Thursday, July 29, 2010


The problem of an alternative history of Hindus

Also see Chitra Raman's review of Chapter 10, "VIOLENCE IN MAHABHARATA" at


Shree Vinekar

Book review of "The Hindus" by Wendy Doniger (Published by the Penguin Press, New York, 2009, pp 690).

This is probably the most uncharitable monumental book about the Hindus published in several decades. This reviewer will not argue about the facts correctly represented by Wendy Doniger, her erudition or scholastic achievements, but will address from psychological, psychiatric, and psychoanalytic viewpoint how her add-on “masala” discolors this book and in many places misrepresents the facts.

The founder of the Indian Psychoanalytic Society, Dr. Girindrasekar Bose, M.D., was a scholar who was cognizant of the social aspects of Hinduism as well as the psyche of the Hindus. Hindu culture and social customs are indeed difficult to fathom for those who are not thoroughly steeped in Hindu culture and find the Hindu Puranic stories mostly amusing and the customs quite strange. The ability to take escape into fiction to solve the unconscious conflicts and to sublimate the deeper cravings through fiction or by seeking partial expression of the unacceptable cravings through socially acceptable channels, sometimes by telling stories or listening to stories, though a common child rearing practice in many cultures, is something uniquely provided for by Hindu culture and to some extent this is not very prominently practiced or encouraged in some other cultures. Wendy Doniger the author of the book, “The Hindus: An Alternative History,” who claims to be the foremost authority on Hindu religion (Hinduism and Hindu culture) and customs, has a deficit in understanding how these practices maintain the societal order, and peace and harmony by reestablishing the intra-psychic balance in the individuals. If she wants to pose as a psychologically minded social reformer of Hindu society, she needed to have understood some of the basics pointed out by Dr. Girindrasekar Bose, and not ridiculed Hindus as “driving with one foot on the brakes and one on the accelerator.” This description applies universally to the human mind if one accepts the model of the mind presented by Sigmund Freud, with drives (Id - accelerator), ego, and superego (brakes). Hence this model also applies to all “cultures” and is not unique to the Hindus.

If someone in China or a far corner of the Far East was totally unexposed to Western (American or British) culture and read fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel, the individual is most likely to form the impression that old maids in the West do indeed shove children in the oven or lock them up in the castles. The Western scholars’ treatment of the stories of beheading seen in the Hindu Puranic tales is similarly ludicrous. In short, the Western Indologists like Wendy find Hinduism difficult to comprehend in their familiar frame of reference, and therefore, create their own to give entirely new meanings that are not in vogue in the Hindu culture or translate words with the help of dictionary in a concrete manner. For example Wendy boldly translates ‘Dasa’ or ‘Dasyu’ as “slave.” Although it is an allowable translation as per the dictionary which was originally contributed to by the colonizing British who were familiar with the concept of “slaves,” there was no description of widespread slavery in India with trading of slaves on the block, etc., which is the Western frame of reference of a servant that is a property and is for sale. The recorded history of India shows that there never was slavery in India like there was in the West and especially in the U.S. Translating the word ‘Dasa’ as slave creates an entirely incongruent image of the Hindu past. She does this by using a very familiar Sanskrit word. The concept of servant is an entirely different issue. The word ‘DASA’ is more often culturally accepted as a role of a servant with humility and attitude of service towards the master, therefore, the name Ramadasa is a name that connotes pride in the individual for being close to Rama when he is named that way. It never occurs to a Hindu that it stands for a slave.

Similarly, many examples can be given from Wendy’s book which lacks vision while Wendy claims to have invented the double vision of the Hindus. She generalizes when she states that Hindus are fond of dichotomies, and live with mutually contradicting pairs of opposites throughout their past history and their view of their community. However, Wendy is indeed a one eyed cow among the blind cows and has unfortunately created hundreds of one eyed cows that have helped her write, and who have inspired her, in our opinion, with silly questions and silly comments that Wendy found intriguing and enriching, modestly admitting that she would not have come up with such ideas in a million years on her own. This is the new generation of ‘Wendians’ whom Wendy generously praises as contributors to her book. Some Indians believe that they could impart some new knowledge to Wendy and she will be willing to expurgate paragraphs that are offensive to them. This is not in Wendy’s nature. It is difficult to grasp what Wendy has to say and reading her book is like excavating a mountain to find a mouse. Even then one is not sure what one gets out of it other than the stink. For example one can look at what she has to say about highly regarded saint, Tukaram, of Maharashtra. Within one and a half page she has trashed him as someone who saw similarity of his relationship with his God and the relationship between a dog and his master. She lacks the appreciation of the poem as translation takes away all the rasas of the poem and it becomes a concrete collection of words. Her schizophrenic ambivalence towards Hinduism fills all 690 pages of her book, but the hatred is more predominant.

Another example is her literal translation of the word “Tapas” as “generating internal heat.” “A sustained effort to attain goals (mundane as well as spiritual) coupled with austerity” is the more commonly attached meaning to “tapas.” Wendy chooses a ludicrous translation that will amuse her Western readers making them believe that any culture or people who believe that it is possible build up “internal heat” to gain the capacity to send another human being to the heaven must be stupid and irrational. At least Vishwamitra tried to send only one poor soul, Trishanku, depicted by Wendy as the lower caste uncouth person, to heaven while the Christian Evangelists are routinely attempting to send thousands of Indians to heaven daily by converting them. She places her own spin on the words and stories to make them sound ludicrous.

She has unconsciously imitated Vishwamitra in an idiotic manner because according to her besides trying to send a downtrodden man to Heaven he set out to create a “Prati-srushti” meaning a mirror image Universe (like the isomers for molecules and ligands and receptors that match, etc., a concept well understood by the modern science but Wendy does not comprehend this concept of “alternative universe” either) and only tries to create an “alternative history” claiming that Vishwamitra tried to create an “alternative universe.” She either misses the boat every time or is living in her own peculiar world of images created by the translational flaws to which she is totally blind. There are examples galore of her impetuous distorted translations of the words either distorted deliberately or because of her unfamiliarity of the Hindu culture as is practiced and inculcated in the subsequent generations. She draws sweeping conclusions about what the stories she is analyzing mean. She attaches her own idiosyncratic meaning to the Puranic stories placing them in the Western frame of reference.

Attacking a group of people, Hindus as a whole, one billion people, and not just the people but also the faith they follow, and the columns upon which it rests (their scriptures), their history, their heroes, their idols and ego-ideals, and trashing them all almost on every page of the 690 pages of her book is the main agenda of this book. Any victim of racism in the US readily recognizes this book as a racist book. This, obviously a hostile attack, is designed to distort and systematically depict all one billion Hindus as violent people and intolerant because their scriptures are full of violence, or preaching and condoning violence, discriminatory of fellow human beings, women and animals, children included, and it is their faith that teaches them these evils. In reality Puranas are not considered the religious texts although the Puranic stories do illustrate some of the deepest philosophies of the Indian spiritual tradition. All these conclusions by Wendy are based on “analysis” of folk tales or Puranic tales, stories told for millennia by one generation to the other. She does not reveal if she has any scientific method for “narrative analysis” (as illustrated by Glaser and Strauss, or Strauss and Corbin, for example) but Wendy’s thesis is clearly to impress that Hindus are the sexual perverts, because they are the product of their faith or their Sanskrit language. According to her every Sanskrit word has at least three meanings, its original meaning, and in addition every word also stands for a God’s name, or for a term used to describe a position assumed during sexual intercourse. Such silly slanted statements fill this book. That Hindu faith, according to Wendy, is primarily worship of sex organs and sexuality. That is what is so accurately (!!) fathomed by this 70 year old Wendy after studying “Kamasutra and Tantras.” Needless to say that her preoccupation with sexuality would have as easily prompted her to interpret Physics and Chemistry too as an elaboration of nothing but symbolically representing sexual acts of humans as the protons and electrons create valance to make strong “bonds” and what could that mean but that the physicists’ and chemists’ minds are basically perverted. Freud called this “upward displacement.” She was inspired to write this book that can be named alternatively, “Wendy’s Hindu Kama Sutras.” The more appropriate title of the book should be “The Hindus: Wendy’s Alternate Agenda.”

The Alternative Agenda

Just like the Germans, according to Wendy, all Hindus are more like Nazis (except may be a few out of the mainstream, and only one or two may be different; incidentally, out of one hundred Ph.D. students she claims to have trained there was only one Indian to complete her/his Ph.D. Hindus will not consider her “great” although she might be regarded as such in her own culture just like she observes Alexander was not considered great in India, see below) and they cannot tolerate any non-Hindus and even Hindus that differ from them. If this caricature or criticism is taken at its face value, it propounds a view that Hindu society is one kind of a primitive society or a tribe which is “not human” or “less than human.” She makes a point that any generalization of Hindus cannot hold water. This is her profound insight which is quite correct and perhaps applies to any country with a population of one billion. If criticized for such generalizations when deployed by Wendy herself, however, Wendy’s defense is that she is not describing all the Hindus but only those whom she detests the most as the “Hindutva-vaadins” and the “higher caste Hindus,” especially “Brahmins” for whom she harbors intense animosity, who according to her, are the ones who wrote the history and the stories because they were the “victors.” She expounds her limited knowledge of Indian history from the Colonial paradigm projected on the ancient Indian history. There always has to be a colonizer victor and the colonized victim in her mind. There has to be a master and a slave.

Of course, Wendy’s curriculum vitae are as long as the proverbial Maruti's tail and she is protected by the so called scholastic organizations that provide her the impenetrable forts that were either built or conquered by the colonizers originally forming the disciplines of Indology reflecting “orientology” which later has trickled into the Departments of Religious Studies and Schools of Divinity and their prodigies.

It is an irony that such book demeaning, berating, and belittling Hindus is defended and marketed in an especially favorable article in a renowned newspaper of India that is pathetically named “The Hindu.” The Indian editor of “The Hindu” will praise the fragrance of the shoe polish when he is slapped with the shoes worn by Wendy. Even Mahatma Gandhi and his non-violence philosophy are not spared by Wendy. Swami Vivekananda, Wendy has divined, advocated that Hindus should eat beef, and the stupid non-vegetarian Hindus are quite unsuspecting if fed beef (Wendy does not use the word beef but calls it “cow flesh”) instead of mutton (goat meat), and she does not clarify, if beef is more expensive compared to goat meat, why would any restaurant owner feed them beef instead of mutton for the same price. Wendy has understood Hindus and Hinduism “very well” because she is the “foremost authority on Hinduism” (!) and the suppression of women and animals by Hindus is particularly worth exposing to the world according to her. This is peculiarly exclusively indigenous to India throughout the ages according to her and not anywhere seen in the world. She has not heard of the cattle prods (never used in India,) nor has she seen how cattle are transported in Europe in the freight trains and large trucks in the US nor has she seen the large slaughter houses and stock yards. None of these are abuse of animals. She seems to have never visited the large animal research labs all over the Western world, but she takes exception to the manner in which poor people scratch a living by using animals in India, and majority of them are, of course, Hindus. Kosher “animal flesh” is not from an animal sacrifice, nor the halal “animal flesh.” She goes into many pages of descriptions about animal sacrifices performed in ancient India (when there were only Hindus in India). With literal translations of the rituals involved in the ceremonies of animal sacrifice she makes the past come alive, arousing sympathies for the sacrificial animal that is suffocated before its sacrifice. Does smoke inhalation have a numbing or tranquilizing effect? Is it a more humane way of treating the animal, like passing the animals (in the United States) to their slaughter through spiraling passages to tranquilize them? History is interesting but focusing on the bizarre is her forte. Sitting in judgment is her earned privilege. She very well knows what is kosher and what is not when exercising freedom of speech but chooses to utterly override her own sensibility while inflicting deep hurt on the sentiments of one billion Hindus.
Whoever opposes her views is “a fundamentalist Hindu.” Her idea of Hindus and Hinduism is political and not at all religious or spiritual though she is divining her interpretation of the Hindu past in the School of Divinity who’s Dean has given her moral and financial support to write the book which is more political than spiritual. So the reader may be alerted that under the disguise of being a scholar of religious studies in the School of Divinity Wendy is promulgating her political agenda, as a leftist, and as a feminist. The stereotypical harping on the “suttee” (sic) does not escape her although the practice originated because of the rape of women routinely committed by the invaders who killed the Hindu kings in war, and is only a fact of historical curiosity as the practice was legally banned in the early 19th century, and rarely ever is seen in modern India just like blatant lynching is very rare in modern times in the US. However, the manner in which Wendy discusses this issue with great enthusiasm, one would think it is an everyday occurrence.
No such suppression and discrimination of such a large magnitude over many millennia is seen anywhere in the world is her thesis. This is the view she has inculcated among her one hundred Ph.D. prodigies who are taught comparative religions. Wendy has hundred students like Gandhari had hundred sons (Kauravas). Gandhari was espousing blindness by her own choice. Wendy too has blinded herself voluntarily to the realities of history. According to her no other country in this world has one billion disparate people that have some things in common like violence, intolerance, discrimination and suppression as innate qualities while largely functioning in illogical manner and practicing sexual perversions. The people called Hindus have their belief system based on their scriptures that are full of violence and contradictions, suppressions, discrimination of women, children and animals, intolerance towards other Hindus as well as non-Hindus and finally sexual perversions. Hindus are so intolerant and violent that all people that are different than Hindus are very unhappy and eager to find some safe haven outside of India. She does not wonder why they came to India in the first place and chose to settle down subsequently with such “hostile” and intolerant Hindus. She distorts the route chosen by Alexander the great through Hindukush Mountains as coming through the Himalayas and crossing five great rivers. She wonders why Alexander the great was not “great” in India. She does not explain why Hindus should consider him great; is it because he was white? She does not show knowledge of the fact that Alexander was defeated (most Western historians will take exception to this view, but it is a fact that after estimating the strength of the interior of India, its armies and number of elephants, he and his army decided to retreat but the story goes that his army refused to go along with him) and he decided to retreat and returned to Greece; and he did not cross five northern rivers of Punjab to invade India. There was nothing great about him for Indians for whom he was not any different than other Western plunderers. Which sane person in any culture calls a burglar who breaks into his house “the great”? That is the overall tone of Wendy’s “Alternative History of Hindus.” Alexander was a brutal general, poor administrator who killed several of his loyal associates on suspicion of conspiracy. The Greeks never accepted him as their king. He was a student of Aristotle from whom he learned nothing, as Bertrand Russell stated, certainly not the one Aristotle would be proud of. Yet, Wendy faults Indians and Hindus in particular for not recognizing Alexander as “Great.”

The “terrifying reality” of Hindu society is so well depicted in the Hindu mythology (fairy tales) that it is so very obvious to her. It should be transparent to all once so clearly pointed out by Wendy. Wendy is the freedom fighter for liberating the “others” among the Hindu society. She has given moksha (Ph.D.) to hundred students by guiding them to their Ph.D. She personally supervised attainment of moksha (Ph.D.) of one hundred students. Now she is on a mission to liberate the Dalits, Muslims and Women of India all whom she characterizes as pariahs. Little does she know that long before a “black” was elected to become a congressman or a Supreme Court judge in the US, the Indian constitution was written by a Dalit and there were Dalit members in the Indian Congress high command and in the cabinet advising the Prime minister of India!! There have been several Muslim Presidents of India and the most recent one was Abdul Kalam, one of the richest men in India is Premji who is a Muslim, and India has had a woman prime minister while the US has yet to elect a woman President, while the current President of India is a woman. Wendy is thoroughly confused by the gobbledygook of the Puranic stories but she is devoted to liberate the downtrodden “others” among the Hindus too. She, of course, has no explanation as to why there has been not one “white” mother Teresa in the ghettos of New York, Baltimore, or in the poverty stricken black communities of Louisiana or Mississippi, and of course, none like her in the “Indian Reservations” generously “donated” or given to the Native Americans after their virtual genocide.

In this context, on the surface, the following discussion is likely to be seen as an offensive frontal attack on the Western culture and its history. Attacking globally the most powerful population of the world or a race head on is not going to win any argument or friends as the feelings generated would sidetrack the reader to defend himself or his race and Western culture by creating a strong mental block rather than open his mind to a reasoning process. However, it is necessary to turn the tables to expose Wendy’s tactics. The following is in this context necessarily presented as a negative global depiction of the Western culture (if Wendy were to write such an alternative history of the Western Culture with generalizations galore, hypothetically seated in the Banaras Hindu University, imagine!). Such depiction is actually more realistic than Wendy’s depiction of the Hindus from Chicago, and therefore, potentially could arouse a stronger wrath in the West than is aroused among the Hindus by Wendy’s book. In spite of this risk, it is absolutely essential that one needs to take a close look at the origins of the likes of Wendy if not for her own background or development but the culture which she is a product of. This is essential because she has depicted Hindus as barbarians primarily because they do not follow the Judeo-Christian morality, logic, and ethic as conceptualized by her. The telescope she talks about can be turned 180 degrees for a telescopic vision of Wendy and her background, and so be it if it is offensive because Wendy loves to be offensive and abrasive and should have a sense of humor to look at herself and her culture.

The post-colonial pursuits of the European and Western countries are to subtly use commercial subjugation of the former colonies to continue the exploitation of world resources like natural, mineral, livestock, or human resources. The colonization has been an “addiction” (Wendy likes this word) for the Europeans and Western cultures for the last eight or nine centuries. Practice of slavery in one form or the other is their mode of survival and reason for their economic and other success as a culture. This requires the continued guiltless psychology of viewing the former colonies as made up of some inferior people that are defective in their moral fabric. The “Whiteman’s burden” mentality and the ever so often seen readiness to pontificate to the former colonies as to what they need to change about themselves, as if they do not have the basic capacity for self-examination or self-determination, is widespread in the people of European origin, even in an ordinary man on the street. Whiteman’s burden argument is often a rationalization for intrusiveness into other developing countries and their societies with impunity for colonial and post-colonial exploitation. These are the self-appointed consultants to the Eastern societies to bring about social, political or economic reforms. Commercial subjugation also thrives on demoralizing the “enemy” or the future “psychologically won over” subjects (not politically in terms of governing them). Large scale intellectual subversion of the colonies was designed by the colonizers and still continues as the tactic of the colonizers and their beneficiaries in the post-colonial era. Wendy may not be directly participating in this larger design which may be a conscious or unconscious psychological warfare. However, she as a phenomenon must be viewed from this larger perspective although it undeservingly elevates her into an “intellectual” as a politician or diplomat or a tool of such politicians and diplomats.

In reality, she should be viewed as an embarrassment to the University of Chicago, (though supported by her chair and the dean), who has a list of illustrious Nobel laureates to boast about. Wendy does not come anywhere close to their scholarship or in her contribution to world knowledge. Her book “The Hindus” is a travesty of scholarship, although she inundates it with references; she is primarily “making up her own things” that are many a time not at all present in the authentic references and this is a scholastic fraud. She has a perverted thinking habit and an obsession to sexualize nearly everything she sees which is quite appealing to sexually obsessed readership but appalling to others. However, with this titillating teasing Wendy is selling her intellectual subversion to a large population of India and to the world to continue the demoralization of the Hindus who have been exploited and demoralized for the last fourteen centuries. They have been the victims of Islamic terrorism and subjugation; and also, Western colonial oppression, and systematic intellectual subversion by many of the so-called Indologists and many Western scholars. The Western or American dependency on the natural resources in the Middle East (crude oil) and Afghanistan (minerals) necessarily leads to an ambivalent attitude towards Islam although the Palestinians and Iranians view Israel as their arch enemy and Wendy very well knows that there are close military ties developing between India and Israel especially between the Israeli Jewish and the Hindu population of India. To distract the Islamic Jihadis from the Israel’s political ambition as an American ally, Wendy (a crafty Jewish lady), perhaps feels that there is an obvious need to placate the Islamic forces by trampling on the Hindus publicly. There is most certainly a pay-off for Wendy somewhere in writing such scathing book.

While in the West the unwanted impulses are punitively thwarted or suppressed in early childhood with repressive upbringing, the unacceptable or unwanted groups in the society are likewise historically punitively oppressed, extruded, or eliminated with genocides, inquisitions, extrusions, or by simply enslaving them. The Eastern (Hindu) child rearing over the millennia has been accomplished with great tolerance of the childhood behaviors at least until the age of five, if not much longer and Hindu history shows no large scale oppression of “others” by design nor anything like the war of the cross and the crescent recorded in the history of the West. While there are, therefore, the negative effects of lack of discipline or regressive tendencies, and a love and liking for childhood ways sometimes found to be difficult to be given up in the growing up process, there is no widespread anger and hostility stemming from suppressing or repressing these childhood ways as is seen in the Western culture. In short Hindu culture does not groom its male children to be future soldiers to oppress or defeat enemies of their culture. The man or woman on the street in the West is generally unaware of this aggressive tendency, or killing instinct, in him/her compared to man/woman on the street in the East. There is a lot of unnecessary aggression the human beings harbor in the West because of these child rearing practices. Of course, this statement cannot be totally generalized. The preoccupation with shootings and killings in the cartoons, movies, and even in the streets of the West in certain gang infested areas, is a testimony for the violent traits in the society. Beheading was the only sure way of killing when there were no guns but it was not as popular and prevalent among the Hindus (as imagined by Wendy) as shootings is in the Western culture. In contrast, there is more tolerance in the Hindu psyche for regressive tendencies in the individual and also towards others in general and that also translates into tolerance for unconscious drives, cravings, and fantasies as reflected in the folklore Puranic stories. Having said that, it would be a major error if one would take it to mean that Indians or Hindus are not aware of the distinction between fantasy, dreams, and reality; and freely express these drives depicted in their folklore stories in real life without any societal or environmental restraints. Wendy would want her readers to believe that Hindus act out their “mythology” in real life every day and are inherently belligerent and violent people.

Wendy and her prodigies will, therefore, find Hinduism and Hindu culture very difficult to fathom. With all the aggression depicted in the folklore stories of the Hindus how do you explain comparatively most passive and peace loving culture on the face of the earth for many millennia in India?

The loftiest concept of Hindu culture, the maternal love, for which there is no unique and special word in the English language, was not fully understood by the Sanskritist Wendy. “Vatsa” is word for infant or offspring while the same word is also appropriate for a calf. The word Vatsalya for maternal love was translated by Wendy as “calf love” completely botching the concept. It is precisely the abundance of vatsalya that prevents the Hindu culture from becoming largely sociopathic and exploitative or predatory in nature. It is the vatsalya that makes Hindus more empathic and more tolerant of differences, and more able to understand and practice “ahinsa.” Wendy has missed the boat here again.

For Wendy these versions that depict or describe violence cannot be seen as espousing the contradictory “non-violence,” and therefore, to her most Hindu scriptures are uniquely, and unlike those of other religions, dishonest and disingenuous. She fails to see how the cross is a representation of an instrument of punitive torture and symbol of primitive form of execution of the criminals while it is not viewed as such even with the bleeding body of Jesus on the cross seen daily in Western ambiance, but on the contrary, the “cross” arouses feelings of compassion and love and agape in the spiritually oriented Christians no matter what such image may be doing to their Unconscious daily in terms of arousing castration anxiety, annihilation anxiety, guilt for their sins, etc. There are contradictions like that in all cultural symbols and religious literature especially more blatantly in Koran which is difficult to sell as propounding peace while preaching Jihad and annihilation of the non-believers; but that do not make the cultures or their valued scriptures taken out of context entirely disingenuous.

One explanation why the Indians did not conquer their neighbors far from their borders may be the vegetarian food habits in a predominantly agricultural country and the elaborate cuisine to which an Indian is “addicted” to, and cannot live without, making him less likely to leave home to conquer the world! These contented people opt to live in peace at home. (This is just a tongue-in-cheek comment, while the serious readers will quickly find other spiritual sources of inspiration for peace and nonviolence of the Hindus.) So, the Hindus have become tolerant of invaders, and accepted and assimilated them among themselves. In contrast, such pluralism and acceptance of differences and creating space for them in the society is not a very common or acceptable practice in the Western Indologist’s cultural background and for even in his/her ethic. The racism is deeply ingrained in him/her both in his conscious mind and his/her Unconscious, and is there in his/her bones and blood. Remember it is only in the last 100 years or so that the United States is barely demonstrating the broadminded acceptance of foreigners and strangers, and even of the pariahs in its own society, (may be only in the last 45 years really) while Indian Hindus have demonstrated it for several millennia. In spite of this fact though, nearly a century after the abolition of legal slavery, the “negroes” in 1939 had to drink from separate fountains and had to accept the “subjugation by the majority” right here in the U.S. until 1968 and even beyond. Even so Wendy is arrogantly faulting M. S. Golwalkar who is erroneously quoted by her (without stating that he was only the translator and not the writer of the book she claims he wrote or published in 1939) wherein he is quoted by her to be intolerant while claiming that Hindus were the most tolerant people, without regard to the historical context of the year 1939. Wendy was never a historian and does not claim to be one. She is only an "Altar-historian," sacrificing another culture and its history, botching it on her altar provided by the University of Chicago and Penguin Press. Wendy lacks historical perspective be it in gradual evolution of egalitarian attitudes in the world populations towards “others” or historical perspective of her own home country to be able to place history of India in a proper comparative perspective and also to discuss the status of women. She does not see it fit to examine the reforms effected by societal leaders to eradicate the social evils and take a comparative view of where a society was at what time and where it is now. She is not a social scientist. She has the same undesirable “holier than thou” “traits” that she projects upon the “Brahmins” in her imaginary picture.

In the medieval Europe epileptics were extruded into Epileptic colonies, the lepers were extruded into the leprosy colonies and the poor that were not in the poor houses were the serfs that needed to seek permission from their lords to marry or to even initiate their heterosexual relationships. There are no records of any serf women of Europe being scholars, let us make a point here, in contrast to thousands of Indian women over the millennia being recognized for their scholarship, for being poetesses, saints and even ruling queens. (Let us not even talk about the extrusion of hundreds of thousands of mentally ill in remote State hospitals, to be exhibited for a fee in the bedlams). The practice of serfdom was extant in Europe and also in Great Britain for nearly 16 centuries until the 19th century. Millions of psychologically unbalanced individuals were burned at the stakes in the medieval period by adjudicating them as witches and warlocks. This practice was sanctioned in the religious book, best seller second to the Holy Bible, a book that was widely read to learn to identify such deviants in the society. This book is now suppressed and the Western Indologists do not have any inkling in their conscious mind as to how these practices have influenced their social behaviors. “Malleus Maleficarum” was part of the Western culture and it came with the pilgrims to New England where witches were routinely burned in Salem, Massachusetts. The society was thus made more homogenous in Europe and in North America by eliminating “others” in Wendy’s language, by driving the Native Americans (or “American Indians” ) into their uninhabitable reservations through widespread suppression and violence (“Trail of Tears”), and segregating the Negroes later called “Blacks,” with no “Chainman’s chance” to the Chinese, and by keeping signs on all businesses saying “NINA” meaning “No Irish Need Apply,” but all these societal evils including the lynching and blatant exclusions such as towns posting signs “no Negro shall spend a night in this town”, etc. were examples of racial and other discrimination and women were not any better treated fighting for their rights to vote, (but thank God there were no “caste,” or “suttees (sic)”in the West and not certainly in the US, nor untouchables or Dalits in the American culture, as obviously implied by superior Wendy, who cannot see the castes in the Western culture nor the Dalits in the West, and if there were, they were not there “to be not touched” because they were killed and eliminated, so where was the question of touching them? It was not a crime to kill a slave. If the slaves after the abolition of slavery were still living, they were still drinking water from different faucets and using separate toilets, sat in the back of the buses and did not eat with the white folks until 1968, legally segregated long after “untouchability” was banned in India in 1947 and all temples in India were legally opened to the then Dalits while no blacks were ever seen in the White churches which needed to be integrated by law before integrating the schools in the 1960’s. Wendy has no bleeding heart for her own downtrodden. To Wendy, as a historian, dead populations resulting from genocides are not to be remembered as the downtrodden of the Western culture (except perhaps the Jewish) but Dalits are seen as the particular victims of a social evil, of course, not considered justifiable as a practice in any culture admittedly by majority of Hindus at least since 1940’s, it may still be less vicious than subjecting large populations to genocides as was practiced in the Western world. Wendy has no tears for them nor any historical or geographical perspective on contemporary man’s inhumanity to man.

Only a century ago there were open town hall debates to settle the issue of “Do Negroes have a Soul?” If they did not have Souls by consensus in debate, then for the perverted religious leaders of the predatory majority (whites) they were like the animals and would not have a place in either the heaven or the hell, and of course, therefore, could be exploited without guilt for their labor just like animals were with full moral support of the Church. Wendy most obviously belongs to such entitlement oriented self-serving tradition of “white man” being created by God to be the master of the Universe, master of all non-whites, and also the master of the animal world. Such conscious or unconscious racist tendency still extant in the conservative minds in the West leads to intolerance of differences among people and their different traditions. Walter Cronkite describes such prevalent racist attitudes in his autobiographical documentary. Let us not delude ourselves into believing that it was all “once upon a time.” Such racist attitude exudes throughout Wendy’s malicious book.

Under such cultural backdrop, Wendy, a product of this negatively depicted culture in Chicago, with an upbringing in the pre-1968 American culture, needs to be seen as another bigot like Paul Courtright of Emory, in Georgia, whose escapades into interpreting Shri Ganesha’s nature and his legends with fraudulent scholarship were examined and exposed by this author a few years ago in an article, “Prof. Paul Courtright’s Pseudo-psychoanalytic Depiction of Shri Ganesha: Scholarship or Bigotry?” Cross-cultural vandalism by these scholars seems to have an anal sadistic (the cluster of personality traits such as aggressiveness, negativism, destructiveness, and outwardly directed rage typical of the anal stage of development ...) quality and their aggression comes through very loud and clear. It does meet the psychological need of those in their Abrahamic cultures that are constantly trying to berate other cultures that do not fit in their mould. These people no longer have the previously available whipping dogs to displace their anger and bigotry upon. As “addicts,” for such sadistic displacement and world class bullying, they have no other choice but now to find other substitute convenient objects like Hindus to be subjected to similar treatments as they doled out with impunity to their underdogs previously for centuries and that aggression is still not out of their systems. Such demeaning aggression towards Hindus and verbal abuse of Hindu goddess in public which was utterly disrespectful, with in fact unjustifiable comments about her, (Sita), in England invited an egg which could have been worse if Wendy’s aggression was directed at Islam which Wendy has no courage to attack even with her superior sense of humor and freedom of speech. This attitude of berating blatantly as well as subtly all respected characters in the Hindu history is a sport for Wendy. She says the most respected Indian Emperor Ashoka was “shameless” because he admitted he had spies. So in her view the US President who would admit that he has access to Home Land Security, CIA, FBI, Secret Service, or other key informants, foreign policy advisors, and consultants would also be shameless!! May be if it were a white President he should not be viewed in this light? Lokamanya Tilak a freedom fighter who demanded self-rule (swarajya) from the British and spent 14 years in British jail as a political prisoner for a civil offense, (absent any criminal charges filed on him), for exercising his freedom of speech. He is described by Wendy as “militant” obviously siding with the views of the colonizing British, although even the British did not characterize him as militant.

The Indian immigrants, mostly Hindus, are also a threat not only because of their achievements but also because of their more tolerant and pluralistic culture basically viewed in the West as non-compatible with the alleged “superior monotheistic” ethic and the religions of the “book.” Wendy, in spite of belonging to an ethnic group (Jewish) that is considered an enemy and not worthy of existence on the face of the earth by the Muslims, has a strange affinity for this inimical culture to side with it (as her long lost Abrahamic brothers) (identification with the aggressor) and to attack Hindu culture in her book (displacement).
In effect, ideologically she is no different than the Jihadi Islamists that are intolerant of other societies while oblivious to their own societal evils. This form of narcissism (in common parlance the “racist or racial supremacist attitude”) manifested by standing on a pedestal to tear apart the moorings of other cultures is the order of the day for most of the Colonial and Post-Colonial British, American, and Western Indologists and the so-called Cultural Anthropologists who claim to be scholars of Indian culture but lack the basic knowledge of the cultural norms and nuances. They spread and feed such racist world-views in their own society making a common man reading their views also a racist, although racism is already in the genes of the “white man.” (In the manner which Wendy views Hindus as close to Nazis, could there, may be, just one or two as exception to the mainstream?) That creates their jaundiced view of Hindu culture. For Wendy she must be identifying with the victims of Holocaust and has grown up with a persecution complex and now she herself has a deep need to persecute, but not the Muslims, as they would be formidable enemies, nor the vanquished Nazis, -- while the Hindus are a soft target for her, her friends and her students at the University of Chicago, Harvard and Oxford and other universities where she has planted her students like at Emory. So, Wendy’s psychology in writing her book “The Hindus” is transparent to those who can wonder why a scholar of her stature would put out a book written by her students and compiled by her with such poor scholarship, poor editing for checking out the references, and compromising of intellectual integrity at this juncture in the world history. She is stooping down to the elementary school second grader teasing, taunting, and poking style, ridiculing and humiliating people of another large civilized culture without any sensitivity, or even consciousness that the same tactic would make her own culture look so grotesque when as described above just to turn the tables on her. Wendy’s undignified posture justifiably invites such sharp criticism of her Western culture. She translates Chanakya (a celebrated writer on civil polity) as chickpea. The word chanaka means chickpea. This is a low blow to a most celebrated ancient Indian scholar of economics. Do the word dog and niggard together make Donigar or is it do and nigger? What kind of scholarship is that?
Hindu social customs take full cognizance of human cravings and desires which may be even antisocial at times. Dr. Bose recognized this and pointed out that the Hindu society provides outlets for these with appropriate safeguards. For example intoxicants are not sanctioned in the Hindu society and most “sabhya”s (respectable) or socially elite will not be seen intoxicated in the public and are looked down upon if indulging in intoxicating substances even in their private life. Yet, on one particular day a year (Holi) he or she can legitimately allow himself/herself to be intoxicated on alcohol or “siddhi” (bhang) and not only that, everyone will be encouraged to taste at least a small quantity of the intoxicating substance. There is no social guilt as this is a socially accepted ritual and the behaviors resulting from these are also particularly contained in a generous manner. It is important to understand the stories related to Suras and Asuras getting intoxicated on Soma in this sense, in that there is no pandemonium created every minute by such misdeeds, but this is a controlled release of tension when there is a conflict between the “good” (suras) and “bad” (asuras) tendencies in the individual. Suras and Asuras are metaphors for the intra-psychic struggles. Likewise on Holi or Rangapanchami day the childhood impulses to smear the body with colors are given expression to and this sublimation becomes a play or regression in the service of the ego. No one thinks about filing a criminal case of assault and battery if friends and sometimes even strangers spray colored water on people on that day. The impulse to spray water is a childhood drive everyone is familiar with but it finds socially acceptable channel for adults in India every year. The impulse to steal or gamble may also be given societal acceptance on a particular day of the year. In the fairy tales or Puranic tales there is an expression of all unconscious drives recognizing the true human nature which has to be socialized and civilized to form the cultured civilizations (in other words, “Sansktitized” as in the real meaning of the word, which has no relationship with the word “Sanskrit” used for the language as interpreted by Sanskritist Wendy, who has “donigarized” the meaning of “sanskritization”. The “upward mobility” through education, acculturation, economic uplifting, socialization, and refinement can be seen in all societies whether they are caste based or not and M N Srinivas, a sociologist, was the first one to observe this in India even within the caste system and described this phenomenon.)

Suffice it to say that just different people with different languages and cultural differences are accommodated through the caste system providing structure to maintain social identity and the human behaviors are regulated with ingenuity in Hindu culture. There was a baggage of good (boon) and bad (bane) that came with such societal structure. There is overall greater tolerance for different attires, or even lack of attires, different levels of education, culture, languages, and there is a place for everyone meaning their identity is protected for millennia. In contrast there is an aggressive drive to destroy the different cultures, people of different color, and customs, etc. in the Western culture and to destroy their identity and pride. The competitiveness and killing instinct is often rewarded in the herd psychology of racism. This has been accomplished by widespread sexual abuse and psychological castration of the enslaved people, vanquished populations, etc. diluting their biological, racial, and ethnic identity instead of providing a safe “space” in the society to protect their pride, culture, ethnic identity, language, and customs and even food habits as is provided in the caste system which is the positive aspect of a caste system as against its negative aspects. This is not said to deny the banes or social evils in the Hindu society, but to point out that widespread sexual attack on the people of different races and their elimination with violent means exemplified in the Western culture historically is not a superior adaptation to differences when compared to relatively a far benign institutionalized caste system which is indisputably more humane although bashed daily or on many Sundays in the Christian Churches in the West that have perpetrated monumental human misery on the “inferior” and helpless even children as recently discovered throughout the last two millennia or have turned a blind eye when the “other” downtrodden were being abused. Wendy would like to depict the Hindus as morally bankrupt while not recognizing the moral bankruptcy in her own culture.
This concept of place and space for everyone is the basis of “ahinsa” that leads to “live and let live attitude” “be and let be” attitude not only towards other human beings but also towards the animals. In those days when there was no mass communication, no radios, no TV.s, no news papers, no editorials, etc. Hindu society maintained remarkable order and had at least two stretches of as long as continuous 800 years of peace and prosperity. India was the richest country boasting 44% percent of the world export of goods and products until 1752 since when the British systematically killed this trade superiority of one of the richest countries in the world. This non-exploitative affluence of India was possible because of the cultural memories being passed on with the stories that sometimes had a few historical facts but mostly wisdom to cope with different eventualities and give meaning to individual and collective societal lives. In ridiculing these cultural treasures of the Hindus as trash, including the characters depicted in them as disingenuous, Wendy is projecting her own sadistic erotic character on these stories and has grossly misinterpreted them in her attempt to demoralize Hindus. While the pro-social aspects and ego-ideals and superego images in these stories were appealing to many and helped mold their characters for millennia, the id material in the Puranic stories was helpful in dealing with the Unconscious. The latter, the drives and conflicts in the Id, were not blatantly expressed nor acted out. However, Wendy’s obsession with this Id material in the Puranic stories qualifies her for a distinction as “the Id-ball.” That is the only psychoanalytic viewpoint she has, that is to see the dirt in the Id

Likewise the so widely misinterpreted concept of “swadharma” needs to be clarified. Swadharma may be translated as “one’s own code of life”. Allowing oneself to follow swadharma entails respect for the others to follow their swadharma and the freedom afforded to them. This concept makes the Hindu society more tolerant and pluralistic. The tribe that climbed a mountain in the nude for a special pilgrimage in a no man’s land in India far away from the civilized world (berated by Wendy as if it is a sexual orgy) with their pristine spiritual love for their mother figure goddess cited by Wendy as a bizarre instance is better than the perverted nudist colonies in the West. Yet their devotion does have a profound spiritual meaning because when born to one’s mother everyone is naked and nudity in this instance has no sexuality attached to it, but Wendy would see every infant born nude as an “exhibitionist infant” projecting her own Unconscious on even an innocent newborn. Obviously the once a year nude Dalits (she described) too were Hindus and had more spiritual sense than Wendy has with unwavering love for their Goddess whom they called Amba (mother). It was their swadharma that they wanted to follow without interference by the outside idiots who did not understand their innocent spirituality and love for their Mother. It is only in India such freedom could have been afforded by this so called oppressed people, oppressed by the Hindus!! What is interesting is that though presenting as the friend of the downtrodden, Wendy does not spare any section, caste, gender, (even the eunuchs), or non-classified Hindus from her belittling, judgmental treatment, showing total lack of empathy for human beings and their plight. This is strikingly not compatible with psychoanalytic non-judgmental attitude expected in a scholar of her stature.

Swadharma can be further defined as a “code of life that is in consonance with one’s own nature and also with the demands of the society in which one lives.” A Western scholar who has not totally grasped these concepts experientially by living for long periods of time in India will be ill-equipped to critically analyze the Hindu society of the past or present. Wendy has hardly stayed for one continuous year in India. Wendy Doniger and her students belong in this category of scholars who are ill equipped to be objective and nonjudgmental about the workings of a foreign culture, especially in regards to India. In particular their treatment of India is an extension of their pejorative view of India as a colonial “cow, curry and caste culture” with now added new stereotypes, “suttee, phallus, sexual perversions, horses, monkeys and Wendy’s dogs” and everything they write seems to be an elaboration of the same old –same old-- themes they have introjected as taught in their Churches or Synagogues or by their narrow minded teachers in their schools for decades if not for centuries. They begin their study with unhealthy Colonial curiosity to feel superior by demeaning other cultures and not to understand them, and most definitely have a voyeuristic drive to view others as if they are another species of the animal world with possibly some different sexual behaviors they want to investigate and stimulate themselves with. Their high school education as well as Undergraduate education teaches them very little respect for other cultures and even a “C minus student” thinks he has really learned something “big” when he writes a paper about the Zoroastrians with an introductory judgmental sentence like, “these are the people who leave their relatives’ bodies to be eaten by vultures” or “Hindus are the people who burn their dead relatives,” “Hindu women wear a red dot on their forehead which stands for the blood of their enemies killed by their husbands.” I have not seen their professors and teachers rebuke them for such unsavory introduction of other cultures in their opening remarks in the essays and papers. How would it sound if a young man in China or the Far East writes, “Americans are the people who beat up on their slaves and lynch them regularly on the branches of trees,” or “Americans in the mid-west settle their disputes by shooting at one another.” “The holy cow” amusement was easily dispelled when an American was confronted with the idea as to how he would like to have his dog stolen for serving its dog meat (“flesh” in Wendy’s terminology) on the table. He readily agreed that the pets are not for the table food when he learned that cows owned by Hindus are pets and have names. Such strange attitudes towards other cultures prevail in the conscious and unconscious minds of the Western scholars despite their scholarship and academic learning of a foreign culture. This is in spite of the claim by some of them that they are enlightened by psychoanalytic insights.

The next issue is placing Wendy in a proper perspective as related to her knowledge of Sanskrit in particular and the knowledge of Sanskrit among the Western Indologists in general. They are the one eyed cows among the blind ones. This is not to deny that there have been some authentic scholars of Sanskrit among the Westerners. However, like any other language there has to be familiarity with the current and past usages of words and phrases. Unless the context and the contemporary meanings of the words are thoroughly understood, a mere literal translation of Sanskrit words or Bengali words or any Indian language does not do justice to the Indian (Hindu) literature in Indian languages or in Sanskrit. A blatant example of such abuse even in the English language would be to say what Whitman meant to say was that in the state of spiritual exhilaration he let out gas from his rectum because he used the then extant word “flatus” in his poem. This word had a different meaning in different context then in the mid 1800’s for the Quakers, which then meant spiritual exhilaration; and such homonyms are ubiquitously spread throughout Sanskrit literature. The same words with two different meanings or many different meanings can be strung together in a sentence in Sanskrit to give two entirely different interpretations of the same sentence. It is such a rich language that one poet has actually written the whole two epics in one and the same poetry using the same words. With such a rich language, a mere Ph.D. in Sanskrit even from “Harvard” does not make one a real Sanskritist (or Sanskrit pundit,) but that is what they are called in the West because they have a doctorate in Sanskrit. They will not pass in Indian Sanskrit academia as Sanskritists merely because they can translate some texts or critique them in the English language. Having said that, it should be clear, Wendy leaves much to be desired to become an authentic Sanskritist. She does not seem to grasp that M. N. Srinivas was referring to “Sanskriti” and not Sanskrit when he coined the word “Sanskritization.”

So thus far we have sound reasons to believe that Wendy Doniger cannot be qualified to interpret Indian culture nor can she be seen as qualified to comprehend Sanskrit texts including the Puranas although she and her students demonstrate exhaustive scholarship of the Hindu religious texts probably from secondary sources. In spite of their erudition their grasp of the history of India is relatively poor and Wendy has taken to rewrite some historical events in her own way as illustrated by her treatment of Alexander the great. So, one need not be too impressed with her academic status in the University of Chicago to clearly view her book, “The Hindus,” as an embarrassment for even Western scholars.

All of the above assertions will be amply illustrated by many other scholars who have critiqued her book.

Real danger of Wendy’s tales

This now brings us to the issue of interpreting fairy tales or Puranic tales and giving appropriate meaning to them that does justice to their utility in their home culture. These stories may not have much meaning or significance in other cultures, and therefore, may not have much value in reaching the Unconscious in other cultures. However, some of them do speak to the entire human race. These tales and even the epics of India actually have many meanings and the “truths” they illustrate are not seen in normal reality or normal causality. These are some truths in our imagination. They are not to be analyzed with logic, looking for fallacies, like Wendy does. Doniger does not realize that no sane Indian believes that these stories describe the current world or even the world in the remote past, realistically. There is a Shabdartha (literal meaning), Garbhitartha (Implied meaning, between the lines so to say), Matitartha (or the essential meaning), Goodhartha (deeper meaning), and even Gupitartha (secret meaning) in the Sanskrit literature and in the Puranic stories and in the Indian folklores. There is also an “Aadhyatmic” meaning gently arousing curiosity about one’s current spiritual attainments and future directions to be taken by each individual. They are like the puzzles presented by the Zen masters. The stories are also called “Divya Kathas” because they are designed to give more spiritual insights or enlightment.

Like in other languages there is the figure of speech (“alankaric” language) which has vyanga (caricature), atishayokti (exaggerations), upama (similes), etc. and words are chosen to create many different “rasas,” (the tones or styles that create the predominant mood or taste) “nava rasas” “nine rasas.” These are usually “shanta” for peace, “rudra” for rage, “shrungara” for love and Eros, “bhaya” for fear, “vismaya” for wonder, “hasya-vinoda” for humor, “bibhatsa” for disgust, “karuna” for tragic mood and compassion, “veera” for heroism, etc., and one of these may be described as “adbhuta” meaning “surreal.” The tales passed on from generation to generation have to preserve primarily this surreal quality of enchantment for the listeners to keep their attention and to memorize them, in addition to retaining the other “rasas” which make these stories interesting for subsequent generations. By necessity they are illogical, and therefore, fascinating but not for Wendy, who is interested in extracting a “vipareeta,” meaning eccentric, connotations.

Wendy seems to think that these stories are reflection of history, not so, unless we interpret “Georgy porgy kissing the girls and making them cry” as a historic documentation of promiscuity of one King George, and “we all fall down with pocketful of posies” as the historical documentation and proof positive of the epidemic of plague in England. Her logic that the stories have a “smoke” and Wendy knows how to find the truth of the historic fire in these stories after loudly claiming she is not trained as a historian makes Wendy a disingenuous scholar. This is transparent right in the first ten pages of her book. She has a farfetched convoluted long argument to interpret the word “itihasa” as stories of “it is like it was” and therefore, according to her she is taking Puranic stories as the raw material to write the alternative history of the Hindus. This is a mega-rationalization in her premise.

The problem is that these stories were never contemporary as is clearly implied in the title “Puranas” which figuratively means, “Once upon a time”, “long long time ago,” “In days of yore and many times and tides long gone,” “In olden times when wishing still helped one….,” such beginnings are not uncommonly seen in fairy tales. Puranic stories often start with reference to once upon a time in the Nimisha-aranya (or Naimisha-aranya). Nimisha is a mall unit of time. Aranya is a forest. The memory lane is a forest of such time units of experience and culture tries to preserve these memories as stories but the listener understands these as psychological truths and not historical realities. Wendy commits a blunder when she tries to interpret these stories literally. The child or a simpleminded devotee who reads these stories is more concerned with getting the right side and wrong side (dharma and adharma to the extent he/she can comprehend these concepts, not as Wendy would like to define these concepts with her Judeo-Christian morality in linear time) clear in his mind and not interested in the logic. Sometimes the stories deliberately leave ambiguity about the good and bad leaving an individual to project his/her unconscious onto the story. This happened plenty to Ramayana in the hands of the so called Dravidian zealots in Tamilnadu. Likewise one will find a temple of Duryodhana on the foothills of the Himalayas. Every pillowcase can be turned inside out, so also the stories depending on with which character the listener’s mind will identify the most.
These stories have an enchantment for the human mind because they are closer to the primary process thinking of childhood when wishes come true, parts can appear and disappear, one can have more parts than endowed by nature, people can disappear (die) and appear (come back to life), etc., and facts, fiction, fantasy, dreams, reality, past, present, and future blend into one clearly comprehensible whole for the rational and coherent ego to exercise its synthetic function and these stories stimulate curiosities in the child’s mind. Critiquing these with logic, finding fallacies in these stores is a futile exercise. These stories do not literally influence the mainstream culture, not any more than “Alice in Wonderland” influences any modern sane five year old girl to chase a rabbit far enough to lose sight of her mother. The amount of cathexis (investment of mental energy) Wendy has invested in these stories and quoted them left and right, fast and loose, in her book indicates that she either wants to believe that these Puranic stories have really shaped Hindu culture or she is “doli capaces” meaning capable of mischief. The mischief is obvious to all who understand Hindu culture and that is she is trying to create condescendingly a different reality to condemn Hinduism using the stories told by the Hindus themselves which is not a reality for the Hindus. In a sense, she may be partly right that she may indeed be “creating an alternative history.” But, it is not a reality and, therefore, not a “history” at all as related to real events, except in Wendy’s own farfetched imagination. It is an outright denigration. Her book is primarily fiction masquerading as non-fiction.

Yet her position, and positive transference to her in that position of authority, created by marketing her as the world’s foremost authority on Hinduism, will create an illusion for the readers. She would be more honest if she were forthright at the outset about this extensive liberty with reality she has taken and distortions she has woven into her work of fiction. Her study and description of Hindu society, its history and culture are her Unconscious projections like on a Rorschach card. (Rorschach cards are only meaningless inkblots on which a subject under psychological testing projects his past and unconscious perceptions thus giving insight to his testing psychologist into his deeper thinking and feeling style.) Even as it is, knowledgeable people will trash her book. But, it will have an appeal for those who have flimsy boundaries between dreams, fantasy, rational thoughts, and reality. For them it will be an interesting reading, more of an entertainment than factual account especially if they have no familiarity with Hindu culture or tradition. It will be like reading about India depicted by Rudyard Kipling. However, for the sane people it will be extremely boring. The anal sadism will be clearly disgusting for many, except for those who are entirely on her wavelength. Cross-cultural vandalism, and overt and disguised attacks, demeaning and disparaging remarks paragraph after paragraph, in her satire on Hinduism will tire the reader with nothing to take home except a well entrenched feeling that Hindu culture and Hindus are denigrated and may be they really are all totally stupid and evil. Their history stinks with many unacceptable practices which are still in vogue all over India. Human rights and animal rights activists still have their work cut out for them to reform the Hindus and their ways. There are no doubt many indisputable dark side of human nature Wendy has picked up in the historical documents about the Hindus of the past and many irrationalities in the present Hindu society. However, that is not say that Hindus in general are not seeking justice for members of their own society, and Hindus are totally oblivious to human rights issues. It is as if Wendy has exposed Hindus with their pants down. This is most readable for those who want to believe that all Hindus are in reality exactly as depicted by Wendy, irrational, bizarre in their views and practices, and generally most unjust as a society. Wendy would have been better received by Hindus if she had shown awareness of comparative study of social evils in many societies both past and present. Every culture can be seen with a “double vision” and has its face and a rear. One does not have to go but a few blocks from the White House to see the other side of Washington that is not quite as flattering. However, scholars like Wendy are cultural proctologists that are addicted to the “other” side.

The danger of such books is exactly what Wendy would want to avoid and that is something like the persecution of the Jews. Such “kick the butt” psychosis in popular books though leading to more quotes and citations in the literature for her academic advancement and recognition of her peers, actually feeds into the need to persecute some people. These people can have mob mentality when instigated by the likes of Wendy and lack the capacity to have empathy for “others” which Wendy claims to have. Wendy’s book could potentially lead to persecutory psychology in some elements of Western as well as Indian society because her writing will be interpreted by those sections of the society as inflammatory and instigating rage and hostility in them towards the “fictitious” “Hindus” depicted by Wendy, with deliberately distorted erroneous depiction of Indian history and society. Adding fuel to fire is an “addiction” of Wendy Doniger in her old age. She cannot be seen as an innocent scholar of Indian culture and society which is 85% Hindu. She can potentially inflame the minorities that have to learn to be democratic in their methods of seeking egalitarian treatment which the Indian constitution provides for. Describing the 85% Indian Hindus as not respectful of their own constitution is another unfair blatant attack on Hindus whose “secular” nature, in spite of their overall lower educational level, she has totally failed to understand.

Freud and Marx

While claiming to use Freud’s lens to look at Hindu “double vision,” she loses view of the fact that Freud had immense respect and empathy for individual human beings and a great decency in appreciating other cultures as products of conscious and unconscious processes that the entire human race shared, with no monopoly of “superiority” in one race or one culture over the other, whether he were based in Vienna, London, or Chicago. Wendy has no such empathy for individuals nor for other cultures she seems to strive to learn about. Wendy does appreciate some positives in the Hindu culture, just a few after spending a life time studying it, but shows very little hope for it. Wendy cannot hold a candle to Sigmund Freud. As for Marx his paradigms are primarily for the industrialized societies and although he had great hope for India (entirely possible in the present market realities), his views are neither studied nor considered important by this writer to critique Wendy who only plays a leftist from her comfortable armchair in Chicago in a capitalist country enjoying all its benefits showing crocodile tears for the poor and discriminated in India as viewed by her in her own peculiar interpretation of the Indian history and the current events of India. She has no solutions for the Indian or Hindu problems. The problems she illustrates are well known already and not at all caused by the Hindus, their religion, the scriptures, but to a large extent caused by their unfortunate history of subjugation by divide and rule colonizers and their successors whom Wendy herself represents and sympathizes with. Neither Freud nor Marx had divined ways to get rid of the racist attitudes represented by her. The attitudes reflected in this book will not change short of ten years of psychoanalysis by a Hindu analyst for kinky Wendy. As regards the Hindus as a society they are a work in progress, they know about their age old problems and heaven knows Hindu society needs many reforms. Just like the true ideals of the US constitution, all reforms in any society take time to evolve, get widely accepted, and implemented uniformly and universally in any country. Sitting on a high horse (an animal frequently favored by Wendy including her choice for the book cover) Wendy’s eagerness to start a revolution against the Hindus in India by the “others” is a reflection of her dangerous psychotic grandiosity, with ill-placed racial moral superiority, while Hindus of India as also in the United States will and are changing for the better at the elephant’s pace like many other societies in the world, gradually assuming more social and civic responsibilities. Hindus have not lacked any of the lofty qualities found in any other culture but the abject poverty and the psychology of deprivation (as against Galbraith's Psychology of Affluence) has played a havoc on Hindu society and culture historically over at least the last millennium with foreign subjugation and exploitation. It is precisely that which needs to be stopped rather than encouraged by the books like Wendy’s. Hindu society shows great promise to bounce back and recover from the abuse and terrorization by the “others” which Wendy has totally failed to see. The Hindu resilience is difficult to fathom. If anything, the rage and outrage spurred by Wendy’s book should inspire Hindus to unite and progress in every field of life.


Wendy seems to perfunctorily recognize (on page 653) that stories representing “bhakti” in the late Puranic tradition constitute a world of unlimited good, an infinitely expansible source of meaning. The monotheistic tradition is more congruent with the “bhakti” tradition and it is understandable that Wendy feels condescendingly compelled to give some credit to this aspect of Hinduism. Then she goes on to state that her book is designed to counteract the misconceptions of most Americans by making them aware of the richness and human depth of Hindu texts and practices, and an American interlocutor is often the best person to build that bridge (obviously referring to Wendy’s self appointed role). Even so, the book claiming to do this very thing falls short of its goal. It neither has an overt message of glorifying Hinduism neither can any reader miss the underlying massive discrediting of or defamation of Hindus and Hinduism. This observation cannot escape an American or Non-American reader.

The summation of the book in the chapter titled “Inconclusion” (sic) says very little about “the Hindus” and only philosophizes about the role of history with some exhortation about the use and abuse of history, as if Wendy’s book will be selected as an authentic book on Hindu history or is already recognized as one.
The essence of Hinduism or Hinduness (Hinduta) * is lost in this book which trivializes both the Hindus and Hinduism. Wendy does not seem to address the essence which according to this reviewer can be summarized as follows:

1. Hinduism does not address anyone as Hindus and it certainly does not ordain them (any group) to be Hindu. In Hindu tradition all ideas and concepts expounded by various schools of thought, which incidentally have evolved over millennia, and none of which are carved in stone not to be questioned or tested as to their applicability at any one time, place, or situation, (Desha, kala, paristhitee), are all meant for the choice of the individual (hence there is no dogma). Once the individual chooses the idea and concept that he/she prefers, he/she has further choice to accept it, critique it, expand upon it, or even to form modified or entirely new concept. All these are sincere efforts of the human intellect (dhee) in attempting to seek true knowledge. Each individual is free to choose his/her own path. See “Dhee: The Essence of Hinduness” on . All Hindu scriptures are suggestively directional in nature or only guidelines, and not a set rules or conditions to make anyone a member of a sectarian group. “DHEE,” the inner conscience and deeper intelligence, both cognitive and emotional, is a guide. See “Dhee: Essence of Hinduness Part II” on .

2. Hindus like any other society organize themselves in different groups with differing identities based upon their choice of faith. There is no acrimonious animosity among them (except occasionally among some of them) and individuals can move from one affiliation to the other as many of these “Sampradayas” are respectful of one another. Recent efforts in the 20th century to bring all of the Hindu sections of society together under an “ecumenical” umbrella have been peculiar to the last century that needs no knocking down by likes of Wendy who come from the Western culture where such large multimillion strength organized religions are an order of the day including their authoritarian religious leaders. Such need not be the monopoly of the Western religions. By the same token it is a gross error to presume that any such organization of the Hindus will prefer to have a Pope like authority and will cause the loss of basic freedom to think and act afforded by Hinduism as described in the paragraph 1 above.

3. Many great Western scholars before Wendy have recognized the greatness of Hinduness (Hinduta) (*erroneously translated as Hindutva instead of Hinduta. By common current usage the word Hindutva actually is a political concept and stands for “Hindu-rashtratva” “Hindu-rashtriyatva” or Hindu Nationalism which is an entirely different concept. This confusion is not clarified by Wendy.) They include Emerson, Whitman, Einstein, Oppenheimer, Schopenhauer, Voltaire, Goethe, etc., all of whom seem to have admired Hindu philosophy and literature, and of course, not all of them were oblivious to the ways Hindus practiced their traditions in reality. A scholar may point out some weaknesses and irrationalities as well as social evils seen in another culture and also the inconsistencies, yet sneering at everything Hindu while trivializing all contributions by Hindus and their leaders and ridiculing to demean and humiliate them in a vindictive manner is Wendy’s mission in her “magnum opus” (!) on the Hindus. Her sadistic and sarcastic treatment of the subject matter sets her apart from all previous serious authors on this subject, besides her tendency to slip into sexual innuendos on almost every page. Such treatment does not deserve the attribute of scholarship.

Acknowledgement: The author gratefully acknowledges the valuable suggestion by Dr. Vijaya Rajiva and significant editorial contributions by Drs. Guru Ganesan and Seshachalam Dutta.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Sanatana Dharma - The Path to Eternal Knowledge, Consciousness and Bliss



Amit Banerjee

Also see Chitra Raman's review of Chapter 10 "VIOLENCE IN MAHABHARATA"

(Published as is without editorial scrutiny by Sookta-Sumana Editor)

As an active and practicing follower of the ancient Sanatana Dharma (Eternal Religion) of India, better known to the world as Hinduism, I feel that it is my duty to protest wholeheartedly the sarcastic and disdainful presentation of one of the world’s great faiths in the book entitled “The Hindus: An Alternative History” by Wendy Doniger.

As an example, in chapter 14 the author deals most arrogantly and whimsically with the early Puranic literature as she completely misses the point of the Puranas so clearly stated in the most celebrated and well known Srimad Bhagavat Maha Purana (which the author totally neglects in order to conveniently put forth her skewed negative agenda). Srimad Bhagavat Maha Purana states: “The Vedas and Puranas are one and the same in purpose. They ascertain the Absolute Truth, which is greater than everything else. The Absolute Truth is ultimately realized as the Absolute Personality of Godhead with absolute controlling power. As such, the Absolute Personality of Godhead must be completely full of opulence, strength, fame, beauty, knowledge and renunciation."

Wendy Doniger misleads the reader into thinking that the epic ancient Indian literatures such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are “roughly contemporaneous” when they belong to different ages separated by thousands of years. The narrations and lessons emanating from the Puranas are ancient yet the author judges this great literature with the eyes of a modern disrespectful and faithless skeptic. The Puranas themselves predict in great detail about the current age that we are living in, which they label as the age of quarrel and hypocrisy. Perhaps a prophecy of the blasphemous writings of authors such as Wendy Doniger.

The Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna said to his dear friend Uddhava: “Having achieved this human form of life, which affords one the opportunity to realize Me, and being situated in My devotional service, one can achieve Me, the reservoir of all pleasure and the Supreme Soul of all existence, residing within the heart of every living being.” This essential message emanating from the ancient Hindu philosophy is aptly summarized in The Uddhava Gita from the Srimad Bhagavat Maha Puran, Book 11.06-29.

The essence of the Hindu faith is to guide the inquisitive soul to realization of it’s true and glorious nature and it’s relationship with the Supreme Soul of all, God, and His unfathomable and infinitely glorious nature. Whether it be through disciplined practice of yoga, the medical benefits of which have been proven in study after study, meditation, loving devotion, working and living peacefully and happily without attachment to the end results, the heart of the matter in the Hindu faith is to describe in the most specific and illuminating detail how to achieve the highest goal of self realization, God realization and understanding the individual soul’s relationship with the Divine and how all life is interconnected spiritually.

In addition to this and according to the famous Astro Physicist Dr. Carl Sagan, who in his Emmy and Peabody award winning PBS program named COSMOS which was viewed by more than 500 million people in 60 countries, states that the Hindu faith is the only religious tradition on Earth that provides a time-scale for the Earth and the universe which is consonant with that of modern scientific cosmology. Further, according to Dr. Sagan, not only did the ancient seers of Hinduism get the Cosmic time-scale which speaks of billions of years, right, Hindu cosmology says that the many billion year time-scale is not the entire history of the universe, but just the day and night of Brahma (the first materially created being in the Universe and the creator of subsequent material beings) and that an infinite cycle of births and deaths and an infinite number of universes exists in the Divine cosmological pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

With this in mind, it should be noted that the disrespectful and ignorant bias willfully taken by Wendy Doniger to distort the true greatness of the Hindu faith is shameful and dangerous. I say this because she could be negatively affecting the minds of many who may have otherwise explored with an open mind the vast treasure trove of deeply insightful knowledge as presented in the Hindu scriptures.

Sincerely and Namaste (I bow to the Divine within thee),

Amit Banerjee
Houston, TX




Dr. M. Lal Goel

Professor Emeritus of Political Science and
Director of International Studies
The University of West Florida,

(This article is published as is without editorial scrutiny by Sookta-Sumana Editor)

Pro-Islamic and anti-Hindu mindset known as dhimmitude (described more fully later) is prevalent in sections of the American academy. The case in point is the recent book by Dr. Wendy Doniger , The Hindus: An Alternative History, The Penguin Press, 2009.

Doniger’s 779-page tome is laced with personal editorials, folksy turn of the phrase and funky wordplays. She has a large repertoire of Hindu mythological stories. She often narrates the most damning story—Vedic, Puranic, folk, oral, vernacular—to demean, damage and disparage Hinduism. After building a caricature, she laments that fundamentalist Hindus (how many and how powerful are they?) are destroying the pluralistic, tolerant Hindu tradition. Why save such a vile, violent religion, as painted by the eminent professor? There is a contradiction here.

Doniger’s book is at odds with the increasing acceptance in the United States of key Hindu spiritual concepts. Lisa Miller (Newsweek, 31 August, 2009) reports that Americans “are slowly becoming more like Hindus and less like traditional Christians in the ways we think about God, our selves, each other, and eternity.” She cites the following poll data: 67 percent of Americans believe that many religions, not only Christianity can lead to eternal life, reflecting pluralistic Hindu ethos rather than monotheistic Christian view; 30 percent of Americans call themselves “spiritual, not religious;” 24 percent say they believe in reincarnation; and more than a third choose cremation rather than burial. http://www.newsweek .com/id/212155

This review focuses on Doniger’s discussion of Islamic incursions into India. Islam entered Malabar Coast in south India with Arab merchants and traders in the 7th Century. This was peaceful Islam. Later, Islam came to India as a predatory and a conquering force. Mohammad bin Qasim ravaged Sindh in 711. Mahmud Ghazni pillaged, looted and destroyed numerous Hindu temples around 1000 CE, but he did not stay to rule. The Muslim rule begins with the Delhi Sultanate, approximately 1201 to 1526.

The Sultanate gave place to the Mughal Empire, 1526-1707.
Wendy Doniger makes the following dubious points regarding the Muslim imperial rule in India (1201-1707).

1. Muslim marauders destroyed some Hindu temples, not many. Ch 16
2. Temple destruction was a long standing Indian tradition. In an earlier period, Hindus destroyed Buddhist and Jain stupas and rival Hindu temples and built upon the destroyed sites; “the Muslims had no monopoly on that.” P 457
3. Muslim invaders looted and destroyed Hindu temples because they had the power to do so. If Hindus had the power, they would do the same in reverse. Pp. 454-57
4. The Jizya—the Muslim tax on non-Muslims—was for Hindu protection and a substitute for military service. Pp. 448-49
5. Hindu “megalomania” for temple building in the Middle Ages was a positive result of Muslim demolition of some Hindu temples. P 468
6. The Hindu founders of the Vijayanagara Empire double-crossed their Muslim master in Delhi who had deputed them to secure the South. P 467
7. Hindus want Muslims and Christians to leave India for Hindustan is only for Hindus. Concluding chapter.

Let us take each point in turn to examine Doniger’s mistaken views.

1. Muslim invaders beginning with Mahmud Ghazni in 1000 CE looted, pillaged and destroyed not few but many Hindu and Buddhist temples. Muslim chroniclers describe the humiliation and utter desolation wrought by the Muslims on the kafirs (unbelievers). Alberuni, the Muslim scholar who accompanied Mahmud to India in 1,000 CE, describes one such event: “Mathura, the holy city of Krishna, was the next victim. In the middle of the city there was a temple larger and finer than the rest, which can neither be described nor painted. The Sultan was of the opinion that 200 years would have been required to build it. The idols included 'five of red gold, each five yards high,' with eyes formed of priceless jewels. . . The Sultan gave orders that all the temples should be burnt with naphtha and fire, and leveled with the ground. Thus perished works of art which must have been among the noblest monuments of ancient India.”

At the destruction of another temple, Somnath, it is estimated that 50,000 were massacred. The fabulous booty of gold, women and children was divided according to Islamic tradition--the Sultan getting the royal fifth, the cavalry man getting twice as much as the foot soldier. Numerous Hindu and Buddhist shrines were destroyed.

2. The esteemed professor asserts that during an earlier period, Hindus persecuted Jains and Buddhists and destroyed their shrines. She narrates the now discarded story about the impaling of Jains at the hands of Hindu rulers in the Tamil country. Then she says that “there is no evidence that any of this actually happened, other than the story.” (p 365). Then why narrate the story? Hindu sectarian violence pales in comparison to what happened either in Europe under Christianity or in the Middle East under Islam. The truth is that both Jainism and Buddhism were integrated into Hinduism’s pluralistic tradition. The Buddha was accepted as one of the Hindu Avatars (God in human form). Exquisite Jain temples at Mt Abu at the border of Gujarat and Rajasthan built around 1000 CE survive in the region dominated by Hindu Rajput rulers, falsifying notions of Hindu carnage of Jain temples.

3. Wendy Doniger suggests that Hindus would do the same to Muslims if they had the power to do so (p 457). Hindus did come to power when the Mughal rule rapidly declined after the death of Emperor Aurangzeb in 1707. The Hindu Marathas were the strongest power in Western and Southern India in the 18th and 19th centuries, as the Sikhs were in North India. There is no account of large scale demolition and looting of Muslim places of worship either by the Marathas or the Sikhs. If a copy of the Quran fell into the hands of Maratha chief Shivaji during a battle campaign, the same would be passed on to a Muslim rather than being burned.

4. Contrary to what Doniger says, jizya is a long held Muslim tradition. It was levied to begin with on the defeated Christians and Jews, the People of the Book, as a price for the cessation of Jihad. Hindus, not being one of the People of the Book, did not deserve to live by paying the special tax. If defeated in battle, their only option was Islam or death. This was the position taken by the leading Islamic clergy. Unlike the clergy, however, the Muslim rulers were practical men. If they had killed the Hindus en masse for failing to adopt Islam, who would build their palaces, fill their harems, cut their wood and hue their water?

5. Doniger argues that Hindu ‘megalomania’ for temple building resulted from Muslim destruction of some Hindu temples. In other words, because the Muslims destroyed some of the Hindu temples, the Hindus went on a building spree. If Doniger’s argument is accepted, Hindus should thank Islamic marauders for looting and desecrating their shrines. The truth is that in northern India which experienced 500 years of Islamic rule (1201-1707), few historical temples of any beauty remain. In contrast, temple architecture of some beauty does survive in southern India, the region that escaped long Muslim occupation.

6. That the Hindu founders of the Vijayanagara dynasty in the South double-crossed their Muslim master in Delhi is one among the innumerable editorial negative portrayal of Hindu character. One may ask: why wouldn’t a slave double cross his oppressor?

7. The view that Muslims and Christians should leave India is not one held by most Hindus, only by a small minority on the extreme fringes. Muslim population has increased in India from about 9 percent at the time of Independence to about 13 percent now (1947-2009). In contrast, in Pakistan, Hindu population has declined from 10 percent and now constitutes less than one percent. In Muslim Bangladesh in the same period the Hindu population has declined from 30 percent to less than 10 percent. People vote with their feet. Muslims hold important positions in government and business in contemporary India, which is 83 pct Hindu. Among the richest person in India is a Muslim, Premji; the most popular film stars are Muslim, Shah Rukh Khan being at the top; several states are led now or were headed in the past by Christian and Muslim chief ministers and governors. We should also point out that the single most important leader in India is an Italian-born woman Sonya Gandhi and the Prime Minister is a Sikh, Dr. Manmohan Singh. The past President APJ Kalam was a Muslim and before that K R Narayanan, a lower caste. In Federal and State civil service, 50 percent of the jobs are reserved for backward classes and Untouchable, in order to compensate for past discrimination. India has moved.
Let us look more closely. Doniger describes the invasion of Sindh by Arab soldier of fortune Muhammad bin Qasim as follows:

Qasim invaded Sindh in 713. The terms of surrender included a promise of guarantee of the safety of Hindu and Buddhist establishments. “Hindus and Buddhists were allowed to govern themselves in matters of religion and law.” Qasim “kept his promises.” The non-Muslims were not treated as kafirs. Jizya was imposed but only as a substitute for military service for their “protection.” He brought Muslim teachers and mosques into the subcontinent. (paraphrased)

From Doniger’s assessment, Qasim should be regarded as a blessing. Contrast Doniger’s description with that written by Andrew Bostom in “The Legacy of Islamic Jihad in India.”

The Muslim chroniclers . . .include enough isolated details to establish the overall nature of the conquest of Sindh by Muhammad b. Qasim in 712 C.E. . . . Baladhuri, for example, records that following the capture of Debal, Muhammad b. Qasim earmarked a section of the city exclusively for Muslims, constructed a mosque, and established four thousand colonists there. The conquest of Debal had been a brutal affair . . . Despite appeals for mercy from the besieged Indians (who opened their gates after the Muslims scaled the fort walls), Muhammad b. Qasim declared that he had no orders (i.e., from his superior al-Hajjaj, the Governor of Iraq) to spare the inhabitants, and thus for three days a ruthless and indiscriminate slaughter ensued. In the aftermath, the local temple was defiled, and “700 beautiful females who had sought for shelter there, were all captured.”

Distinguished historian R. C. Majumdar describes the capture of the royal Fort and its tragic outcome:

Muhammad massacred 6,000 fighting men who were found in the fort, and their followers and dependents, as well as their women and children were taken prisoners. Sixty thousand slaves, including 30 young ladies of royal blood, were sent to Hajjaj, along with the head of Dahar [the Hindu ruler]. We can now well understand why the capture of a fort by the Muslim forces was followed by the terrible jauhar ceremony (in which females threw themselves in fire kindled by themselves), the earliest recorded instance of which is found in the Chachnama. (Cited in Bostom.)
Doniger extensively footnotes Romila Thapar, John Keay, Anne Schimmel and A. K. Ramanujan as her sources for Islamic history, providing an impression of meticulous scholarship. Missing are works of the distinguished historians: Jadunath Sarkar, R. C. Majumdar, A. L. Srivastava, Vincent Smith, and Ram Swarup.

Doniger writes at page 458: when Muslim royal women first came to India, they did not rigidly keep to purdah (the veiling and seclusion of women). They picked the more strict form of purdah from contact with the Hindu Rajput women. Doniger finds much to praise in Muslim women during this period: some knew several languages; others wrote poetry; some managed vast estates; others set up “feminist” republics within female quarters (harems); some debated fine points on religion; some even joined in drinking parties (chapters 16, 20). Such descriptions are patently negated by other historians. See for example, The Mughal Harem (1988) by K S Lal, available free on the Internet.

If Hinduism is the source of strict purdah among Muslim women, as Doniger contends, how does one explain the strict veiling of women in the Middle East, a region far removed from Hindu influence? Or, the absence of purdah in southern India, a region that escaped extended Islamic domination?

Doniger writes at page 627, “the Vedic reverence for violence flowered in the slaughters that followed Partition.” And, Gandhi’s nonviolence succeeded against the British. But it failed against the tenaciously held Hindu ideal of violence that had grip on the real emotions of the masses.

Doniger blames only the Vedic tradition of violence for post-Partition violence that engulfed both India and Pakistan. What is one to make of these weighty pronouncements uttered in all seriousness by the author? These are an expression of the hurt feelings on the part of a scholar. While discussing the Hindu epic Ramayana in London in 2003, Doniger put forth her usual gloss: that Lakshman had the hots for his brother Rama’s wife Sita, and that sexually-charged Sita reciprocated these feelings. An irate Hindu threw an egg at her and conveniently missed it. This incident is her cause célèbre.

Doniger’s uncritical review of the Islamic marauding raids in India (712-1200) and later the Islamic rule (1201-1707) suggests dhimmitude.

The concepts of dhimmi and dhimmitude were developed by the Egyptian born Jewish woman writer, Bat Ye’or (Daughter of the Nile), who fled Egypt in 1958 in the wake of Jewish persecution following the Suez Canal crisis; she was a stateless person for a number of years and then acquired British citizenship through marriage (see Wikipedia). Her meticulous research puts to rest the myth of peaceful expansion of Islamic power in the countries of Near East and Eastern Europe.

Ye'or describes dhimmitude as the specific social condition that resulted from jihad. It is defined by the following attributes. Dhimmitude is a state of fear and insecurity on the part of infidels who are required to accept a condition of humiliation. It is characterized by the victim’s siding with his oppressors, by the moral justification the victim provides for his oppressors’ hateful behavior. The Dhimmi loses the possibility of revolt because revolt arises from a sense of injustice. He loathes himself in order to praise his oppressors.
Dhimmis lived under some 20 disabilities. Dhimmis were prohibited to build new places of worship, to ring church bells or take out processions, to ride horses or camels (they could ride donkeys), to marry a Muslim woman, to wear decorative clothing, to own a Muslim as a slave or to testify against a Muslim in a court of law.

Ye’or believes that the dhimmi condition can only be understood in the context of Jihad. Jihad embodies all the Islamic laws and customs applied over a millennium on the vanquished population, Jews and Christians, in the countries conquered by jihad and therefore Islamized.

She believes that dhimmitude was once the attribute of defeated Christian and Jewish communities under Islam. Now it is a feature of much of the Western world, Europe and America. Her theory of dhimmitude applies to many Hindus in India. Whereas dhimmitude in previous centuries resulted from real-life powerlessness and humiliation under Islamic rule, modern dhimmi syndrome results from some combination of the following.

• The corrupting power of oil money to influence think tanks, lobbyists and academic institutions in the West. Saudi Arabia has spent in excess of $80 billion to export Wahabism, puritanical Islam.
• De-Christianizing of Europe. Christianity is also declining in the U.S. See Pew research reports.
• Guilt feelings in the West on account of the Crusades to liberate the Holy Land (1095-1291).
• Multiculturalism: the belief that all cultural practices and ways of life are equally valid.
• Violence by radical Muslims is on account of being poor and exploited by colonial hegemony.
• Islam provided the West its basis for advancement in math and science.
• The rising number of Muslim populations in Europe and America.
• The rising level of alienation from one’s own culture in the West.

Doniger’s scandalous book on the Hindus makes sense only in the light of a larger global trend—a trend that seeks to re-package Islamic history as a force for tolerance and progress.

Doniger is not alone in holding such views. Dhimmi attitudes of subservience have entered the Western academy, and from there into journalism, school textbooks and political discourse. One must not criticize Islam. For, “to do so would offend the multiculturalist ethos that prevails everywhere today. To do so would endanger chances for peace and rapprochement between civilizations all too ready to clash.” See,
The field of Middle East Studies in the U.S. is now controlled by pro-Middle East professors, according to Martin Kramer, editor of the Middle Eastern Quarterly. “The crucial turning point occurred in the late 1970s when Middle East studies centers, under /Edward/ Said's influence, began to show a preference for ideology over empirical fact and, fearing the taint of the ‘orientalist’ bias, began to prefer academic appointments of native-born Middle Easterners over qualified Western-born students,” contends Kramer. The book is summarized at:
In contrast, the field of Hinduism studies is controlled by non-Hindus and anti-Hindus, with some notable exceptions of course. Hindu gods and goddesses are lampooned and denigrated. Hindu saints are described as sexual perverts and India in danger of being run over by Hindu fundamentalists. In these portrayals, Doniger is joined by Martha Nussbaum, Paul Courtright, Jeffrey Kripal, Sarah Caldwell, Stanley Kurtz, to name a few of the leading academicians. For a critique of the American academy, see Rajiv Malhotra at, and a 2007 book titled, Invading the Sacred.

Unhappily also, the American born Hindu youth choose lucrative careers in medicine, law, finance and engineering rather than in the social sciences and the humanities.
Doniger is quite harsh on the British record in India (1757-1947). She compares the British argument that they brought trains and drains to India to Hitler’s argument that he built the Autobahn in Germany (p. 583). Censuring Britain and giving a pass to the more draconian Islamic imperialism in India fits with the dhimmi attitude that I have described.

Consequently, attitudes of concession and appeasement are on the rise. A reversal of language occurs. Jihad is called ‘struggle within’ or struggle for liberation. Dhimmitude is called tolerance. Jizya is called protection. Tony Blair declares Islam is a religion of peace and that the terrorists are not real Muslims. Parts of London have been ceded to the control of radical mullahs. Sharia arbitration courts are now part of the British legal system. Melanie Phillips tells that London is becoming Londonistan. Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe. Yesterday’s “Christ killers” are now called Muslim murderers.


The destruction of life and property caused by Islamic extremists in the last thirty years is simply horrendous. Distinction must be made between moderate Muslims and radicals who wish to bring back the 7th century version of Islam. Of the twenty some hot spots around the globe, some eighteen involve radical Muslims. Radical Muslim violence is directed against moderate Muslims as well as against other civilizational groups, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and Slavs. The Islamic world has “bloody borders”--Samuel Huntington.

Much is made of the partial destruction of the so-called Babri Masjid (mosque) in India by a certain group of Hindus. It was a dilapidated building, not actively used as a place of worship by Muslims. No temple has been raised in its place. At best, only a make-shift puja (worship) is held at the site. India has lost more people to Islamic terrorism after 9/11 than any other country. Some 300,000 Kashmiri pandits have been driven out of their homes by extremists and are refugees in their own country. Of the some 300 Hindu temples in Pakistan at its breakaway from India in 1947, barely 30 survive and these are in dire shape.

In the wake of the Arab-Israeli conflict, some 800,000 Jews have been forced to flee Islamic countries and are refugees. This Jewish tragedy goes largely unacknowledged by the world, whereas the plight of 800,000 Palestinian refugees is rightly condemned. The Jewish property, wealth and Synagogues are taken over by the Islamic state, not repatriated to the Jewish refugees. See Andre Aciman NYT op-ed:
Amid the rising level of alienation, multiculturalism, and the feelings of guilt, the moral compass is lost. The British helped abolish the horrible practice of Suttee (widow burning) in India in the 19th century. At its peak in the 19th century, the practice of Suttee claimed the lives of 500 to 600 women a year in India (the British were good bean counters). The honor killing of women, genital mutilation, and the caning of girls for minor sexual impropriety raises only a limited protest in the 21st century. No reliable count exists. Women are honor-killed not only in the Islamic world but also on occasion in the Western countries. See 6/26/2009 digest at:

India and America

India and America are very similar in their commitment to pluralism. India has held the flag high for a pluralistic, multi-cultural civilization through history. Many ideas, ideologies, world-views, philosophies and religions competed in the market place. A thousand flowers bloomed. There were Vaishnavites, Shaivites, Buddhists, Jains, Tantrites, Shaktas, and even materialists and atheists called Charvakas and Lokayats in India. No books were burned or the minorities put to the torch. There were exceptions.

The Muslim rule reversed this tradition. People were killed in the name of religion and loot. The exception was Mughal Emperor Akbar (1556-1605). Akbar was an exception to the otherwise long running vale of woe. His pluralism did not spring forth from Islam, but from his rejection of Islam. The Muslim clergy regarded him as an apostate and did not give him a Muslim burial when he died. For a critical account of Akbar’s u-turn from being a jihadi (soldier of Islam) to being its critic, visit Sarvesh Tiwari’s 5-part essay at:

Jews came to India soon after the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. Three separate Jewish communities have lived and flourished in India for two millennia: Cochin, Maharashtra and Calcutta. Dr. Nathan Katz tells us that India is one place where Jews were never persecuted. “The Indian chapter is one of the happiest of the Jewish Diaspora.” See Who Are the Jews of India? (2000), p. 4. The Parsees (a Zoroastrian community), who fled Persia in the wake of Islamic conquest in the 7th century, have done well in India and is among the richest of communities. The biggest industrial empire in India is controlled by a Parsee family, the Tatas.

In terms of cultural pluralism, contemporary America resembles older India. Many ethnic, religious and social groups compete for public attention. See Lisa Miller article in the August issue of Newsweek, referred to earlier: http://www.newsweek .com/id/212155. Christianity is divided not only among Protestants and Catholics, but also among some 20 Protestant denominations. There are also Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Zoroastrians, and Baha’is in America. New Thought churches and Pagan groups are gaining in popularity. Every viewpoint finds an utterance.

Nearly 1,000 years ago, the Indian Acharyas (teachers) ignored the radical Islamic threat before it was too late. The great teachers (Ramanuja, Madhava, Abhinav Gupta, Vallabha and others) wrote thick treatises on spiritual subject matter but they said nothing about Islam, zilch. They were busy debating each other. Some even proclaimed “All religions are the same.” Let us hope that contemporary intellectual leadership will not repeat the error that the Hindu intelligentsia made in the last millennium by downplaying the extremist threat to civilization. For it has been said: Those who refuse to learn from History are doomed to repeat it.