A critical review of the first four chapters of the book
The Hindus: An Alternative History
By Wendy Doniger
(ALSO SEE JUNE, JULY, AUGUST & NOVEMBER 2010 POSTINGS ON THIS TOPIC)
(FOR CULTURALLY ACCEPTED MEANINGS SEE FEB.2010 INSTANT RAMAYANA & MAHABHARATA I & II)
(RECOMMENDED READING: "WENDY DONIGER'S UNCONSCIOUS EXHIBITIONISM" NOV. 2009)
Penguin Books, India. Price Rs 999.00
Wendy’s Distortions: Wendy Doniger’s Failure to Create Alternative History for Hindus
Dr. Pramod V. Pathak
Wendy Doniger, also Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty, is known to scholars and students of the Ancient Indian Culture as prolific writer and rabble rouser on the topics she takes for writing. Her three books namely Rig Veda, Manu Smriti and Kamasutra are referred for a unique way to look at those topics. She has always been obsessed with sexual metaphors which she imposes on the age old texts. In her latest voluminous book, she has shown two things, first her capacity to be a prolific writer on the history of India and secondly her utter disregard and ignorance about the socio-cultural facts and for not referring to the original texts. She frequently quotes from the secondary sources diluting her original reputation for in depth study of the ancient Indian texts. No wonder, her recent book “The Hindus: An Alternative History” has aroused controversy and many Indian readers and scholars have criticized it. There were protests culminating in submission of petitions and memorandums to the various local authorities in the field of education to discard the book.
Wendy herself admits that she is not trained as a historian but trained as a philologist (P 3) but she desired to write a reference book on Hinduism that will be different from many other books on Hinduism, which she implies to be runoff the mill types. To quote her, she took for writing an alternative history of Hinduism “to show how much the groups that the conventional wisdom says were oppressed and silenced and played no part in the development of the tradition – women, Pariahs (oppressed castes, sometimes called Untouchables) – did actually contribute to Hinduism……..to show the presence of brilliant and creative thinkers entirely off the track beaten by Brahmin Sanskritists and of the diverse voices that slipped through the filter and, indeed, to show the filter itself was quite diverse” (P 1-2). “This will not serve as a conventional history (my training as a philologist, not historian) but as a book about the evolution of several important themes in the lives of Hindus caught up in the flow of historical change” (P 3). She had to deal with those writings in “a few other places where the arguments were so loony that I could not resist the temptation to satirize them. Many a “fact” turns out, on closer inspection, to be an argument……… I hope that this book will inspire some readers to go back to the sources and decide themselves whether or not they agree with me” (P 4). This is exactly what happened in the case of the present reviewer who went back to the original texts including her own books to verify the untruth, distortions and untenable claims that Wendy has made in this book.
Edifice of the Sanskrit literature
Sanskritists since ancient times were and had to be bilingual “in order to talk to their wives, servants and children. It was through these interactions that the oral traditions got their foot in the Sanskrit door ……….. Sanskrit and oral traditions flow back and forth, producing a constant infusion of lower-class words and ideas into the Brahmin world and vice versa. …. It must have been the case that the natural language, Prakrit, and the vernaculars came first, while Sanskrit, the refined, secondary version, artificial language, came later” (P 5). There is nothing new in these statements. While she mentions about the “useful term Sanskitization” coined by M.N. Srinivas, way back in 1952, which has been used by the western scholars and some Indian scholars in derogatory sense, she has conveniently over looked the parallel idea of Greater Tradition and Little Tradition propounded around the same time. Agehananda Bharati, an American scholar who opted for Hinduhood and avowed follower of Adi Shankara had elaborated on the give and take of the rites and rituals between the kitchen and the altar room –yajJaSAlA. There is fairly good indication of this give and take in sixteen samskAras dating back to the Rig Vedic times. These were part and parcel of the social life cutting across the caste and hierarchy lines in the society of those times. Many of these samskAras were no more the domain of male dominated rituals but of the women folk, only to be solemnized by appropriate mantras in Sanskrit.
Sanskrit as a purposefully formulated language is no new discovery. It really dates back to the Rigvedic period. In her own book The Rig Veda ((1981), she gives translation of the hymn Rig Veda 10.71 which explicitly states that the Vedic seers formulated the speech. Wendy’s translation reads as follows:
“bRhaspati! When they set in motion the first beginning of speech, giving names, their most pure and perfectly guarded secret was revealed through love.
When the wise ones fashioned speech with their thought sifting it as grain is sifted through sieve, then friends recognized their friendships. A good sign was placed on their speech.” (RV 10.71.1-2, The Rig Veda P 61).
Has she forgotten her own writings?
There are two clear references to formulation of new language by word navIyasIm (RV 8.51.5 and 8.95.5) i.e. newly formed language – giram, which was obviously formulated from then existing colloquial language.
It was the Western scholars who promoted the idea of Sanskrit being the original language and the local and vernacular languages followed the next. For the last half century or so, reasonable scholars have discarded this idea. It is a fact that the so-called Dravidian and Munda elements cannot be isolated from the Rigvedic Sanskrit. Wendy is aware of it when she writes, “Not only did southern ideas go north, and vice versa, and not only did Tamil flow into Sanskrit and Sanskrit into Tamil, but Tamil went North, and Sanskrit south” (P 14). Indian Scholar Vishvanath Khaire has been advocating the linguistic bridge Sam-Ma-Ta, Sanskrit-Marathi-Tamil for more than two decades and he has host of articles and books to his credit. Wendy with access to well equipped library at her Department in Chicago could not have missed his writings. She prefers to ignore it, possibly because it goes against her stand of a) Aryan invasion/migration and b) date of Rig Veda later than 1200 BCE (P 9).
As regards the incorporation of the non-Vedic traditions in the Vedic texts or the so-called Brahminical domain, that too dates back to the Rigvedic times. Rudra, one of the prominent Gods of the Rig Vedic pantheon was drawn from the tribal stratum of the society. The story of seer Nabhanedishtha in the Aitareya Brahmana mentions that Rudra appeared before him and claimed his share in the leftovers of the sacrifice. Story occurs in two prominent texts namely Taittiriya text of Yajur Veda (TS 126.96.36.199) and Aitareya Brahmana text affiliated to the Rig Veda (AB 5.14). Rudra’s tribal antecedents are evident and well accorded by the statement in the Apastambha Srauta sUtra (ApSS 8.17.11) addressed to Rudra during the sAkamedha sacrifice, “If he (the sacrificer) does not have enemy, let him say: “the mole is your animal”. The present author can say with personal experience that the tribals in India like the animal mole – Akhu- from the bottom of their heart. As she has not quoted this ApSS text, let her verify this statement. Similarly Pushan in the Rig Vedic text was the God of cowherds. He wielded goad, astram (RV 6.58.2), pointed stick to control animals. He was offered oblations in the Vedic sacrifices.
Another very important and interesting incorporation of the local, non-Vedic, non-Brahminical tradition in the Rig Veda text is about the Indrani-Vrishakapi dialogue hymn (RV 10.86) famous for its amorous contents. There is a tradition in Uttar Pradesh (UP), a northern state in India, which can be traced back to this amorous dialogue between indrANi- and vRZAkapi. It is reported by BBC correspondent Mark Tully in his book No Fullstops in India (1992, P 46). He witnessed this tradition during a marriage procession in a remote village in UP. There were two men dressed in women’s attire with false breasts bulging through their blouses. A third man was dressed as a monkey with a large tail and large penis made of cloth. Initially, all three of them danced making seductive gestures. This was followed by enactment of sexual intercourse and achievement of ecstasy by one of the acting ladies. Thus, the indrANi-vRZAkapi dialogue hymns point to the fertility cult, traces of which are found in the current rural marriage customs. The process of assimilation and ritualistic adaptation continued for millennia when the local gods and traditions were sanctified by bestowing these local deities with status of incarnation of the Vedic Gods namely Vishnu and Shiva.
Position of women
“Sanskrit texts usually regard women and hunted animals as primary objects of addiction and the senses that cause addiction are likened to horses” (P 8-9). This is a very general statement. About the position of women she contradicts herself in the same paragraph stating, “Chapter 12 for instance is about women more than about goddesses, while chapter 14 is about goddesses than about women. And indeed I have often noted the activities of women in other contexts, without explicitly highlighting their gender” (P 9). Coming to the Rig Veda with which Wendy appears to be more familiar, as against the major male Gods Indra, Varuna, Maruts, Rudra, Soma, Mitra, Agni, Apam Napat, Ahribudhnya, Aja Ekapad, Aryaman, Pushan, Yama, Brihaspati, Bhaga, Adityas, Yama, Surya, Ashvins and Dyaus Pitar, the female deities in the Rigveda are Ushas, Sarasvati, Aditi, Diti, Indrani, Ratri, Vak, Purmdhi, I¬La, Yami, Bharati, Prithivi, Dhishana, Sinivali, Raka. With give and take on a few names of male and female deities, I have listed 20 male gods and 15 goddesses. Percent wise, they are three-fourth in number of male gods. Now do not ask for proportionate number of hymns devoted to them. The trend has never been equal anywhere in the world over the last millenniums. The Semitic religions have done away with the goddesses even as angels. Let she remember we elected Mrs. Indira Gandhi as our Prime Minister within two decades of our independence. So was the case with Sri Lanka and Pakistan. We have already a Lady President; host of lady Chief Ministers of the States. USA is yet to elect a Lady President even after two centuries and three decades.
No Vedic sacrifice could be complete without participation of a wife. In an Atharva Vedic hymn, husband is wooing his wife to remain attached to him, rather than threatening her either to abandon or divorce. In hymn AV 6.89 a husband while sprinkling water on his spouse urges her to remain attached to him and to do away with the animosity towards him. He praises the presiding deities of the hymn, maitrAVaruNa, dyAVApRthvI and sarasvatI to induce her to be close to him. This certainly does not sound like treating women as primary objects of addiction. In fact Wendy acknowledges, “But in fact women made significant contributions to the texts, both as the (usually unacknowledged) sources of many ancient as well as contemporary narratives and as the inspiration for many more. Some Hindu women did read and write, forging the crucial links between vernacular language and Sanskrit” (P 35-36). There are lady seers in the Rig Veda. The female Goddess number keeps on adding in the post Vedic times. In the late literature like Manu Smriti, which Wendy herself has translated: “There is unwavering good fortune in a family where the husband is satisfied by the wife, and the wife by the husband. If the wife is not radiant she does not stimulate the man; and because the man is unstimulated the making of children does not happen. If the woman is radiant the whole family is radiant, but if she is not radiant the whole family is not radiant.” (Manu Smriti 3.60-63, Laws of Manu (1991) P 49). Has Wendy forgotten what she translated? This is from the same text of Manu Smriti, stigmated for “na stri svatantryam arhati”, which talks of radiant wife and not the object of addiction. This does not sound according status of object of addiction to women. What happened in her own country, USA? Wendy should go through the original papers published by female duo, Elizabeth Stanton and Suzan Anthony, who waged unrelenting struggle for five decades from 1852 AD onwards till 1900 AD for women’s rights in USA. This was after a century of freedom from the British rule.
Hindu leaning for non-violence is well acknowledged. “The history of Hinduism, as we shall see, abounds both in periods of creative assimilation and interaction and in outbursts of violent intolerance. …. In their ambivalent attitude to violence, the Hindus are no different from the rest of us, but they are perhaps unique in the intensity of their ongoing debate” (P 11). Leaving aside the mythical massacre in the Mahabharata war, the only instance of unmindful massacre in history was committed by Ashoka theGreat. As a result of Kalinga massacre he opted to be a Buddhist monk and spread the message of peace. There are hardly any instances of mass massacre committed by Hindus after that.
Ravana in ancient times and Afzalkhan in Maharashtra, are on par for being accorded honorable post death status. There are many instances when the Hindus let the enemy go unpunished although captured and found treacherous. We are in habit of slashing our own legs adhering to non-violence. Prithviraj Chauhan let Mohammad Ghori go unpunished. Similarly Prataparao Gujar, the army chief of Shivaji the Great, let Bahalolkhan to go unpunished. Both of them ultimately paid by their lives, but the undercurrent in their chivalry was attitude of non-violence. Mahatma Gandhi waged unique freedom struggle in the recent times. The worst of all was to let the 90,000 prisoners of war of Pakistan during the 1971 war of Bangladesh to go unpunished, untouched. Had they been handed over to Bangladesh, each of them would have been lynched, ripped off sole and hanged. They all went back and organized terrorists network against India. Now India is paying back by flood of terrorists for the last two decades. Of course the Americans too have their gray area of foolishness like Hindus in backing Pakistan rather than breaking it. Like Hindus, they too are dearly paying for not breaking Pakistan. They would do better and reduce their burden by breaking Pakistan and let the new states to fight amongst each other. In fact that would open up the possibility of access to Osama bin Laden.
We are not as violent as USA and western civilization which indulged in two world wars in just half a century and like Americans who continue to pounce with vengeance on the Afghan innocents killing many times more than the 911 toll. We Hindu are definitely different from the rest of you. Even on the religious front, not a drop of blood was shed when Dr. B. R. Ambedker converted to Buddhism. The much maligned RSS here incorporated the great man in the list of most honored heroes to be remembered every day. Will the American people do it to his contemporary, late Dr. Martin Luther King? Look at the bloody feuds on mass scale between Catholics and Protestants in the mediaeval times, the pogroms unleashed on hapless Jews for centuries, the total decimation of Native Americans in whole of the American continent; the list can be much longer. Wendy, your comparison is out of place. Let me remind you of the cliché, while you direct index finger to someone else, three other three fingers are pointing towards youself.
Wendy’s ignorance is unbound for the current Indian situation. While she puts M.S. Golwalker in the ranks of Aurangzeb, Brig. Gen Dyer, she is either ignorant or willfully ignores that under M. S. Golwalkar’s stewardship, RSS discarded the games of rifle shooting and playing sword, that was practiced during Dr. Hedgewar’s time, the founder of RSS. She is also ignorant of the vitriolic propaganda in the local Urdu press and even the press organs of American Muslims of Indian origin to know how RSS is targeted by them. It is violence in print from her own country. What do the Hindus do? They simply ignore. By the way RSS is not the militant arm of BJP. RSS was constituted way back in 1925 where as BJP was formed in 1980-81. Here Wendy has obviously crossed over to areas beyond her specialization in philology making her ignorance known to the public.
Knowing the ancient past correctly
Wendy is proud to state, “I have labored all my adult life in the paddy field of Sanskrit, and since I know ancient India best, I have lingered in the past in this book longer than an anthropologist might have done, and even when dealing with the present, I have focused on the elements that resonate with the past, so that the book is driven from the past, back-wheel-powered” (P 15). As mentioned in the beginning Wendy is known for her information (and not knowledge) of the ancient texts since long. However her understanding has remained at the paid laborers level only. It has not come up to the level of command on it. She makes gross mistakes in reading those texts and draws untenable conclusions. In the Vedic literature her ambit is limited only to the Rig Veda. Even there her scholarship is doubtful. Referring to “the story of Raikva sitting under the cart (one of the earliest homeless people noted in the world literature) in the Upanishads” (P 21). She commits a gross mistake in attributing homelessness and wandering status on Raikva. The original text just mentions that he was sitting under a cart, suffering from skin disease (chAndogya up. 4.1). That does not make him homeless. It is an overstatement. If ever she wants to identify the homeless i.e. wandering people, she will find them in the Rig Veda itself. So if she concedes the RV as the earliest text, then two homeless people namely Bhikshu and Brahmacharin are mentioned in the RV text. Incidentally Wendy has translated both the hymns mentioning Bhikshu Angirasa a wandering monk (RV 10.117, The Rig Veda P 68-70) and Brahmacharin (RV10.109, The Rig Veda P 276). Raikva did not go begging to the King, rather he rejected King’s offer of the riches. It is also to be noted that wandering tribes and groups in India did not use animal yoked carts for transporting their belongings. They preferred single animals like oxen, donkeys, horses. Raikava does not fit into that class. Cart was most popular vehicle by the sedentary and stable population. It only reflects on her ignorance of the Indian ethos. She can look for wandering groups, tribes and societies in the Rudradhyaya, the sixteenth chapter of the White Yajur Veda text which mentions homeless, wandering people like giricara, kuluJca, Svanin. The Atharva Veda mentions the vrAtyas (AV Chapter 15). They were also the wandering folks (AV 15.13). All these are to be dated earlier than the Upanishadic Raikva, unless Wendy has to differ in the particular case.
While writing about Ramayana, “a moment when people from Ayodhya overcame real people in India (tribals, or Dravidians,or anyone else)” (P 23) implying the people in Lanka were belonging to these groups. It is a gross misinterpretation or committing deliberate mischief? Ravana’s lineage was Brahmin. Even when Hanuman went round in Lanka, he could hear chanting of Vedas from the houses in Lanka (Sundarkanda 4 and 15). Has Wendy read Ramayana properly? Is she going by the secondary and second rate references?
Wendy has devoted almost three pages to the Pashupati seal from the Indus Culture. The Rig Vedic God Rudra is known as Pashupati in both YV and AV. There is a complete hymn devoted to Lord Pashupati in Atharva Veda (AV 2.34). The seal depicts picturisation of the hymn as elaborated by the present author (Puratattva 19Vol XX Pp 57-64). The hymn is in present tense which establishes that the hymn was contemporary with the seal engraving period. Over the years, the present author has established that many of the Indus Culture seals mentioned by Wendy (P 77) were pictorial representations of the AV hymns. It is conceded by many archaeologists and Vedic scholars in India. However it will be very difficult for Wendy and many Western scholars to accept the idea that Vedic and the Indus culture were the same.
The closeness of the Indus culture and the Vedic text comes from the comparison of the male and female toys. The present author has established that the terracotta dolls from the Indus Culture were toys for female kids. The Statistics of the female figurines is given by Marcia Fentress: “At Mohenjodao a total of 136 were found and at Harappa a total of 91, female figures numbered 123 at Mohenjodaro and 61 at Harappa confirming more or less to the expected 2:1 ratio Male figure were in reverse proportion, 13 at Mohenjodaro and 22 at Harappa” (Puratattva 1979, Vol. III pp 99-104). This is in tune with the trend of female goddesses in the Rig Veda numbering three-fourth of the male gods.
There is another evidence of the Vedic story of Indra slaying serpent demon Vritra dating back as old as 2700 BCE. It is depicted on the famous Khafajeh steatite bowl from Susa reported by Mellowan M.E.L. (Early Mesopotamia and Iran1965, 2-23). The bowl is from Baluchistan and depicts “rain making” (?) myth pictorials. That takes the date of story of Indra killing Vritra as old as 3000 BCE as discussed by the present author (The Afghan Connection 1999, Pp 18-20). Of course this is totally beyond the comprehension of Wendy and those toeing the same line of Rig Veda as post 1200 BCE.
Proto Indo European language hoax
Wendy is trained philologist as she admits. She deals with the topic of *PIE – Proto Indo European-language at length (P 86-88). However there is real challenge to the whole battery of philologists to explain a few words of the Sanskrit origin transforming into other IE languages. These are names of the entities from the Rig Veda text.
1. Vritrahan – Vritraghna in the Vedic texts, Verethragna in Avesta and
Vahagna in Armenia,
2. Ahi Dasa in the Vedic texts, Azi Dahak in Avesta and Azo Daha in Armenia,
3. Sharva in the Vedic texts, Saurva in Avesta and Cernunnos in Celtic,
4. Yahva in the Vedic texts, Yazu in Avesta, Yahve in Chaldean and Jehovah in
As such *PIE is a hoax. As philologist she has to answer which way did the words and the concepts travel; from the so-called PIE homeland to Sanskrit or the other way round?
There is another ethno-anthropological finding. Dasa people were arch enemies of the Rigvedic Aryans. Where one does expects them to find? Among the vanquished tribes of ancient India? Nay, these are to be found in Seistan in Afghanistan and Baluchistan in South Iran. As my personal correspondence with an Iranian scholar goes, the people of Dahamarda tribe continue to reside there since the time immemorial.
A village named Daha Bashi Deha (i.e. Dasa Bhashi desha) is located in Seistan province. Did Aryans go to the west to wedge war with Dasa? The butts called Suhr-da-gal found in the Seistan province are identified with the Sharadi Purs, the winter bastions of Dasa as mentioned in the Rig Veda (The Afghan Connection, Pp 50 -70). Wendy feigns ignorance about them. Over the decades of her labor in the Sanskrit paddy she has missed these?
Indus Valley and the Rigveda
As Wendy concludes, “The Rig Veda does not know any of the places or artifacts or urban techniques of the Indus valley. None of the things the Veda describes look like things we see in the archaeology of the Indus. The Rig Veda never mentions inscribed seals, or a Great Bath, or trade with Mesopotamia, despite the fact that it glorifies in the stuff of everyday life. It never refers to the sculptured representation of the human body.” All these observations she quotes from Romila Thapar’s book Early India (2002). Thapar is known to be a biased writer. Wendy could have herself verified these statements from the RV text. The town Harappa is unanimously agreed by Indic scholars to be Hariyupiya in the Rig Veda text (RV 6.27.5). RV refers to well laid house or altar, “sadmev prAco vi mimAya manaiH” (RV 2.15.3 a) i.e. “as if it were a well measured and planned house” which points to the well organized houses of the Indus cities. Not only they built well measured houses, they also well laid paths for the river streams (RV 3.33.6). The technique of water harvesting by building dams was known to the Indus people. RV point to that practice in connection with the killing of Vritra. The RV seers refer to the pillared house, not just a hut. As Wendy translates: “Let fathers hold this pillar for you; let Yama build a house for you” (RV 10.18.13b, The Rig Veda P 53). The word used for pillar is “sthUNA”. The same word is used for house with thousand pillars “sahastrasthUNAH” with golden glitter in well laid land “bhadre kZetre nirmitA” (RV 5.62.6-7). The Great Bath had several pillars. It was abode of Varuna, the God of water. The pillars were well laid with measurements and firm: “sumitA shthUNA iva dRmhata” (RV 5.45.2).
Since the Indus Civilization remains were excavated, its distinctness from the RV was decided on the basis of a few findings. One of them was the absence of the spoked wheels in the Indus Civilization. In the RV there are very clear references to the spoked wheel of the year with six seasonal spokes. It was deduced that the spoked wheels were introduced by the Aryan newcomers. In the recent excavations at the Indus Civilization site at Bhirrana, District Fatehbad, Haryana, archaeologist late L.S. Rao found the samples of spoked wheels. There are several of these reported by Rao in the issue of Puratattva No 36 (2005 CE) published from Delhi. These are solid terracotta wheels with a hub in the centre and spokes in low relief as well as painted spokes on the outer side. There are lynchpin grooves which confirm that these were not the spindles but toy cart wheels. Once these were identified, Rao was able to identify similar wheels from the sites excavated earlier dating back to 1931 CE. He has listed many sites where such wheels were found but were not identified as spoked wheels.
It is known that the sacrificial altars were made with proper measurements. The creation process too was equated with performance of a sacrifice. Wendy has translated a creation myth RV 10.130 which refers to both planning of the sacrificial ground and an image used during the sacrifice as indicated in the case of Pashupati seal. The exact wording are “kA AsIt pramA pratimA kim nidAnam” (RV 10.130.3a). Wendy translates it as: “what was the original model, and what was the copy and what was the connection between them?” (The Rig Veda P 33). Here “pramA” refers to properly measured layout and “pratimA” refers to a figure or a seal like that of the Pashupati seal. It is more appropriate translate it as figure than calling it a copy. If they could make seals, they could also make sculpture. As such Asko Parpola has identified the trefoil pattern on the priest king statue from Mohenjodaro with tArpya garment mentioned in the post Rig Vedic texts like AV 18.4.31 and others (Asko Parpola, The Sky Garment 1985, Pp 37-44).
This raises doubt about Wendy’s authorship of “The Rig Veda” or she paid for it?
Looking beyond the Rig Veda – the Atharva Veda
Wendy’s ambit being limited to Rig Veda she is oblivious of the unique findings of the Vedic seers as recorded in the Atharva Veda: “apaH samudrAt dIvam udvahanti divaH pRthivIm abhi ye sRjanti ” (AV 4.27.4 a) i.e. the waters evaporate from the ocean in all directions and moisten the earth. It is interesting to note that the hymn AV 7.107 clearly states the seven-fold division of the sun’s rays, sapta sUr*yasya raSmayaH. While Western science attributes the discovery of seven-coloured Sun rays to Newton, the seer bhRgu had already mentioned it in ancient times. The Vedic seers knew that many ailments and diseases were caused by infection of micro-fauna. They were called alganDu (infecting the blood and flesh) and Saluna. They entered the human body via plants and animals etc. (AV 2.31.4). It is very difficult for the people like Wendy to acknowledge that the ancestors of Hindus could understand such complex natural phenomena. It does not fit into the scheme of alternative history.
Relying on the secondary references
Wendy states: “In 1903, Bal Gangadhar Tilak had argued, in his The Arctic Home in the Vedas, that the Aryans had composed the Vedas at the North pole.” It is very clear that Wendy did to refer to the original text which reads, “to the conclusion that the subject-matter of the Vedic hymns is ancient and inter-Glacial, and that it was incorporated into the Vedic hymns in post-Glacial times by Rishis who inherited the same in the shape of continuous tradition from their inter-Glacial forefathers” (The Arctic Home in the Vedas 1903, P 430). According to Tilak, there was considerable gap between these two periods i.e. the period of polar observations and in incorporating these into the Rig Veda text. So Wendy has relied on hear-say information. At the same time she has totally overlooked the astronomical information derived by Tilak in his earlier book Orion in which he had proposed that the date of Taittiriya Samhita text goes back to 2350 BCE (Orion 1893, P 59). One more observation to be noted here is that both these books by B.G. Tilak are not even mentioned in the bibliography section on P 751.
She describes four guesses about the Rig Veda and Aryan invasion (P 89-104) but remains stoically silent on the astronomical observations made in the Vedic texts. That is a prominent school of thought in the Vedic studies. It is very conveniently overlooked by the likes of Wendy, who cannot come out of the time frame of 1200 BCE for the Rig Veda. After decades of labor in the paddy field, possibly she did not think of even touching on this topic or mention it. Is it possibly out of fear of losing the ground? At least a passing mention could have proved her academic honesty.
Mediaeval history botched
There are lots of distortions and misrepresentations in the chapters relating to her specialization i.e. the ancient Sanskrit texts. She has totally messed up in the mediaeval history chapters. There is a gross mistake about Sikh Guru Govind Singh’s assassination in 1708 while attending the emperor Aurangzeb who died in 1707(P 537). Guru Govinds Singh had helped Aurangjzeb’s son to ascend the Delhi throne. When she writes that, “In 1714, Shivaji’s grandson Shahu appointed as his chief minister a Brahmin who was such a poor horseman that he required a man on each side to hold him in saddle. The Maharashtrian resistance did not last long after that” (P 545). Anybody who knows bit of Indian history will laugh at these passages. Wendy is blissfully ignorant of the Maratha Empire that sprawled from Delhi to Karnataka and that Raghoba Dada Peshava had reached up to Attock, the farthest part of Indian frontier or Marathas extracted tributes from the North-West frontier tribes. It was Marathas who fought the third battle at Panipat in 1761. They lost it but continued to wield power for half a century. Then the cunning Britishesrs took over. Mount Stuart Elphiston, a British military officer had to give in; unable to overcome wit and wisdom of Nana Phadanvis, hs said “jabataka nAnA tabataka pUnA”. Does she know of Grant Duff who wrote the first chronicler of the Maratha History? She would not have quoted poor joke on Chief Minister of Shahu. Duff’s Maratha history book is mostly available in the Chicago department library. There are books by many other Maharashtrian authors She could easily access those books. She quotes it from Keay’s book India, a History (Pp 331-368). One wonders why should Wendy rely on tertiary and third rate references. She could have just glanced through a few books on Maratha Empire by Indian authors like Jadunath Sarkar. Wendy has botched it all.
Publisher to be blamed
One very objectionable map that needs to be removed from the book is that of: “India From 600 CE to 1600 CE”. It does not show Kashmir as part of India at all. Is it deliberate and willful omission or utter disregard for the Indian history, rather Hindu History?
There are lots of mistakes in the index. Ala-ud-din Khilaji becomes Khajali (P 765), Shahu, the Maratha king reduced to Maharashtrian minister (P774). Here the publisher has failed, for not getting the text and index properly checked.
One wonders, what were the Penguin Books’ editors doing? Wendy’s word is not a gospel to print unedited. It is Penguin Press in India to be squarely blamed for the map mischief, gross misrepresentations and printing mistakes in the book.
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About the author Dr. Pramod Pathak – He is M.Tech. (Chemical) from I.I.T. Mumbai, a professional Chemical Engineer and innovator. He is Ph.D. in the Vedic literature. He has studied Indus Culture in depth, participated in archaeological excavations and conducted experiments on Indus Culture type porous pot in “experimental archaeology”. His major contribution is in the areas of Vedic Vritra myth and interpretation of the Indus Culture seals. He contributed papers on the Vedic deities and the Indus Culture seals. He has worked on the living traditions in India. He has written books on the Vedic texts, Ramayana, “The Afghan Connection” and “The Living Traditions of the Emerald Land: Tulasi Vrindavans and Holy Crosses in Goa”. He regularly writes for the magazines and research journals.