” Satanic Verses” of Hinduism

Few days ago Penguin Books withdrew all books of ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History” from India in face of a lawsuit. It is being compared to banning of Satanic Verses in India by Rajiv Gandhi. The Penguin Books was expecting an adversarial decision by the court and a nightmarish scenario if Narenda Modi is elected Prime Minister in upcoming elections. Some excerpts from article in NYT;

In “The Hindus,” Author Ms. Doniger wanted “to tell a story of Hinduism that’s been suppressed and was increasingly hard to find in the media and textbooks,” she said. “It’s not about philosophy, it’s not about meditation, it’s about stories, about animals and untouchables and women. It’s the way that Hinduism has dealt with pluralism.”

“Ms. Doniger said of her source material, “I didn’t make this stuff up,” adding, “The stories are very human, and the gods are very interesting, because they have emotions, and they get in trouble and commit adultery.”

The novelist Hari Kunzru said Ms. Doniger’s opponents were “particularly exercised by her wish to reinstate sexuality at the center of Hinduism.” The original legal complaint, filed by Dinanath Batra of the group Shiksha Bachao Andolan, described a “hidden agenda to denigrate Hindus and show their religion in poor light” and called Ms. Doniger’s approach to Hinduism “that of a woman hungry of sex.”

One example of the material for which Ms. Doniger has come under fire is her writing about the Shiva linga, a large stone image that appears in many Shiva temples and is worshiped with offerings of water and flowers. Ms. Doniger approaches the linga as an abstract symbol and as the sexual organ of the god Shiva. (As she writes in “The Hindus,” “sometimes a linga is just a linga — or, more often, both a linga and a cigar.”) She compared its dual meaning to that of the cross in Christianity: “To say that the Shiva linga has nothing to do with the body of Shiva is the same as saying the cross has nothing to do with the passion of Christ, it only means God and love.”


Posted by F. Sheikh

One thought on “” Satanic Verses” of Hinduism

  1. Today, or maybe always, it is a money market world. Both, the writer and the publisher are here to make money under the pretext of telling the Truth in an interesting way. ‘The Hindus’, is a 780 page volume written by a very famous historian Wendy Doniger who holds two doctorates, in Sanskrit and Indian studies. Last month, I brought this book from the Library and have found this book a well researched; derogatory to the Hindus only if Hinduism is viewed within a religious perspective. Ibn Battuta, the famous traveler remarked about Hindu religion after visiting their temples, “I wonder why they call this a religion, when every wall of their temple is adorned with porno pictures and statues; their temples are presented as brothels rather than a place of worship.” However, we can also challenge or even reject Ibn Battuta’s comment on Hindu religion.

    Religion, even today, is a social phenomenon which has an interactive relationship with diverse traditional units that constitute a society. Some consider religion as people’s communion with the supernatural, and some view religion as an expression of instinctual reaction to cosmic forces, while others experience religion as a discipline outside ordinary experiences. In any case, religion interacts with the groups of people, social institutions, and forces in a society and illustrates sociological rules and regulations. ‘The Hindus’ in this context of the religion does hurt the feelings of the followers of Hindu religion. However, this book is a well researched and an excellent work on the birth and evolution of Hindu civilization from ancient to the modern time.

    A short assessment of this book in author’s own words shows “how much the groups that conventional wisdom says were oppressed and silenced and played no part in the development of the [Hindu] tradition–women, Pariahs (oppressed castes, sometimes called Untouchables)–did actually contribute to Hinduism.” The central theme of this voluminous book is the term “nonviolence” (ahimsa). The book reveals that in Hinduism, “ahimsa represents not a political doctrine or even a social theory, but the emotion of the horror of killing (or hurting) a living creature, an emotion that we will see attested from the earliest texts.” It quotes Arjuna, the heroic warrior of the Mahabharata, excuses the violence of war by saying, “Creatures live on creatures, the stronger on the weaker. The mongoose eats mice, just as the cat eats mongoose; the dog devours the cat, your majesty, and the wild beasts eats the dog. Even ascetics [tapasas] cannot stay alive without killing.” This text, according to the author justifies human violence by the natural impulse of violence that is unrestrained in the animal world. Nonviolence is in fact an ideal behind the cultural reality of violence in Hinduism and I quote from the said book, “Classical Hindu India was violent in ways both shared with all cultures and unique to its particular time and place, in its politics (war being the raison d’etre of every king); in its religious practices (animal sacrifice, ascetic self-torture, fire walking, swinging from hooks in the flesh of the back, [widow sati] and so forth); in its criminal law (impaling on stakes and the amputation of limbs being prescribed punishments for relatively minor offenses); in its hells (cunningly and sadistically contrived to make the punishment fit the crime); and, perhaps at the very heart of it all, in its climate, with its unendurable heat and un predictable monsoons,” (page 10).

    As I have often argued that the much emphasized Gandhi’s movement of nonviolence was a failure, Wendy Doniger in the chapter ‘Nonviolence: Gandhi’ (page 626-27) says, “He [Gandhi] once remarked, ‘Indeed the very word, nonviolence, a negative word, means that it is an effort to abandon the violence, that is inevitable in life’.” She argues on the next page, “But Gandhi hoped that the ancient Hindu ideal of nonviolence, even in its modern incarnation, would succeed in the postcolonial context, he was whistling in the dark. His method succeeded against the British [which I have always disputed, as it was for the British a blessing in disguise, as it helped them quit India safely] but could not avert the tragedy of Partition. Gandhi’s nonviolence failed because it did not pay sufficient attention to the other, more tenacious ancient Hindu ideal that had a deeper grip on real emotions in the twentieth century: violence.” There is a lot more to ponder upon and critically discuss in this book, such as the Hindu myth, religion, its philosophy, its history, geography, climate, etc., all that Wendy Doniger has covered remarkably in ‘The Hindus’ with thorough research and great hard work.

    Mirza Ashraf

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