Why did Penguin recall a book on Hindus? - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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"Now here's this book. And there will be more. After half a century of studying and engaging with Hinduism, I'm not about to be silenced by a few (bad) eggs," academic Wendy Doniger wrote in her latest book On Hinduism, published last year.

Doniger, who teaches at the University of Chicago and has written nearly half a dozen books on Hinduism, including a translation of the Kama Sutra, was writing about how her 2009 book The Hindus: An Alternative History quickly became a lightning rod for Hindu anger.

Doniger wrote that bloggers had accused her of attacking Hinduism and sexualising Hindus, flooded Amazon with their "lurid opinions of the book" and sent her obscene and threatening emails. There was even a protest outside the US embassy in Delhi calling for the book, which was climbing the best-seller non-fiction list, to be banned. The book had also prompted a legal challenge from Hindu groups and attracted at least two separate criminal complaints.

But Tuesday's news of her publisher Penguin India deciding to recall and destroy all remaining copies of The Hindus is being seen as the unkindest cut of all.


Another example of conservative, reactionary Hinduism controlling the cultural debate in/on India?
Why did Penguin recall a book on Hindus?

... Yeah, sorry, I'm not grasping this joke... You tell me why.

I read everywhere (including your source) that the views in the book are to be considered unorthodox. So that is the official surface story. Traditional Indians apparently think that the author, Wendy Doniger, produced an inarticulate narrative, often citing the sexualization of Hindu culture as inappropriate and misleading, considering such material will be studied within an academic setting. Still, I think it is more about the author's western ivy league persona.
"The book is in a bad taste right from the beginning," Mr Batra told a BBC Hindi colleague on Wednesday. "If you see the front page [cover], the picture there is also objectionable since it portrays a deity in a vulgar pose. The book is slanderous and even facts have been distorted."

The Hindus is a magisterial 779-page work that attempts a narrative that is different to the one constituted by the famous texts in Sanskrit, the literary language of ancient India.


I personally think that because the author is not native to India or Hindu culture, her work is being judged harshly (er or unfairly, you never know with queer judgments). To be fair, I wouldn't want some outsider conducting research on my agitprop lifestyle.
There's definitely a trend of westerners redefining the Dharmic religions as being a "spiritualised" version of soppy liberal humanism... maybe that has something to do with it?

Having said that, it is worrying that publishers are increasingly letting themselves be bullied into self-censorship by religious fanatics, whether they are Christian, Muslim, or Hindu.
Excerpt from a review on the book and ordering website Amazon:

As an example, I opened the chapter on the Upanishads with a degree of anticipation hoping that a sociological context to the content of the Upanishads is going to present new insights. To one's great disappointment there is nothing on the sheer poetry of the verse or the metaphysics therein. Rather the good professor takes one or two of the Upanishads and
proceeds to see male chauvinism and cruelty at every turn.

Really, that's what she got out of the Upanishads? For example how about the Ananda Valli Kanda of the Taittiriya Upanishad - which defines
happiness. Not a word on that. How about the psychological complexity unveiled in the Mandukya Upanishad? Not a word on that. As someone who has lapped up all sorts of commentaries on the Upanishads for many years now (all takes welcome), this one was astonishing primarily for its wholly missing the point!

Doniger's pettiness contrasts with the generosity of spirit I have
mentioned above. Two examples here. She has comments to make on the
Ramayana and the Mahabharatha. She writes, introducing them,
'considered by some as epics'. Really? Only some people consider these epics? I am all open and eager for scholarly analysis of any subject matter - but throw us a bone here (more on dogs later...!) - give the Indians their epics!

Another example in the same vein. She reference Shankara later in the
book and while describing him as the founder of the Shankara Matts
Schools. She in paretheses writes 'is said to have founded'. Again,
really? If the Professor doubts that Shankara founded the Matts, I am
very interested in knowing about this! Even if it is vague conjecture, tell me more - I fully agree that Indian history can be vague, so please throw some light. But instead of exploring the justifiable debate or controversy that exists, she just has a throw away line, for apparently no reason.

The attitude that comes through is one of hostility, contempt and
shoddy writing


Filth like this needs to be banned and removed from the public discourse. I am not one who believes like some othes that words do not both carry a stinging impact and are intended to do so. There is no way in hell that the Hindus of the subcontinent should have to put up with this hit-job on an entire civilization and its faith which is a part of every Hindu's daily life, to have this occupy a position amongst legitimate literature on Indian shelves. Outside of the region I would perhaps not ban it, but simply let its warped attitude toward Hinduism which from all accounts overrides any pretense of scholarship pour through every orifice and receive the just amount of negative attention.

Inside India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and throughout South Asia, trash like this which comes from a part of the world hellbent on an ideological crusade against the last bastions of civilization with legitimate cohesion and continuity should be physically removed and purified by fire.
The Hindus: An Alternative History by US scholar Wendy Doniger is not accurate accounts of the Hindu religion and a sexualised version of India's indigenous religion is provocatively promoted throughout the book. There is no doubt that Ms Doniger's book is highly entertaining for Western readers but she claims that when Sanskrit scriptures were written, Indian society favoured open sexuality and she treats Hindu deities as sexual beings. Some pseudo-academic books are prone to create controversies and Iris Chang's book sold more than half a million copies when it was initially published in the US but American academics later criticised her book as "half-baked history" that is "seriously flawed" and "full of misinformation and harebrained explanations."
The book is embodiment of everything that is orientalism.

That being said, I am of course against this sort of bullying done by the right wing nuts resulting in bans. But the book has already done quite well in India, I had read excerpts a long time ago, in fact a quick googling reveals that it was best selling non fiction in India in 2009.
Goldberk wrote:I'm not defending the book but casting a light on the continued rise of hinduvatra inspired chauvinistic cultural debate, the control of who and what is Indian is of vital importance.

I agree and this is not the first case since the start of 21st century series of books has been banned because of the pressure of these groups.

They had their victory when BJP was in power and a horrendous revisionist history of India was forced on the whole country but the tide was stopped because of massive protests, this is certainly a second avenue for them to force their view of "India" on rest of us.
There is just no reason why the people of a Hindu nation should be forced to tolerate and swallow a work of slander against innumerable facets of their very ancient civilization in their own land by some hack. Why should any people tolerate that? Were it an Indian author writing a "historical" account of Europe and referring to everything, including the highest points of the Renaissance, as something barbarian, then I would equally say such drivel should be purged from European shelves.

Goldberk wrote:however I'm not defending the book but casting a light on the continued rise of hinduvatra inspired chauvinistic cultural debate, the control of who and what is Indian is of vital importance.

Ah, so we can agree then that it is just another extension of the vital cultural debate, and thus, if you are a supporter of Hindutva and believe the Indian nation should be defined as a Hindu nation (that the two concepts, are in fact, inseparable, and the modern era of secular liberal democracy will later be seen as a minor erroneous blip on the radar of the history of Hindustan), then you should very much support this book's continued de-legitimization by the Hindu masses.

I'm also with them who, like the RSS in Maharashtra, are intent on purging Saint Valentine's Day from India wholesale.
I will like to point out that Hindutva as a political ideology and movement =/= Hinduism as a religious and philosophical system.

Founder of Hindutva movement and a staunch atheist VD Savarkar wrote:“Here it is enough to point out that Hindutva is not identical with what is vaguely indicated by the term Hinduism. By an ‘ism’ it is generally meant a theory or a code more or less based on spiritual or religious dogma or system. But when we attempt to investigate into the essential significance of Hindutva we do not primarily—and certainly not mainly—concern ourselves with any particularly theocratic or religious dogma or creed.”
“There would have been no serious objection raised against the cultural aspect of Hindutva too, but for the unfortunate misunderstanding that owes its origin to the confusing similarity between the two terms Hindutva and Hinduism. We have tried already to draw a clear line of demarcation between the two conceptions and protested against the wrong use of the word Hinduism to denote the Sanatan Dharma alone. Hindutva is not identical with Hindu Dharma.”
Last edited by fuser on 13 Feb 2014 17:38, edited 1 time in total.
This is true, but Hinduism as you know is just a somewhat arbitrary choice of terminology chosen to refer to an amalgation of indigenous religious beliefs in India, which really took off around the British colonial era.

VD Savarkar wrote:We have tried already to draw a clear line of demarcation between the two conceptions and protested against the wrong use of the word Hinduism to denote the Sanatan Dharma alone.

What does the eternal truth refer to other than the peoples of Hindustan's social, ethical, philosophical, and spiritual value system and understanding of themselves and of destiny which dates back to a period before widely recorded history? That is not confined to one doctrine or sect. As you also know there were historically sects which could be classified as animist in nature to downright atheistic in their view of a personal God, to those which practiced animal and even human sacrifice. Hindutva is just a political movement advocating a nationalist understanding of the Hindu people's place in the region and the world through a transformation of a state which is servile to too many alien interests (liberal interests, a commitment to secularism, too great a deference to the Muslim minority and proselytization of Christianity and other Abrahamic faiths which are viewed as a culturally imperialist Trojan horse, etc.). Of course there are many Hindus whose ideology and political goals don't align with it, as there are many Hindutva supporters who are not the most pious of Hindus.
You are obviously correct but I would had not worded it like you have. I would had made them sound negative.

In the end, I see it as an ideology promoting cultural homogenization.

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