The Hindus-An Alternative History

Discussion in 'Eastern Philosophy' started by kmguru, Mar 2, 2010.

  1. kmguru Staff Member

    I received the following in an email. If you run in to the controversy, now you know what that is all about.

    The Penguin Group has published a book titled, “The Hindus-An Alternative History” by a professor of religions at Chicago University by name Wendy Doniger. This book contains not only many factual errors in Indian history but also misrepresents the beliefs, traditions and interpretations of a whole people.

    SCANDALOUS cover jacket of the book - copy for ready reference at

    “The Hindus: An Alternative History” is rife with numerous errors in its historical facts and Sanskrit translations. These errors and misrepresentations are bound and perhaps intended to mislead students of Indian and Hindu history.

    Throughout the book, Doniger analyzes revered Hindu Gods and Goddess using her widely discredited psychosexual Freudian theories that modern, humanistic psychology has deemed limiting. These interpretations are presented as hard facts and not as speculations. Doniger makes various faulty assumptions about the tradition in order to arrive at her particular spin. In the process, the beliefs, traditions and interpretations of practicing Hindus are simply ignored or bypassed without the unsuspecting reader knowing this to be the case. This kind of Western scholarship has been criticized as Orientalism and Eurocentrism. The non Judeo-Christian faith gets used to dish out voyeurism and the tradition gets eroticized.


    The following are a just a SMALL SAMPLING of examples of the factual errors that run rampant through this disgusting book. By due diligence that is badly overdue from your editors, you can either find for yourself, or we will be glad to direct you to, scholarly references so that you can verify these errors yourself and withdraw this obscenity.

    [Page number precedes a reference to inaccurate statements in the book. This is followed by a comment citing verifiable facts.]

    Maps in front pages: Maps titled ‘India’s Geographical Features’ and ‘India from 600 CE to 1600 CE’
    COMMENT: In the first map, the Waziristan Hills area is marked erroneously as ‘Kirthar Range’. The Kirthar Range is at least 200 miles further south. In the third map, Janakpur, Nagarkot, Mandu and Haldighati are marked several hundred miles from their correct geographical location.

    Pg. 67 - It is claimed that the entire Harappan culture had a population of 40,000!
    COMMENT: This is estimated as the population of Mohenjo-Daro alone. The population of the entire culture is estimated around 500,000.

    Pg 112 - Wheat is mentioned as a food item in the Rigvedic period.
    COMMENT: Wheat is not mentioned in the Rigveda at all. It first occurs in the Maitrayani Samhita of the Yajurveda.

    Pg 130 - The author claims that there are no Gods in the Vedas who are Shudras.
    COMMENT: It is anachronistic to assign castes to Rigvedic deities, but nevertheless, Pushan, Vesmapati and others have been considered Shudra deities in later times.

    Pg 194 fn.- Gandhi’s commentary on the Gita (a sacred Hindu scripture) was titled ’Asakti Yoga’ (translated as ‘the science of deep attachment’).
    COMMENT: The title of Gandhi’s work is ’Anasakti Yoga’ (trans. ‘Science of non-Attachment’).

    Pg 206 - The book wrongly states that the Hindus had only a triad of passions.
    COMMENT: Hindu scriptures list six main evils and the concept of shadripus (six internal enemies) is very well known.

    Pg 441 - The book claims that Firoz Shah redeemed a number of Hindu slaves…
    COMMENT: A misrepresentation of the fact that he employed (not ‘redeemed’) 12,000 of his 180,000 slaves forcibly in royal factories for producing articles of consumption by Muslim elites. No “manumission” was involved.

    Pg 445 - Dates of Saint Kabir are given as 1450 – 1498.
    COMMENT: His demise is believed to have occurred in 1518, and the traditional date of birth is 1398.

    Pg 448 - In 713 Muhammad ibn Qasim invaded Sind.
    COMMENT: Muhammad bin Qasim invaded Sind in 711.

    Pg 450- It is claimed that Emperor Ala-ud-Din Khalji did not sack temples in Devagiri.
    COMMENT: His contemporary Amir Khusro clearly mentions that the Emperor sacked numerous temples and raised mosques instead.

    Pg 459 - King Ala-ud-din Husain of Bengal patronized Saint Chaitanya.
    COMMENT: Saint Chaitanya never met the king, and left his kingdom to avoid persecution, as did his disciples. The king had destroyed Hindu temples in Orissa.

    Pg 532 - Emperor Akbar moved his capital from Fatehpur Sikri to Delhi in 1586.
    COMMENT: Emperor Akbar moved his capital to Lahore in 1587, and thereafter to Agra.

    Pg 537-8 - The Sikh teacher Guru Govind Singh was assassinated in 1708, while ’attending Emperor Aurangzeb’. Emperor Aurangzeb died in 1707.
    COMMENT: Guru Gobind Singh was assassinated in 1708 during the reign of Aurangzeb’s successor, Emperor Bahadur Shah I. It is insulting to say that the Guru was ‘attending’ on the Emperor.

    Pg 550 - The book claims that Mirabai lived from 1498-1597, and then on p. 568, the author claims that Mirabai lived from 1450-1525!
    COMMENT: Both dates are wrong and the commonly accepted dates are 1498-1547.

    Pg 552 - The book claims that the Ramcharitmanas was written at Varanasi.
    COMMENT: Both modern scholarship as well as tradition accept that the work (or at least most of it) was written in Ayodhya.

    Section on Bibliography: “Shekhawat, V. “Origin and Structure of purushartha Theory: An attempt at Critical Appraisal.” Journal of Indian Council of Philosophical Research 7:1 (1900), 63-67.”
    COMMENT:The correct issue and year of this Journal issue are actually 8:2 and 1991. The bibliography has dozens of errors. Some references cited by Doniger simply do not exist.


    Clumsily written, each chapter is a shocking and appalling series of anecdotes which denigrate, distort and misrepresent Hinduism and the history of India and Hindus. Doniger uses selective quotations from obscure and non-original, peripheral and ignorant references with a bizarre emphasis on sexuality and eroticism. Cited below are only a handful of quotes along with our understanding and interpretation, with references from Hindu scripture.

    [Page number precedes the quote from the book. This is followed by a rebuttal comment.]

    Pg 40 – “If the motto of Watergate was ‘Follow the money’, the motto of the history of Hinduism could well be ‘Follow the monkey’ or, more often ‘Follow the horse’.”
    COMMENT: Very derogatory and offensive. The motto of Hinduism is to follow the truth and unite with God.

    Pg 112 - The author alleges that in Rigveda 10.62, it is implied that a woman may find her own brother in her bed!
    COMMENT: The hymn has no such suggestion. It is offensive to suggest that the sacred text of Hindus has kinky sex in it.

    Pg 128 - The book likens the Vedic devotee worshipping different Vedic deities to a lying and a philandering boyfriend cheating on his girlfriend(s).
    COMMENT: This is offensive and ignores that fact that in the Rigveda, the gods are said to be all united, born of one another, and from the same source.

    Pg 225 -“Dasharatha’s son is certainly ‘lustful’... Rama knows all too well what people said about Dasharatha; when Lakshmana learns that Rama has been exiled, he says, “The king is perverse, old, and addicted to sex, driven by lust (2.18.3)”
    COMMENT: Sri Rama is revered and worshipped as a deity. The highly acclaimed and critical edition of Valmiki’s Ramayana records no such statement attributed to Lakshmana. An imagined phrase, ’kama-sakta’ is mistranslated as ’addicted to sex’ by the author whereas it normally means ‘filled with desires’. Valmiki uses a phrase ’samani-madhah’ (trans. Possessed of passion).

    Pg 467 - Harihara and Bukka (the founders of the Vijayanagara Empire that saved Hindu culture in S India) ‘double-crossed’ the Delhi Sultan when they reconverted to Hinduism.
    COMMENT: The brothers committed apostasy as they had been imprisoned and forcibly converted to Islam, and immediately reverted to Hinduism when they were 1000 miles from the Sultan, under the influence of a Hindu ascetic.

    Pg 468-469 -“…The mosque, whose serene calligraphic and geometric contrasts with the perpetual motion of the figures depicted on the temple, makes a stand against the chaos of India, creating enforced vacuums that India cannot rush into with all its monkeys and peoples and colors and the smells of the bazaar…”

    COMMENT: It is simply unacceptable that a scholar can flippantly, pejoratively and derogatorily essentialize the Hindus as “monkeys and peoples, colors and smells.., and chaos” in most insulting manner with the aspersion thrown at the entire Hindu culture and community all over the world. Such generalization has no place in serious scholarly work.

    Pg 509 - ”Shankara and the philosopher’s wife…This tale contrasts sex and renunciation in such a way that the renunciant philosopher is able to have his cake and eat it, to triumph not only in the world of the mind (in which, before this episode begins, he wins a series of debates against the nonrenouncing male Mimamsa philosopher) but in the world of the body, represented by the philosopher’s wife (not to mention the harem women who clearly prefer Shankara to the king in bed).” The author attributes the tale to Shankaradigvijaya of Madhava and to Ravichandra’s commentary on Amarushataka.

    COMMENT: The author concocts the story as a sexual orgy in which the Saint Adi Shankara and King Amruka take turns making love to the latter’s wives after he is tired. Both her sources however state that the King was already dead and the Saint transferred his soul into the dead King’s body through his yogic powers. There is no suggestion in the texts that the queens ‘prefer Shankara to the king in bed’.

    Pg 571- It is alleged that in a hymn from Saint Kshetrayya’s poetry, ‘God rapes’ the women devotees.

    COMMENT: The hymn merely presents devotion using spiritual metaphors and the hymns of the Saint seen collectively depict it as a passionate love affair between the God and the devotees. No rape is implied in this hymn at all.

    Again, the above is simply a sampling of the scandalous and offensive statements in the book. By her own admission in the book, Doniger has no credentials as a historian and the title of the book is misleading as the book is not on the “History nor an Alternative History” of India. This shows that the author is not an authority on the subject as she is not able to understand the deep meaning of Sanskrit verses or Indian Concepts. These cast serious doubts about the author’s integrity as a researcher and ability to interpret accurately. Additional examples of the author’s shoddy scholarship will be made available upon request.

    We emphasize that this defamatory book misinforms readers about the history of Hindu civilization, its cultures and traditions. The book promotes prejudices and biases against Hindus. Can Penguin’s editors really be incompetent enough to have allowed this to pass to publication? If this is not deliberate malice, Penguin must act now in good faith.
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  3. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Who would do this? Who hates Hindus? Americans love them, although most Americans think Hinduism and Buddhism are the same thing. Ever since the Beatles got their own guru, I haven't heard anyone say anything derogatory about Hinduism.

    Is it the Muslims? There has been a lot of Hindu/Muslim violence in India, culminating in the partitioning of Pakistan. They've continued to make war, on and off, as separate countries.

    Is it the Buddhists? The majority population in Sri Lanka is Buddhist and the Tamil Tigers who claim to have been treated unfairly are Hindus, right?
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  5. nirakar ( i ^ i ) Registered Senior Member

    I still don't know what this is about. If you say the email is correct I will take your word for it.
    I did not think there was any such thing as Chicago University. She is at the University of Chicago.

    The Author is presented as if she is a Western expert on Hinduism. Christians often don't like what scholars of Christianity write but that does not mean that the scholars are wrong. I am sure Eurocentrism is alive and well in Western academia and is still responsible for distortions of history but I don't know if that applies in this case. Some of those quotes from the book do seem ridiculously insensitive and therefore racism should be suspected.

    I Don't like the University of Chicago because of the damage that their economics department has done.

    From Wikipedia

    Doesn't sound like the profile of an anti Hindu racist or somebody who would pander to unconscious racist stupidity but you never know.
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2010
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  7. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    This is more BS from the Saffron brigade.
  8. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member


    The motto of anyone who buys this book should be "Follow the Donkey"
    This person has no respect for the peoples of India and their religions.
    If people want to read an account from a Christian or Western Agnostic position, I'm sure they can do better than this.

    I don't think it will be appearing in many shop windows in Delhi.
  9. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    If you made it a bet you'd lose, it topped the bestselling list and is on prominent display in every bookstore I've been in the last few months.

    Don't you understand yet, how Indians think?

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    The monkey refers to Hanuman and the culture of devotion in India, the horse refers to the myth of horse sacrifice and refers to the period of India moving out of the Vedic influence and under the Persian one.
  10. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    What about Donkeys then?
  11. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

  12. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    I've found out about Donkeys.

    The demon Kali was reincarnated as a King.
    When he was born he began braying like a donkey, and all the donkeys of the place started braying at once. Quite sinister.

    So, the donkey is associated with the nearest thing Hindus have to a Christian Devil.
    In Christianity, the donkey is affectionately associated with Christ.
    Firstly, Mary and Joseph travelled on Donkeys to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, and secondly, Jesus travelled on a donkey into Jerusalem, where palms were laid beneath the donkey's feet.

    (I'm sure someone will tell me I am completely wrong about this. Go ahead.)

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    Yes, 5000 years of culture.
    I bet all the "advanced" Indians will be rejecting it in place of Western materialism.
    (I hate modernism)
    Would I win my bet this time?

    I was a bit annoyed with this American academic.
    The quote about the monkeys was a put down I thought, but it's probably a big book and has its faults.
    If it has been a number one best seller in India for a year, and no-one is breaking shop windows, it must be pretty good.
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2010
  13. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    No idea, I don't know any advanced Indians.

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    Why be annoyed? As she said, Hindus:an alternative history. Could be's should be's would be's are a part of Indian culture. Who knows what history is, but a narrative of different sutradhars? Why can't she be one as well?

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  14. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    That's good then. Corporate culture is a cancer.
    I see you have Barbie now.

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    Indian Barbie
  15. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    I prefer our delightful bobble dolls, the ones made from papier mache/clay or even our unique cultural dolls.

    We seem to be drifting from Eastern Philosophy.
  16. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    ok I will make it short
    You're wrong

    If you've got to literally walk the entire length and breadth of india to find a man who wears a dhoti, it makes you wonder if this is the first time in 5000 years the indians have been mad about some foreign culture.
  17. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    Have you read this book lg?
    What do you think of it?

    @Sam. When's the last time you saw someone wearing a Dhoti?
    Did your last husband wear one?
    Do you wear one?
  18. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    This is what it says in wapedia

    Kali was later incarnated as king Duryodhana, eldest of the one hundred Kaurava brothers. His companion Dvapara became his uncle Sakuni. The day Duryodhana was born, he unleashed a donkey-like scream which the donkeys outside the home replied to. Despite the advise from Vidura to discard the evil baby, Duryodhana's father Dhritarashtra kept the child because demons had received a boon from Shiva that the future king would be invincible.
  19. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    Donkeys are not associated with the devil (even if you happen to dig up a reference for the Talavana forest).

    The asuras (or demons) have an agenda to usurp the position of the devas (or demigods). Part of that included taking birth in aristocratic families on earth (which then became a stage for the conflict).

    Donkeys have a host of connotations ... usually that revolve around being thickheaded and sold out to materialism (like for instance getting kicked in the face by the female, bearing incredible burdens for the sake of a handful of grass that can be had anywhere, etc etc)

    But as far as jesus riding on a donkey, I understand that it was more a sign of humility and peace (since the trend for a "big man" would have been to dash into town on a horse)
  20. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member


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  21. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    Do Hindus believe that everything written in their scriptures actually happened, or do they see them as instructive stories?
  22. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member


    I've googled Dhotis, and they are all the rage. Dhoti Salwars anyway.
    I'm surprised you didn't know SAM.

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  23. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    some do some don't.

    For instance one famous person (ex-prime minister I think) did a commentary on the gita where he was trying to pass of the 5 sons of Pandu as the 5 senses and the field of kuruksetra (where the battle took place) as representative of the body ... and in this way the whole gita was a treatise on health (he had a hobby interest in natural medicine)
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2010

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