jump to navigation

Tigers and Goats A quick report on the World Sanskrit Conference, Bangkok 2015 August 3, 2015

Posted by southasiamasala in : Taylor, McComas , comments closed

McComas Taylor

Western Marxist Orientalist scholars are chewing up Sanskrit as a tiger would devour a goat, digesting what is needed and excreting the remains. So said well-known Indian fire-brand Rajiv Malhotra at the opening of the 16th World Sanskrit Conference in Bangkok on 28 June 2015. Many of the 600 or so attendees were also surprised to learn that international scholarship on Sanskrit is fundamentally perverted by the ideas of Giambattista Vico (1688–1744). The world is neatly divided into secular leftist ‘outsiders’ (Westerners and many Indians who have been coopted by the system) who regard Sanskrit as dead, oppressive and political, and ‘insiders’ for whom Sanskrit as alive, liberating and sacred.

(more…)

Review of Doniger August 10, 2009

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Taylor, McComas , comments closed

McComas Taylor

Wendy Doniger. The Hindus:  An Alternative History. New York: Penguin Press, 2009. 779 pp.

True to form, Wendy Doniger has come up with another stimulating and controversial book.  The Hindus: An Alternative History, published this year by Penguin, will delight some readers and horrify others. Why an ‘alternative history’?  Doniger’s starting point is that our understanding of Hinduism has been dominated first by male, upper-caste, Sanskritic traditions, and later by male Western scholars. Her book is an attempt to correct this imbalance and to provide alternative lenses through which to view the tradition, namely those of women, dogs, horses and outcastes.  Fans of Doniger’s huge corpus will instantly recognise these as among her favourite topics. The book is organised chronologically. The timescale is little short of cosmic, from 50 million years ago to the present. At each phase she asks how each of her four classes of being is faring. For example, you will find sections on animals in the Rig Veda, women in the Brahmanas, horses in the Raj, and so on.

If the temporal arrangement is the woof (I’m sure Doniger would not mind the canine allusion), and her four themes are the warp, the whole text-ile (excuse me again) is shot through with typical golden threads that we know so well from Doniger’s writings – violence and non-violence, good and evil, sexuality and ambiguity, addiction and renunciation. One such recurrent thread is the view of the moon – do we see a man or a rabbit? Just as different cultures see different images in the moon, so do the various facets of Hinduism appear different, depending on one’s cultural background. This sounds facile, but it is refreshing to read a self-consciously reflective exploration of Hinduism at last. She is a great one for overturning the (ahem) sacred cows of Indology. For example, she does not deign to grace the various explanations for the appearance of Vedic culture in the Indus Valley with the word ‘theory’, instead she calls them Guess One, Guess Two and so on – wonderfully provocative.

(more…)