Subscribe to South Asia Citizens Wire | feeds from sacw.net
Home page > Special Dossiers / Compilations > In Defence of Freedom of Expression, Public Space in / on South (...) > FULL TEXT PDF / Epub: Wendy Doniger’s ’The Hindus: An Alternative (...)

Fight back and reclaim Wendy Doniger’s valuable book taken away from you by a spineless publisher and the fundamentalists they made a deal with

FULL TEXT PDF / Epub: Wendy Doniger’s ’The Hindus: An Alternative History’

11 February 2014

printable version of this article printable version
fontsizedown
fontsizeup

Fight back and reclaim Wendy Doniger’s valuable book taken away from you by a spineless publisher and the fundamentalists they made a deal with

[excerpt from the introduction]

YOU CAN’T MAKE AN OMELET . . .

Hindus nowadays are diverse in their attitude to their own diversity, which inspires pride in some, anxiety in others. In particular, it provokes anxiety in those Hindus who are sometimes called Hindu nationalists, or the Hindu right, or right-wing Hindus, or the Hindutva ("Hinduness") faction, or, more approximately, Hindu fundamentalists; they are against Muslims, Christians, and the Wrong Sort of Hindus. Their most powerful political organ is the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), with its militant branch, the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), but they are also involved in groups such as Hindu Human Rights, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and the ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad). I will generally refer to them as the Hindutva faction or the Hindu right. This book is also alternative to the narrative of Hindu history that they tell.

There’s a personal story that I should tell about my relationship with this group of Hindus here at the start, in the interest of full disclosure. In the middle of a lecture that I gave in London on November 12, 2003, chaired by William Dalrymple, a man threw an egg at me.— (He missed his aim, in every way.) A message that a member of the two-hundred-strong audience posted the next day on a mailing list Web site referred to a passage I had cited from Valmiki’s Ramayana in which Sita, the wife of Rama, accuses her brother-in-law, Lakshmana, of wanting her for himself. The Web message stated:

I was struck by the sexual thrust of her paper on one of our most sacred epics. Who lusted/laid whom, it was not only Ravan who desired Sita but her brother-in-law Lakshman also. Then many other pairings, some I had never heard of, from our other shastras were thrown in to weave a titillating sexual tapestry. What would these clever, "learned" western people be doing for a living if they did not have our shastras and traditions to nitpick and distort?— After a bit more of this, the writer 23 added:

Her friends and admirers certainly made their applause heard, Muslims among them. In the foyer before the lecture I shook hands and asked a Muslim if he had attended the other lectures in the series and if he was ready for conversion. He said that someone (did he name Vivekananda in the hubbub?) at a similar sort of function had taken off his clothes and asked the audience if they could tell if he was a Hindu or a Muslim. The deeper political agenda of the author of the posting was betrayed by that second set of remarks, particularly by the gratuitous reference to Muslim conversion, and I am grateful to the unnamed Muslim in this vignette for so aptly invoking the wise words of Vivekananda (or, as the case may more probably be, Kabir). My defense now, for this book, remains what it was in the news coverage then, about the lecture (and the egg):

The Sanskrit texts [cited in my lecture] were written at a time of glorious sexual openness and insight, and I have often focused on precisely those parts of the texts. . .The irony is that I have praised these texts and translated them in such a way that many people outside the Hindu tradition — people who would otherwise go on thinking that Hinduism is nothing but a caste system that mistreats Untouchables — have come to learn about it and to admire the beauty, complexity and wisdom of the Hindu texts.— And, I should have added, the diversity of the Hindu texts. To the accusation that I cited a part of the Hindu textual tradition that one Hindu "had never heard of," my reply is: Yes!, and it’s my intention to go on doing just that. The parts of his own tradition that he objected to are embraced by many other Hindus and are, in any case, historically part of the record. One reason why this book is so long is that I wanted to show how very much there is of all that the egg faction would deny. And so I intend to go on celebrating the diversity and pluralism, not to mention the worldly wisdom and sensuality, of the Hindus that I have loved for about fifty years now and still counting.

Download the book here:

PDF - 8 Mb
The Hindus: An Alternative History
by Wendy Doniger
[PDF]
admin | Site Map |