The Hindus: An Alternative History

the-hindus-an-alternative-historyI can’t wait to get hold of this new book The Hindus: An Alternative History written byWendy Doniger. She’s an ex-professor at the University of Chicago who has translated several ancient books written in Sanskrit.

It will be interesting to see a philologist’s, as opposed to say a historian’s, interpretation of the cultural history of the Hindus. Here’s one review.

Below is an excerpt from the first few pages of this 780 page book:

This book tells the story of Hinduism chronologically and historically and emphasizes the history of marginalized rather than mainstream Hindus. My aims have been to demonstrate: (1) that the Hindus throughout their long history have been enriched by the contribution by women, the lower castes and other religions; (2) that although there are a number of things that have been characteristics of many Hindus over the ages (the worship of several gods, reincarnation, karma) none has been true to all Hindus – its vitality, its earthiness, its vividness – lies precisely in many of those idiosyncratic qualities that some Hindus today are ashamed of and would deny; (3) and that the history of tensions between the various Hinduisms, and between the different sorts of Hindus, undergrids the violence of the contemporary Indian political and religious scene. [Emphasis mine.]

This is going to be fun, I can tell.

[Picture Courtesy: The Wall Street Journal]

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5 responses to “The Hindus: An Alternative History

  1. Doniger has often been attacked by hindu fanatics for looking at hinduism from a different angle than theirs. After all a white woman writing about hinduism must be wrong.!!

    I will wait to see how they react to her book this time.

    • Kiran

      So any Hindu who defends their relgion from the insults of Doniger has to be labelled a ‘fanatic’. And why is it that only a westerners interpretation of Hindusim is accpetable or worthy of respect.

  2. Vishal

    Yup, her previous work did create a lot of controversy, so much that an angry protester once threw an egg at her while she was giving a lecture! This was in 2003, long time before this shoe-throwing trend became popular!

  3. hey – have been following your blog for quite some time on my reader, this is the first time that i am commenting.
    i hope that this doesn’t go into the James Laine zone of silliness
    a good starting point is the Manusmriti — we can see how ‘hindu’s’ and non-hindu’s (who are now defined as Hindu’s) are defined/described.
    if nothing else, the book should be interesting…..

  4. Vishal

    Do you mean the silliness of James Laine to have written such inflammatory material about a beloved hero, or the silliness of the people (marathi manoon in particular) to ban his book? I worry more about the latter kind.

    I think Doniger has translated Manusmriti as well, not sure how “authentic” it is though.

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