Sunday, January 31, 2010


Subject: Re: Your proposed award to Wendy Doniger's Book
To: "James Marcus" of NBCC
Date: Friday, January 29, 2010, 10:42 PM
Dear Mr. Marcus:

The attached is a final edited version of the letter I sent to you as an e-mail. The attached letter along with the other two attachments may be easier for you to forward to your colleagues if you wish to do so. I will separately publish my letter to you on my blog-spot for other Indian American Citizens to read and comment upon. I believe there is something amiss, if after receiving negative feedback about Wendy Doniger from so many Indian Americans, NBCC continues to consider her as a potential awardee. We know that it will usually be presented as a "book burners' feedback" from fanatics who do not have respect for academic freedom nor understand freedom of speech in a free democratic society. Such vindicating misleading argument sounds very much American and seems to protect the rights of the defaming writer. Be it as it may, it is one thing to have the freedom to write and publish defaming literature and it is entirely another thing to endorse it as an example of literary excellence worthy of prestigious award by New York Times, which is a National Institution in the U.S., when Wendy Doniger is lacking in academic integrity and true scholarship. It is a micro-aggression against a passive, peace loving, minority community by the majority. I hope NBCC does not participate in such micro-aggression and further victimize a community that has been victimized for nearly 1400 years now. For Wendy to say that such victimization has never occurred is like an ostrich burying its head in the sand. I sincerely hope NBCC understands the seriousness of this issue for the Indian American community in the U.S. and the 800 million Hindus in India. This is coming up when there is increasing friendship and cooperation between India and U.S., the two largest democracies of the world. I urge you to consider our view points sincerely and give us a convincing reasoning, if NBCC decides to ignore our requests for any reason besides an arrogant self-righteousness. Thanks for reading.


Editor, Sookta-Sumana


January 28th 2010

Dear Mr. Marcus:

I am a professor of psychiatry at a reputable College of Medicine in the US but I am not writing this note to you in that capacity, though I am constrained to reveal to you my background so you might take me seriously. It is not my intent to self-aggrandize and impress you with my background but only to humbly submit to you that I have been close to many reputable psychoanalysts during my career and have some of them as my good friends, besides having received some training in psychoanalysis myself. I do know the real from the fake. At least that much I have learned in my 40 years of exposure to American Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis.

Long before I heard about the proposal by New York Times to give an award to Wendy Doniger, I published a list of Nobel Laureates at the University of Chicago among whom there is at least one distinguished Hindu Nobel Laureate (1983). (See attached). I draw your attention to the Nobel Laureates in Literature and also the only Nobel Laureate for Peace (shown in red ink) to show the contrast in the caliber of Wendy and those others listed at the University of Chicago. Giving an award to Wendy Doniger will be an antithesis to the Nobel Prize for Peace awarded to President Obama. It will only instigate a conflict of cultures or another clash of civilizations. Please consider this angle seriously before you and your colleagues move forward with this award. It will not be a friendly gesture towards the 800 million or more Hindus who are the majority of Indians and are indeed "the Indians" in their own right.

Also, without getting lost in the trees, you may want to have a perspective of the forest. The modern, so called, Western Indologists are viewed by the informed Indians as nothing but playing the second graders’ tease game under the name of scholarship and academic freedom. Their scholarship is neither authentic nor deep enough for even an average erudite Hindu who is versatile in Sanskrit language and understands its nuances much better than these Western scholars with their Ph.D. which they flaunt. I am attaching herewith a rather outspoken reaction to Wendy's and other Western Indologists' writings. The language used is strong and perhaps foul because the Western scholars themselves have used foul and crass language. A loving relationship with a deity, for example, with its divine contribution in forming the character of the conceived child, a highly poetic concept of the Aadikavi Valmiki and Mahakavi Vyasa (Great Poets who wrote the epics of Ramayana known as Aadi Kavya, and Mahabharata, the second epic of India, which is known as Mahakavya) has been bastardized by Wendy by calling it a "Rape" which is never in the last 5000 years the understanding of the billions of Hindus who have read these epics for several millennia. Such base blatant aspersions on the sacred and divine by Wendy Doniger are not examples of astute psychoanalytic interpretations, and are not to be rewarded. In our opinion there is no literary value to such crass interpretations by Wendy Doniger. So please see the article attached (second attachment) from this view point and understand that it calls spade a spade though superficially you may view it as using a foul language which is not any worse than the foul language used by Wendy and her other admirers. This is not a matter of limiting academic freedom but insisting on academic integrity and authentic scholarship devoid of mischief. You as well as others including those who are the editors of New York Times know it very well what such mischief is and how it leads to the outrage in the victimized and disparaged community, besides unnecessarily subjecting children from such victimized community to prejudice and abuse in institutions of learning from elementary schools to institutes of higher education.

I hope this convinces you to reconsider your decision and not to give undeserved honor to Wendy Doniger and her book. In her introduction to the book on "Ganesha" by Paul Courtright she boldly says that Mahabharata was dictated to Vyasa by Ganesha, a gross error any Hindu recognizes. Her Ph.D. in Sanskrit does not make her an authority on these epics. It is widely known that the Mahabharata was dictated to Ganesha by Vyasa. This is one example to you to show that "the King (Queen) is really not wearing the robe." This is an obvious fact to the educated Hindus but it eludes the less informed Western scholars and reviewers who do not have the ability to critically evaluate Western Indologists', like Wendy Doniger's, work.

So, please note that we educated Hindus have to take great exception to Wendy's scholarship as well as her hostile vindictive agenda and a spirit of vengeance with which she has written the book you propose to New York Times for a literary award.

I will look forward to your studied response to this e-mail, if your time permits it. If not, please have one of your fair minded, non-defensive, objective colleagues, who are truly culturally proficient in Indian and Hindu cultural studies, give me his/her response on behalf of NBCC.

Thanks for reading.


Editor, Sookta-Sumana

Attachments: 1) List of Nobel Laureates at the University of Chicago
2) An article on “Wendy Doniger’s Unconscious Exhibitionism”
Both 1 and 2 are available on

Monday, January 18, 2010



• Ada E. Yonath, 2009
• Irwin Rose, 2004*
• Richard E. Smalley, 1996
• F. Sherwood Rowland, 1995*
• Paul Crutzen, 1995
• Yuan T. Lee, 1986
• Henry Taube, 1983
• Herbert C. Brown, 1979*
• Ilya Prigogine, 1977
• William H. Stein, 1972
• Gerhard Herzberg, 1971
• Robert S. Mulliken, 1966*
• Karl Ziegler, 1963
• Willard Frank Libby, 1960
• Glenn Theodore Seaborg, 1951
• Harold Clayton Urey, 1934
Economics Sciences
• Roger B. Myerson, 2007‡
• Leonid Hurwicz, 2007
• Edward C. Prescott, 2004
• James J. Heckman, 2000‡
• Daniel L. McFadden, 2000
• Robert A. Mundell, 1999
• Myron S. Scholes, 1997*
• Robert E. Lucas Jr., 1995*‡
• Robert W. Fogel, 1993‡
• Gary S. Becker, 1992*‡
• Ronald H. Coase, 1991‡
• Merton H. Miller, 1990
• Harry M. Markowitz, 1990*
• Trygve Haavelmo, 1989
• James M. Buchanan Jr., 1986*
• Gerard Debreu, 1983
• George J. Stigler, 1982*
• Lawrence R. Klein, 1980
• Theodore W. Schultz, 1979
• Herbert A. Simon, 1978*
• Milton Friedman, 1976*
• Tjalling C. Koopmans, 1975
• Friedrich August von Hayek, 1974
• Kenneth J. Arrow, 1972
• Paul A. Samuelson, 1970*
• John M. Coetzee, 2003
• Saul Bellow, 1976*
• Bertrand Russell, 1950
• Barack Obama, 2009
• George E. Smith, 2009*
• Yoichiro Nambu, 2008‡
• Frank Wilczek, 2004*
• Alexei A. Abrikosov, 2003
• Masatoshi Koshiba, 2002
• Daniel C. Tsui, 1998*
• Jerome I. Friedman, 1990*
• Jack Steinberger, 1988*
• Leon M. Lederman, 1988
• Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, 1983
• James W. Cronin, 1980*‡
• J. Robert Schrieffer, 1972
• Murray Gell-Mann, 1969
• Luis W. Alvarez, 1968*
• Hans Albrecht Bethe, 1967
• Julian Schwinger, 1965
• Eugene P. Wigner, 1963
• Maria Goeppert-Mayer, 1963
• Owen Chamberlain, 1959*
• Chen Ning Yang, 1957*
• Tsung-Dao Lee, 1957*
• Ernest Orlando Lawrence, 1939*
• Enrico Fermi, 1938
• Clinton Joseph Davisson, 1937*
• Werner Heisenberg, 1932
• Arthur Holly Compton, 1927
• James Franck, 1925
• Robert Andrews Millikan, 1923*
• Albert Abraham Michelson, 1907
Physiology or Medicine
• Roger W. Sperry, 1981*
• George Wald, 1967
• Charles Brenton Huggins, 1966
• Konrad Bloch, 1964
• Sir John Carew Eccles, 1963
• James Dewey Watson, 1962*
• Edward Lawrie Tatum, 1958*
• George Wells Beadle, 1958
• Hermann Joseph Muller, 1946
• Edward Adelbert Doisy, 1943
• Alexis Carrel, 1912
Religious Studies (School of Divinity)
• Wendy Doniger 2010

Monday, January 4, 2010


Samudra Manthan (Churning of the sea) – Sculpture at Bangkok Airport
(Historical Significance)


Shrinivas Tilak

In Bangkok, on the Thailand's new international airport called Suvarna-bhoomi, (Land of Gold), there is a huge display from the Hindu scriptures namely Devi Bhagavat and Vishnu Puran.

'Can we imagine putting up this kind of art at Indian Airports?'

In February 2000, Dilip Padgaonkar, the then editor of the Times of India,
visited Jakarta to interview the then newly elected President of
Indonesia Abdur Rahman Wahid. He began the interview by observing that
the public display of Hindu symbols is much more prominent in Jakarta
than in Delhi. If Hindus do not wake up and act fast, Hinduism itself
will be banished from India altogether and its only traces will be
left in the countries of South-east Asia. Indeed, that is the goal of
Kancha Illaiah as spelled out in his latest book “A Post Hindu India.”
Illaiah and his ilk will succeed if the gullible HINAs (Hindu in Name
Alone) continue to elect the governments run by the Congress Party which
survives on the vote bank politics.

Mercifully, some proud and conscious Hindus (in India and abroad) have
started to preserve and protect their religious and cultural heritage
using traditional and more innovative means. Thus, it is possible to
interpret the story of samudramanthan to be found in many of the
Puranas as a metaphor (rupaka) for trade and cultural diffusion as well as cultural infusion through maritime activities (samudramanthan) between India and the world.

Recently, I came across a news report indicating that the metaphor of
samudramanthana has been revived through an award by that name that
has been instituted to recognize excellence in export/import by Indian
manufacturing and commercial firms.

Thus, a report from Kolkata explains that Gateway Terminals India (GTI), the youngest container terminal of Jawaharlal Nehru port, received
“Container Terminal of the Year” award at India International Maritime
& Logistics Expo ’09 held in Mumbai on April 18, 2009. The award,
known as “Samudra Manthan”, was presented to GTI for its excellence in
performance, innovation, operational efficiency, and the world class

The core story of samudramanthana as found in the Puranas is that Devas
and Asuras churned the cosmic ocean (kshirasagara) with the Meru
parvata as the churning rod and Vasuki, the cosmic snake, as the rope
in order to obtain the pitcher full of nectar (amritkumbha). In the
process, fourteen gems (ratnas) emerged out of the ocean with Devas
managing to appropriate for themselves most of them. It is possible
that the ‘gems’ are a metaphor for new ideas and items that Indians
and South Americans obtained through mutual trade and commerce.

Dr. Balaram Chakraborty, regional advisor to Ministry of Education &
Culture, Government of India, and author of a three volume study (The
Indians and Amerindians, Kolkata: Self Employment Bureau, 1991-1997)
has studied the patterns of similarity between the world views held by
Indians and Amerindians. He has argued that the Mayas of Central and
South America are the descendants and followers of an ancient
astronomer/scientist/architect named Maya (he belonged to a community
known as the Asuras) who arrived from India to the land beneath India
[i.e. Pataladesha] by way of the Western sea (i.e. the Pacific Ocean).

This was possible because Asuras were excellent astronomers,
sea-farers, builders, and skilled in warfare. Maya’s Surya Siddhanta
(a text on astronomy dating from fifth century) states that while
Indians (Devas) inhabit the northern hemisphere, numerous diasporic
Indians (Asuras; also known as Daityas) inhabit the southern

The Puranas describe the Pataladesha as made of seven zones: Atala,
Vitala, Sutala, Talatala, Mahatala, Rasatala, and Patala. Chakravorty
identifies Atala with the Atlantic coast in Central America; Vitala
with the region around Veracruz, Tabasco, and Campeche; Sutala with
Palenque and Guatemala; Talatala with Yukatan; Mahatala with Mexico;
Rasatala with Ecuador; and Patala with Peru (Chakravorty 1921:

Chakravorty speculates that if Devas (Suras) were Indians who followed dharma, Asuras were those Indians who had forsaken dharma or had neglected to observe its key elements out of greed or hubris. Asuras (with their leader Maya) either voluntarily (like Maya) or involuntarily (like
Bali) left/forced to leave India and settled in the Pataldesha from
where they continued to engage in trade and cultural exchanges with
their Indian homeland. The typical trade route to India was via the
Pacific with Java as the intermediate point that also served as a
clearing house.

Chakravorty also speculates that Lakshmi, was one of the fourteen gems
that came out of samudramanthan between the devas and the asuras. Lakshmi is often shown with ears of corn surmounted by leaves. In this she
resembles the corn goddess in the Americas. Her arrival through
samudramanthan suggests a cross-fertilization of religious and
cultural ideas between India and South/Central America syncretized
into Hindu pantheon as the consort of Vishnu.

I find Chakravorty’s ideas worthy of further study and have
incorporated some of them in a paper entitled “India and South America:
Maritime and Cultural Contacts in Ancient Times” that was presented at a
meeting of the International Centre for Cultural Studies held in
Mumbai on November 17, 2009.

Shrinivas Tilak