology and philosophy or its most commonplace practices in comparison to the other articles on religion. In contrast to those on other religions, the article on Hinduism was sprinkled with unfavorable editorial asides that strive to negate any potential favourable perceptions the reader may entertain.

Witzel

Professor Michael Witzel of Harvard University has claimed that Wendy Doniger's knowledge of Vedic Sanskrit is severely flawed. When Witzel was publicly challenged to prove this claim, he emailed examples of Doniger's mistranslations and termed her translation as "UNRELIABLE and idiosyncratic".[54][55][56]

Michael Witzel, Professor of Sanskrit at Harvard University claimed that Wendy Doniger's knowledge of Vedic Sanskrit is severely flawed. When Witzel was publicly challenged to prove this claim, he posted examples of Doniger's translations to a mailing list and called them "UNREALIABLE" [sic] and "idiosyncratic".[57][58][59][60][61]

Michael Witzel, Professor of Sanskrit at Harvard University writes that Wendy Doniger prefers to "always finds a 'hip' translation such as 'he had sex'" which can "simply" be translate ' "he has come together"—just as the Sanskrit says'.[62]

In an email message, Michael Witzel called it "idiosyncratic and unreliable just like her Jaiminiya Brahmana or Manu (re-)translations."[11]

The Hindus[edit]

Doniger's trade book, The Hindus: An Alternative History was published in 2009 by Viking/Penguin. According to the Hindustan Times, The Hindus was a No. 1 bestseller in its non-fiction category in the week of October 15, 2009.[63] Two scholarly reviews in the Social Scientist and the Journal of the American Oriental Society, though praising Doniger for her textual scholarship, criticized both Doniger's poor historiography and her lack of focus.[64][65] In the popular press, the book has received many positive reviews, for example from the Library Journal,[66] the Times Literary Supplement,[67] the New York Review of Books,[68] The New York Times,[69] and The Hindu.[70] In January 2010, the National Book Critics Circle named The Hindus as a finalist for its 2009 book awards.[71] The Hindu American Foundation protested this decision, alleging inaccuracies and bias in the book.[72]

In February 2014, as part of settlement with plaintiff to a lawsuit brought before an Indian district court, The Hindus was recalled by Penguin India.[73][74][75] Indian authors such as Arundhati Roy, Partha Chatterjee, Jeet Thayil, and Namwar Singh inveighed against the publisher's decision.[76][77] The book has since been published in India by Speaking Tiger Books.[78]

The Hindu American Foundation protested this decision, alleging inaccuracies and bias in the book.[79] S. Shankar in Dainik Jagran "charged Doniger with a familiar set of shortcomings: overlooking standard classical works, exoticizing the Hindu tradition, writing history in league with India’s Marxist historians, and relying largely on foreign rather than Indian scholarship".[80] He says, she shows a "negligent and arrogant mindset… born of colonial and racist thinking". Vivek Gumaste at Rediff.com argues that "this is not a pure battle for free speech", but "a parochial ideological ambush masquerading as one" about the legal battle that ensued between Doniger and Batra.[80] He calls it "subtle authoritarianism" out to "suppress the Hindu viewpoint". [80]

  • Here are the entire last two concluding paragraphs of Shrimali's 15-page review: There are several issues that need more detailed and nuanced analysis rather than straight-jacketed formulations that we read in The Hindus. These concern terminologies and chronologies invoked, perfunctory manner in which class-caste struggles have been referred to — almost casually, complex inter-religious dialogue seen only in the context of Visnu's avataras, and looking at the tantras merely in terms of sex and political power. The work rarely rises above the level of tale telling. (Last paragraph) On the whole, this is neither a serious work for students of Indian history, nor for those with a critical eye on 'religious history' of India, nor indeed it is the real Alternative History of the 'Hindus'. The main actors of the narrative are not speaking themselves. They merely seem to be mouthing dialogues scripted by the privileged upper classes. Apparently, The Hindus is targeted at the western readership, urbanised Indians and Indian diaspora and we won't be surprised if it sells very well in the contemporary milieu of the 'market fundamentalist' world.
  • Here are the last three paragraphs of Ludo Rocher's review in the JAOS: " ... ("By the Grace of Dog," p. 499). She especially loves to illustrate ancient stories by interjecting com-parisons with situations with which the audience is familiar: Doniger commands an unbelievably vast array of comparable material, often, though not always, from American popular culture. Doniger acknowledges that the book was not meant to be as long as it turned out to be, "but it got the bit between its teeth, and ran away from me" (p. 1). Several pages are indeed filled with "good stories" that are only loosely, some very loosely, related to the history of the Hindu religion. Going into detail on the drinking and other vices of the Mughal emperors, even though carefully documented, is a case in point (pp. 539-41). The Black Hole of Calcutta may have been "one of the great British icons of the historical mythology of the Raj" (p. 382), but it involved only the temporarily victorious Muslim Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-daula, and British prisoners, no Hindus. "The best pun in the history of the Raj" (p. 600), i.e., the message peccavi ("I have sinned/Sind") attributed to Charles James Napier, also appears to be given more attention than it deserves in a book on Hinduism. Since Wendy Doniger openly disclaims any ambition to have written a conventional history ("my training is as a philologist, not a historian," p. 3), minor historical slips may be forgiven. Yet, there are some that deserve to be rectified. Warren Hastings may be accused of having done many objectionable things, but labeling him "a brute of the first order" when talking about his exalted preface to Charles Wilkins's translation of the Bhagavadgita appears incongruous (p. 596). And, even though this, too, has been held against him, it might have been worth mentioning that it was Hastings who successfully promoted the idea that "in all suits regarding inheritance, marriage, caste, and other religious usages and institutions, the laws. . . of the Shaster with regard to Gentoos shall be invariably adhered to." When it comes to legal history in the colonial period in particular, there are passages that are bound to raise the eyebrows of Doniger's once coeditor Duncan Derrett. Sir William Jones was not the chief justice of the High Court of Calcutta (p. 595); the "High Court of Judicature at Fort William" was established in 1862. King George III appointed him as a puisne judge of "His Majesty's Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William." Also, the history of Hindu law was more complex than it is represented in this volume. Anglo-Hindu law was far more than "the British interpretation of Jones's translation of Manu," and what the British did was far more than "to replace the multiplicity of legal voices [of local indigenous courts] and the centuries of case law with a single voice, that of Jones's Manu" (p. 596). Jones knew that the Manusmrti was an inadequate tool for British judges to decide cases involv-ing Hindus. After Halhed's CODE of Gentoo Laws, and his own INSTITUTES of Menu, Jones went to work on a DIGEST of Hindoo Law—one cannot help being reminded of Tribonian—which was trans-lated into English by Henry Thomas Colebrooke. Dissatisfaction with the unwieldy Digest in turn led Colebrooke to translate two specific treatises on inheritance, a publication Doniger incorrectly alludes to in connection with Rammohan Roy's tracts on Hindu law. In it Colebrooke translated the section on inheritance in a commentary, titled Mitakyara, written by Vijildnegvara, on the Yajlzavalkyasmrti, not on the Manusmrti, and Jimatavahana' s Dayabhaga, a nibandha entirely devoted to the law of inheri-tance, not of marriage (p. 616)."

In the book, Doniger analyses the birth of Hinduism in the background of worship of sex organs and book is developed through a "re-telling of the past". The work was published in 2009 by Viking/Penguin. According to the Hindustan Times, The Hindus was a No. 1 bestseller in its non-fiction category in the week of October 15, 2009.[81] Two scholarly reviews in the Social Scientist and the Journal of the American Oriental Society, though praising Doniger for her textual scholarship, both criticized what they saw as her poor historiography and lack of focus. Writing in the journal Social Scientist K. M. Shrimali concludes,

"There are several issues that need more detailed and nuanced analysis rather than straight-jacketed formulations that we read in The Hindus. These concern terminologies and chronologies invoked, perfunctory manner in which class-caste struggles have been referred to – almost casually, complex inter-religious dialogue seen only in the context of Visnu's avataras, and looking at the tantras merely in terms of sex and political power. The work rarely rises above the level of tale telling. On the whole, this is neither a serious work for students of Indian history, nor for those with a critical eye on 'religious history' of India, nor indeed it is the real Alternative History of the 'Hindus'. The main actors of the narrative are not speaking themselves. They merely seem to be mouthing dialogues scripted by the privileged upper classes. Apparently, The Hindus is targeted at the western readership, urbanised Indians and Indian diaspora and we won't be surprised if it sells very well in the contemporary milieu of the 'market fundamentalist' world.[64]

In the Journal of the American Oriental Society Ludo Locher writes,

It is a learned book: one cannot help being amazed by the amount and variety of source materials the author has at her command, many of which one would not find, or not expect to find, in a book on the history of Hinduism and its practitioners (see the bibliography, pp. 729-53)...She especially loves to illustrate ancient stories by interjecting comparisons with situations with which the audience is familiar: Doniger commands an unbelievably vast array of comparable material, often, though not always, from American popular culture.

Doniger acknowledges that the book was not meant to be as long as it turned out to be, "but it got the bit between its teeth, and ran away from me" (p. 1). Several pages are indeed filled with "good stories" that are only loosely, some very loosely, related to the history of the Hindu religion. Going into detail on the drinking and other vices of the Mughal emperors, even though carefully documented, is a case in point (pp. 539–41). The Black Hole of Calcutta may have been "one of the great British icons of the historical mythology of the Raj" (p. 382), but it involved only the temporarily victorious Muslim Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-daula, and British prisoners, no Hindus. "The best pun in the history of the Raj" (p. 600), i.e., the message peccavi ("I have sinned/Sind") attributed to Charles James Napier, also appears to be given more attention than it deserves in a book on Hinduism...When it comes to legal history in the colonial period in particular, there are passages that are bound to raise ... eyebrows. ... the history of Hindu law was more complex than is represented in this volume. Anglo-Hindu law was far more than "the British interpretation of Jones's translation of Manu.[65]

In the Indian Historical Review, D. H. A. Kolff writes:

"As a loosely applied, but strongly integrative, model, she proposes three roughly consecutive alliances: first the Vedic one of gods and humans as opposed to anti-gods and ogres, then the epic-Puranic one in which ascetics and renunciants seem to join over-ambitious ogres and anti-gods in threatening the gods, and finally the bhakti alliance that restores human dependence on the gods (pp. 108-11). From the point of view of the historian such a loose periodisation is satisfactory and convincing, especially in the first three fifths of the book, which deal with little else than the social and cultural history of religion. For the periods of the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughals and the British, however, when the author's focus partly shifts to political circumstances, her story is often episodic and sometimes, I think, a little naïve. She is of the opinion that 'all the members of the [East India] company were ostentatiously rich', which has been proven to be wrong.' Heavily depending on John Keay's India, A History, and a few other historians, she now and then presents a rather personalised view in which the individual characteristics of the reigning Sultan or Mughal emperor are decisive, not the strategic or administrative dilemmas he faced. The Din-i-Ilahi is `Akbar's new faith' and Urdu was 'developed' by Akbar personally, as if what was at stake was no more than the fancy of an individual. 'Dear reader', she writes self-mockingly, 'you will not be surprised to learn that some of the Delhi sultans were horrible, and others were decent blokes', which seems to imply an idea of history as a quite arbitrary chain of events (pages 457, 533, 549, 576)[82]

In a second review in the Indian Historical Review, David Gilmartin writes:

Doniger makes clear that no history focused on an imperial centre can capture the history of the Hindus here, any more than could such a state-focused story in the days before the arrival of the Muslims (p. 446). But at the same time, the very structure of her presentation points also to the import-ance of the state as a locus for understanding how the history of the Hindus depends also on an engagement with broader currents of historical change extending outside India and linking this history to larger, worldwide processes. Rather than step back and ask explicit questions about this, however, she launches into an extended (and in some ways baffling) narrative of the idiosyncracies of the Mughal emperors as a backdrop to her analysis of the Mughal court's impact on Hindu history. 'Some (notoriously Aurangzeb) were quite (though not unambiguously) horrid', she says: 'some (most notably Akbar) were quite (though not unambiguously) wonderful; and most of them were a bit of both' (p. 528). This opening bit of facile moralising (one hopes tongue-in-cheek) does not bode well for what follows, and indeed, her ensuing narrative, though not without its interesting observations on imperial attitudes towards Hinduism, hardly provides a coherent vision about how new ideologies of state authority, and perhaps new structures of knowledge, may have shaped new frameworks for thinking about the meanings of being 'Hindu' during this era. This is, in fact, a seriously lost opportunity (and shows how a fascination with stories does not, in and of itself, make for good history).[83]

In South Asia Research, Shubhodeep Shome writes:

"An array of puns, asides and (sometimes off-key) jokes makes the book more bulky and somewhat anecdotal, but also entertaining to read. The work possesses an ambitious canvas. The 25 chapters progress chronologically with some overlaps, beginning with the geological formation of the Indian subconti-nent roughly 50 million years ago and stretching to modern-day 'Yankee Hinduism. Yet, it is not a 'staggeringly comprehensive' book, a term that seems to have attached itself to the work from Pankaj Mishra (2009). For example, Chapter 21, 'Caste, Class, and Conversion under the British Raj 1600 to 1900 CE', begins with a typical apology: 'This chapter will begin with a very fast gallop over the perilous steeplechase race known as the British Raj' (p. 575). This is true of many other explorations in the book. The structure resembles a series of sketches presented in historical order, assembled by interpreting myths relevant to Doniger's project of Hinduism as lived experience. The Preface: 'The Man or the Rabbit in the Moon' (pp. 1-16), and the initial chapters, such as '1. Introduction: Working with Available Light' (pp. 17-49) and '2. Time and Space in India: 50 Million to 50,000 BCE' (pp. 50-64), and the concluding section ('25. Inconclusions, or, the Abuse of History') are instructive of the nuts and bolts of writing 'alternative' history.[84]

In the popular press, the book has received many positive reviews, for example from the Library Journal,[85] the Times Literary Supplement,[86] the New York Review of Books,[87] the New York Times,[88] and The Hindu.[89]

In the New York Review of Books, David Dean Shulman wrote:

Experts on India and professional historians of South Asia will, no doubt, find something to disagree with on every page; but they will also, I think, be charmed by Doniger’s scintillating and irreverent prose (perhaps against their better judgment) and by the unexpected, strangely delightful connections she makes. Her book is no ordinary trek through inscriptions and chronicles. It is more like a psychedelic pilgrimage to sites, ritual moments, and beloved texts scattered over three millennia. Make no mistake: it’s a bumpy ride, with a provocative and erudite guide who scorns the usual rules of the historical guild. That is not to say that this improbable history lacks method. There is a sense in which Doniger is close to the indigenous South Asian, "puranic" model of writing history, of the type that put off al-Biruni.[90]

In the New York Times, Pankaj Mishra wrote:

Yet it is impossible not to admire a book that strides so intrepidly into a polemical arena almost as treacherous as Israel-­Arab relations. During a lecture in London in 2003, Doniger escaped being hit by an egg thrown by a Hindu nationalist apparently angry at the “sexual thrust” of her interpretation of the “sacred” “Ramayana.” This book will no doubt further expose her to the fury of the modern-day Indian heirs of the British imperialists who invented “Hinduism.” Happily, it will also serve as a salutary antidote to the fanatics who perceive — correctly — the fluid existential identities and commodious metaphysic of practiced Indian religions as a threat to their project of a culturally homogenous and militant nation-state.[91]

In The Hindu, A. R. Venkatachalapathy wrote:

The writing style is engaging, funny and at times even irreverent. The author's penchant for alluding to American popular culture left me clueless on many occasions. These criticisms notwithstanding, Doniger has produced a serious work of scholarship which is also accessible to the average reader. Anyone seriously concerned with Hinduism in the contemporary world will be well advised to read, enjoy, engage, and even argue with the book.[92]

In CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, V. V. Raman wrote:

More importantly, through these passages and reflections, Doniger (U. Chicago) presents with lucidity and empathy Hindu history from the perspectives of those who have seldom occupied center stage in the culture: marginalized castes, women, and even animals. Those who wish to know Hindu history from non-orthodox angles will read this book with interest; they will be highly rewarded. Those who have called into question the views and legitimacy of the author as a scholar of Hinduism will read it with a critical eye; they may be disappointed to find little that is seriously objectionable.[93]

In January 2010, the National Book Critics Circle named The Hindus as a finalist for its 2009 book awards.[94] The Hindu American Foundation protested this decision, alleging inaccuracies and bias in the book.[95]

Reception on wikipedia[edit]

As the history and talkpage of the wikipedia article shows, the Wendy Doniger wikipedia article has been disputed many times, with a group of editors removing all criticism from the article.

Some examples of censorship and bias:

  • The book [Invading the Sacred] has no relevance to a neutral biographical article on Wendy Doniger. — goethean ॐ 20:58, 26 October 2009 (UTC) [9]

There is more, see [11] [12] [13]

Notes[edit]

  1. Martha Craven Nussbaum, The clash within: democracy, religious violence, and India's future, Harvard University Press, 2007 p.249.
  2. Shrimal 2010, p. 68.
  3. Shrimali 2010, p. 67.
  4. Doniger, Wendy, The Hindus: An Alternative History, Viking-Penguin, p. 35<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Nagarajan, Vijaya (April 2004). "[Book Review: The Bedtrick: Tales of Sex and Masquerade]". The Journal of Religion. 84 (2): 332–333. doi:10.1086/421829. JSTOR 421829 – via JSTOR.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Harlan, Lindsey (28 July 2009). "The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth. By Wendy Doniger. American Lectures on the History of Religions 16. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998. xii + 200 pp. $26.95 cloth". Church History. 68 (2): 529. doi:10.2307/3170935. JSTOR 3170935 – via JSTOR.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 Richard Gombrich, Hindu Myths: A Sourcebook Translated from the Sanskrit by Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty Religious Studies, Vol. 14, No. 2 (Jun. 1978), pp. 273–274
  8. 8.0 8.1 Marr 1976, pp. 718–719.
  9. Kakar, Sudhir (April 1990). "Book Review:Other People's Myths: The Cave of Echoes Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty". The Journal of Religion. 70 (2): 293. doi:10.1086/488386. JSTOR 1203930 – via JSTOR.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Ioan P. Culianu, "Ask Yourselves in Your Own Hearts..." History of Religions, Vol. 22, No. 3 (Feb. 1983), pp. 284–286

    That is why, with the exception of Geldner's German translation, the most reliable modern translations of the Rgveda-W. O'Flaherty's being one of them-are only partial. However, W. O'Flaherty has, in her present translation, a wider scope than other scholars – Louis Renou, for instance, whose Hymnes speculatifs du Veda are a model of accuracy – who prefer to limit their choice to one thematic set of hymns.

  11. 11.0 11.1 Taylor 2011, p. 160.
  12. The axis of neo-colonialism, Malhotra Rajiv, World Affairs, Year : 2007, Volume : 11, Issue: 3, Print ISSN 0971-8052.
  13. "Wendy Doniger Falsehood".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. The interpretation of gods
  15. The axis of neo-colonialism, Malhotra Rajiv, World Affairs, Year : 2007, Volume : 11, Issue: 3, Print ISSN 0971-8052.
  16. "Wendy Doniger Falsehood".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. 17.0 17.1 Christian Lee Novetzke, "The Study of Indian Religions in the US Academy", India Review 5.1 (May 2006), 113–114 doi:10.1080/14736480600742668
  18. Martha C. Nussbaum, The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009), p. 248
  19. "I don't feel I diminish Indian texts by writing about or interpreting them. My books have a right to exist alongside other books." Amy M. Braverman. "The interpretation of gods", magazine.uchicago.edu (University of Chicago Magazine, 97.2), December 2004; accessed February 14, 2015.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 Kazanas, Nicholas. Indo-European Deities and the Rgveda. Journal of Indo-European Studies, vol. 29, nos. 3-4 (Fall & Winter 2001), pp. 257-293. Footnote #14 on page 283.
  21. Framarin, Christopher G. (2009). Desire and Motivation in Indian Philosophy. Taylor & Francis. pp. 76–78.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. Krishnan Ramaswamy, Antonio de Nicolas and Aditi Banerjee, ed. (2007). Invading The Sacred: An Analysis of Hinduism Studies in America. Rupa & Co.,. p. 70.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. 23.0 23.1 Waugh, Earle H. (2005). "The 'Tradition' of the Academy and its critique". In Steven Engler, Gregory Price Grieve (ed.). Historicizing "tradition" in the study of religion. 43. Hague, Netherlands: Walter de Gruyter. pp. 262–264. ISBN 9783110188752.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. Yudit Kornberg Greenberg, ed. (ABC-CLIO). "Shiva". 2008. 1. Encyclopedia of love in world religions. p. 572. Check date values in: |date= (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Kazanas, Nicholas (Fall & Winter 2001). "Indo-European Deities and the Rgveda". Journal of Indo-European Studies. 29 (3–4): 283. Check date values in: |date= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. Krishnan Ramaswamy; Antonio T. De Nicolás; Aditi Banerjee (2007), Krishnan Ramaswamy (ed.), Invading the sacred: an analysis of Hinduism studies in America, Rupa & Co., pp. 66, pp. 132-145<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. Framarin, Christopher G. (2009). Desire and Motivation in Indian Philosophy. Taylor & Francis. pp. 76–78.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 Kurien, Prema A. (2007). "Challenging American Pluralism". A place at the multicultural table: the development of an American Hinduism. Rutgers University Press. pp. 202–203.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. Sharma, Arvind (Spring 2004). "Hindus and Scholars". Religion in the News. Trinity College. 7 (1).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. http://vishalagarwal.voiceofdharma.com/articles/thaah/ "A Chapter-wise Review by Vishal Agarwal"
  31. Whose history is it anyway? March 17, 2010
  32. Oh, But You Do Get It Wrong! April 10, 2010
  33. ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History’ by Prof. Wendy Doniger A Chapter-wise Review by Vishal Agarwal April 10, 2010
  34. "THE HINDUS, AN ALTERNATIVE HISTORY" By Wendy Doniger, A Review of CHAPTER 10 titled "VIOLENCE IN THE MAHABHARATA" by Chitra Raman April 10, 2010
  35. Whose history is it anyway? March 17, 2010
  36. America mai prakashit kuda kachara sahitya April 10, 2010
  37. Oh, But You Do Get It Wrong! April 10, 2010
  38. ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History’ by Prof. Wendy Doniger A Chapter-wise Review by Vishal Agarwal April 10, 2010
  39. "THE HINDUS, AN ALTERNATIVE HISTORY" By Wendy Doniger, A Review of CHAPTER 10 titled "VIOLENCE IN THE MAHABHARATA" by Chitra Raman April 10, 2010
  40. The axis of neo-colonialism, Malhotra Rajiv, World Affairs, Year : 2007, Volume : 11, Issue: 3, Print ISSN: 0971-8052.
  41. Prema A. Kurien, A place at the multicultural table: the development of an American Hinduism,Rutgers University Press, 2007 p.202
  42. Christian Lee Novetzke, "The Study of Indian Religions in the US Academy", India Review 5.1 (May 2006), 113–114
  43. "I don't feel I diminish Indian texts by writing about or interpreting them. My books have a right to exist alongside other books." Amy M. Braverman. "The interpretation of gods". University of Chicago Magazine, 97.2 (December 2004).
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  46. Engler, Steven; Grieve, Gregory P. Historicizing Tradition in the Study of Religion, pp. 261–263.
  47. Ramaswamy, Krishnan ed. Invading the Sacred. 2007. New Delhi. Rupa and co.
  48. "The Interpretation of Gods", by Amy Braverman, University of Chicago Magazine: 97:2 (2004)
  49. Hinduism, by Arvind Sharma, Encarta.
  50. [3]“Wrath Over a Hindu God: U.S. Scholars' Writings Draw Threats From Faithful,” by Shankar Vedantam. Washington Post April 10, 2004.
  51. [4]“Wrath Over a Hindu God: U.S. Scholars' Writings Draw Threats From Faithful,” by Shankar Vedantam. Washington Post April 10, 2004.
  52. Banerjee, Aditi (2009-10-28). "Oh, But You Do Get It Wrong!". www.outlookindia.com. New Delhi: The Outlook Group. Retrieved 4 March 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  53. http://sankrant.org/2002/09/hinduism-encarta-critique/
  54. Mail from Witzel, subject "W.D.O'Flaherty's Rgveda "
  55. Mail from Witzel, subject "W.D.O'Flaherty's Jaiminiya Brahmana"
  56. Invading the Sacred, p.66
  57. Mail from Witzel, subject "W.D.O'Flaherty's Rgveda"
  58. Mail from Witzel, subject "W.D.O'Flaherty's Jaiminiya Brahmana"
  59. Invading the Sacred, p.66
  60. Krishnan Ramaswamy, Antonio de Nicolas and Aditi Banerjee, ed. (2007). Invading The Sacred: An Analysis of Hinduism Studies in America. Rupa & Co.,. p. 66.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  63. "Top authors this week" Hindustan Times Indo-Asian News Service New Delhi, October 15, 2009
  64. 64.0 64.1 Shrimali 2010, p. 80: "There are several issues that need more detailed and nuanced analysis rather than straight-jacketed formulations that we read in The Hindus. These concern terminologies and chronologies invoked, perfunctory manner in which class-caste struggles have been referred to — almost casually, complex inter-religious dialogue seen only in the context of Visnu's avataras, and looking at the tantras merely in terms of sex and political power. The work rarely rises above the level of tale telling. On the whole, this is neither a serious work for students of Indian history, nor for those with a critical eye on 'religious history' of India, nor indeed it is the real Alternative History of the 'Hindus'. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "FOOTNOTEShrimali201080" defined multiple times with different content
  65. 65.0 65.1 Rocher 2012, p. 303: "She especially loves to illustrate ancient stories by interjecting comparisons with situations with which the audience is familiar: Doniger commands an unbelievably vast array of comparable material, often, though not always, from American popular culture. Doniger acknowledges that the book was not meant to be as long as it turned out to be, "but it got the bit between its teeth, and ran away from me" (p. 1). Several pages are indeed filled with "good stories" that are only loosely, some very loosely, related to the history of the Hindu religion. Going into detail on the drinking and other vices of the Mughal emperors, even though carefully documented, is a case in point (pp. 539-41). ...When it comes to legal history in the colonial period in particular, there are passages that are bound to raise ... eyebrows. ... the history of Hindu law was more complex than is represented in this volume. Anglo-Hindu law was far more than "the British interpretation of Jones's translation of Manu." Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "FOOTNOTERocher2012303" defined multiple times with different content
  66. James F. DeRoche, Library Journal, 2009-02-15
  67. David Arnold. "Beheading Hindus And other alternative aspects of Wendy Doniger's history of a mythology", Times Literary Supplement, July 29, 2009
  68. David Dean Shulman, 'A Passion for Hindu Myths,' in New York Review of Books, Nov 19, 2009, pp. 51–53.
  69. Pankaj Mishra, "'Another Incarnation'", nytimes.com, April 24, 2009.
  70. A R Venkatachalapathy, "Understanding Hinduism" The Hindu March 30, 2010
  71. "National Book Critics Circle Finalists Are Announced", blogs.nytimes.com, January 23, 2010.
  72. HAF Urges NBCC Not Honor Doniger's Latest Book, as reprinted in the Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker and Sify
  73. "Penguin to destroy copies of Wendy Doniger's book 'The Hindus'" The Times of India
  74. "Penguin to recall Doniger’s book on Hindus" The Hindu
  75. "How Doniger’s now-recalled ‘The Hindus’ ruffled Hindutva feathers" firstpost.com
  76. "Academics, writers decry Penguin's withdrawal of Doniger's book, The Hindus", timesofindia.indiatimes.com; accessed February 14, 2015.
  77. Buncombe, Andrew. "Arundhati Roy criticises Penguin for pulping The Hindus: An Alternative History". The Independent. Delhi. Retrieved February 14, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  81. "Top authors this week" Hindustan Times Indo-Asian News Service New Delhi, October 15, 2009
  82. Kolff 2010, p. 336.
  83. Gilmartin 2010, p. 342.
  84. Shome 2012, p. 77.
  85. James F. DeRoche, Library Journal, 2009-02-15
  86. David Arnold. "Beheading Hindus And other alternative aspects of Wendy Doniger's history of a mythology", Times Literary Supplement, July 29, 2009
  87. David Dean Shulman, 'A Passion for Hindu Myths,' in New York Review of Books, Nov 19, 2009, pp. 51–53.
  88. Pankaj Mishra, "'Another Incarnation',", in New York Times, April 24, 2009
  89. A R Venkatachalapathy, "Understanding Hinduism" The Hindu March 30, 2010
  90. David Dean Shulman, 'A Passion for Hindu Myths,' in New York Review of Books, Nov 19, 2009, pp. 51–53.
  91. Pankaj Mishra, "'Another Incarnation',", in New York Times, April 24, 2009
  92. A R Venkatachalapathy, "Understanding Hinduism" The Hindu March 30, 2010
  93. Raman, V.V. "Doniger, Wendy. The Hindus: an alternative history." CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries Aug. 2009: 2338. Academic OneFile. Web. 16 Feb. 2014.
  94. [5] "National Book Critics Circle Finalists Are Announced" New York Times January 23, 2010
  95. HAF Urges NBCC Not Honor Doniger's Latest Book, as reprinted in LA Times, New Yorker, Sify

References[edit]

  • Marr, John H. (1976). "Review of Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty: Asceticism and eroticism in the mythology of Śiva. (School of Oriental and African Studies.) Oxford University Press, 1973". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. 39 (3): 718–19. doi:10.1017/s0041977x00051892. JSTOR 614803 – via JSTOR. (Registration required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |registration= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Rocher, Ludo (April–June 2012). "Review: The Hindus: An Alternative History by Wendy Doniger". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 132 (2): 302–4. doi:10.7817/jameroriesoci.132.2.0302. JSTOR 10.7817/jameroriesoci.132.2.0302 – via JSTOR. (Registration required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |registration= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Shrimali, K. M. (July–August 2010). "Review of The Hindus: An Alternative History by Wendy Doniger". Social Scientist. 38 (7/8): 66–81. JSTOR 27866725.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Taylor, McComas (June 2011). "Mythology Wars: The Indian Diaspora, "Wendy's Children" and the Struggle for the Hindu Past". Asian Studies Review. 35 (2): 149–68. doi:10.1080/10357823.2011.575206.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

See also[edit]

External links[edit]