25th May 2015
Thank you, RSS and Hindutva bigots (e.g. Rajiv Malhotra) for introducing me to Wendy Doniger: a great scholar of Hinduism
I'm sure people like Rajiv Malhotra and RSS zealots had no intention of spreading the writings of Wendy Doniger, but that's precisely what they've done.
I don't judge anyone without first understanding their position. When fools like RSS start smearing people, I am very suspicious, because I know how shallow is their intelligence and knowledge.
So I had no comment re: Wendy Doniger's actual work during the Doniger book pulping controversy – because I had NEVER EVEN HEARD OF HER! I'm not much into religion or history so unless you point out a particular issue, I'm likely to never even think about it. I don't go out of the way (as I did when I was much younger) to buy books on religion/ history.
Now that Hindutva fanatics have introduced me to her, however, I was curious. I've since then had a quick look through the early parts of The Hindus: An Alternative History. Yesterday, I also listened to Doniger's recent lecture uploaded by the University of Chicago.
It turns out that Doniger is good. Very good. She has spent nearly 50 years studying Hinduism and India, and has many interesting insights to offer – in an extremely scholarly and dispassionate way.
I'm surprised why Hindutva fanatics are upset by her work, since she has a rather favourable attitude towards Hinduism. She acknowledges that Hinduism is remarkably tolerant. She also shows other religious (like Christianity and Islam) have failed to dent Hinduism; perhaps because it offers to its adherents a structured flexibility that other religions can't, or don't.
Very insightful and scholarly is how I'd rate Wendy Doniger.
She points out also how American IT-literate Hindus (who dominate the internet and Wikipedia) have started insisting over the last 10 years that only THEIR version of Hinduism is right.
I commend her works to everyone. Read it, if only to open your eyes and get a different, scholarly perspective. When I read or hear Rajiv Malhotra I get a sense that I'm reading/listening to a bigot (which he is, without any doubt). When I read/ listen to Doniger, on the other hand, I get the sense that I'm going to learn something through rational discourse. With the use of subtle humour, her work is also extremely readable.
I appreciate the place in the talk where Doniger suggests that scholars of religion, like scientists, merely make their best attempt to interpret things – thereby being open to other opinions and interpretations. ("Our best guess is this"). Unlike them, however, deeply ignorant bigots like Malhotra see the world in only one way – and their way is often plain wrong.
I've got too many other non-historical/religious priorities and so might not finish reading Doniger's work, but if you've bot a moment, do read her and let me know what you think.