• 0 Vote(s) - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
India/western Sociology
Sanskritization theory is thoroughly exposed as theological. Give maybe eight months maximum for the mother of them all: philology.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->There are a series of problems in Srinivas' claims (cited in Kanaada's post #4883), which reveal general flaws in his notion of Sanskritization.

1. MNS claims that "a caste was able, in a generation or two, to rise to a higher position in the hierarchy by adopting vegetarianism and teetotalism and by changing its rituals and deities." The first basic problem here is how one can establish the position of a jati in the supposed hierarchy and measure it in such detail that one can see over two generations that the jati has attained a higher position. Which standard does one use to establish the position of jati x? What members of jati x say about its position relative to other jatis? What members of other jatis say about the position of x relative to their own jatis? As our fieldwork in Karnataka has already shown, it is impossible to infer any hierarchy from such empirical data, because all one gets is a series of inconsistent statements with regard to the relative positions of jatis. This basic problem becomes even more intractable when we take into account the history of assigning positions to jatis in the so-called "caste hierarchy". When the British had their caste sensus in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, many jatis classified as shudras or untouchables sent in petitions arguing that they held higher positions; they were kshatriyas, they said. Today, the same jatis insist that they are really shudras or untouchables and should be classified as OBCs or SCs. When jatis can radically revise their 'position in the hierarchy' according to the status or benefits they win by doing so, what could one ever conclude about their position and how it changes over generations?

Should one calculate the average socio-economic level of jati x and compare it to the average level of other jatis? Apart from difficulties in calculating this socio-economic level, one faces an even more difficult problem: how does one circumscribe jati x? Are two groups with the same name both sub-divisions of jati x? What if they claim they are different jatis? What geographical or social unit should one begin with to establish the (socio-economic) position of jati x in the hierarchy? Let us say one takes the village as the relevant unit. How does the socio-economic level that jati x enjoys in some village tell us anything about its position in the hierarchy? If the socio-economic welfare of jati x increases markedly over two generations in this village, does this mean it has attained a higher position? What if the same jati in the surrounding villages has declined? In terms of empirical data, then, it becomes impossible to say (a) what the position is of a jati in the supposed hierarchy and (b) when it has attained a higher position. In other words, MNS can never have inferred his conclusions about Sanskritization and castes rising to higher positions from his 'fieldwork data'.

2. Of course, some jati may adopt practices from another jati. Let us even admit that some jatis regularly adopted practices from certain groups of Brahmins. What does this show? It certainly does not show that 'a low caste' "took over, as far as possible, the customs, rites, and beliefs of the Brahmins" and adopted
"the Brahminic way of life." By observing all the different groups of Brahmins and their different customs and rites or by collecting the beliefs of Brahmin individuals, one cannot through some process of induction come to "the Brahminic way of life" or "the customs, rites and beliefs of the Brahmins" (unless one means the set of all customs, rites and beliefs ever held or engaged in by all Brahmins who ever lived). So it does not make sense to claim that low castes took over the Brahminic way of life. Maximally, some practices of some Brahmin jatis were adopted by some other jatis. Does this demonstrate that these other jatis attributed a higher position to the Brahmin jatis in question? One may suggest that this is self-evident or at least very plausible, but this is a kind of half-baked social psychology that does not result from theorizing or research.

Take a few instances from European history. In nineteenth-century western Europe, it was very common for the up and coming bourgeoisie (industrialists, entrepreneurs) to imitate the nobility. For instance, they began to imitate eating with cutlery and cutting one's bread with a knife. (There is a story that the nobility in France one day decided collectively to starting breaking the bread with one's hands instead of cutting it, so as to humiliate the bourgeoisie and show that it could never become like the nobility.) Did this practice of imitating the nobility show that the bourgeoisie attributed a higher position to the nobility? In one sense, the bourgeoisie did so: culturally, the nobility was considered 'noble'; in another sense, they did not: the bourgeoisie often were more affluent and socio-economically more important. Another instance comes from medieval Europe: when Christian monasteries flourished in the middle ages, lay groups began to imitate the monks, adopt all kinds of practices from them and live ascetically like them. Did this show that the monks were given a higher position in 'the hierarchy'? Not really. The churchly hierarchy of priests and bishops held more power; many knights looked down upon the monks; some laymen admired them and thought that the monks were working for the collective salvation of the christian ecclesia. From such examples and from social psychology in general, we cannot infer some general law that "if one social group adopts practices from another social group or imitates it, this shows that the latter has a higher position than the former."

So MNS cannot have inferred his account about Sanskritization and castes rising to higher positions from social psychology or the general laws of social psychology across cultures and societies.

3. <b>If neither empirical data nor social-scientific theorizing could ever bring one to the story about Sanskritization, how then can we explain that MNS found it cogent and many Indians and westerners until this day find it extremely plausible?</b> One part of the story is that he presupposed the existence of the caste hierarchy with Brahmins at the top and untouchables at the bottom and a flexible range of "middle regions of the hierarchy." This is not to say that he started out with a well-formulated hypothesis about the caste hierarchy and tried to test it empirically, but that he presupposed the fairly vague classical account on the caste hierarchy as the background framework that structured every description of the 'facts' he encountered in his fieldwork. This is clear from his statement that "adoption of the Brahminic way of life by a low caste" is <b>"theoretically forbidden." Which theory is MNS referring to here? The theory of the caste system as it was and is held by different jatis in India or by the
Brahmins or the so-called "upper castes"? There is no such theory to be found. Such a "theory" was developed by European scholars reflecting on their experience of Indian society: they linked some fragments of texts like the Manusmriti to certain descriptions of practices and groups in Indian society and constructed the "theory" of the caste system, which projects a hierarchy with certain 'rules'.</b>

It is only when one pressuposes this caste hierarchy that it becomes self-evident that castes could climb on the hierarchical ladder by adopting the "Brahminic way of life" and "Sanskritizing" themselves. <b>In fact, Srinivas' story about Sanskritization merely inverts the old Orientalist story about the way in which Brahmanism spread and the 'Aryan people' subjugated the aboriginal inhabitants of the subcontintent. This nineteenth-century story claims that the 'Aryan' or 'Brahmanical people' used the caste system to absorb all aboriginal and Dravidian peoples into the basic structure of Brahmanism, while allowing these groups to retain their old beliefs. </b>Thus, the 'Aryan Brahmins' established their authority and superiority in Indian society. In this process, the aboriginal and Dravidian groups are supposed to have adopted the basic beliefs of Brahmanism and thus accepted the lower positions in the caste system. It would take us too far to go into the development and background assumptions of this European story about India, but it does raise some questions about MNS' often-lauded creativity in developing the notion of Sanskritization. <b>His creativity consisted of inverting an old Orientalist story and selecting and interpreting his empirical data in such a way that they seemed to provide foundations for this story.</b>


<b>Liberalism and Empire: A Study in Nineteenth-Century British Liberal Thought </b> (Review)
by Uday Singh Mehta

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->We take liberalism to be a set of ideas committed to political rights and self-determination, yet it also served to justify an empire built on political domination. Uday Mehta argues that imperialism, far from contradicting liberal tenets, in fact stemmed from liberal assumptions about reason and historical progress. Confronted with unfamiliar cultures such as India, British liberals could only see them as backward or infantile. In this, liberals manifested a narrow conception of human experience and ways of being in the world.
The author is a Chinese national.

<b>Chinese discourses on the peasant, 1900-1949 By Xiaorong Han</b>

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Both Chen Duxiu, later a co-founder of the Chinese Communist Party, and Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Chinese Nationalist Party, were critical of the peasants for their ignorance and indifference.  Their portrayal was not very different from what Karl Marx wrote about the peasant of India, who cared about nothing but some miserable patch of land and who lived an "undignified, stagnatory, and vegetative life."  It is interesting to note that at one point Chen Duxiu and Sun Yat-sen shared the same view about the Boxer Rebellion.  Chen attributed the humiliation China suffered after the rebellion of the Boxers in a 1918 article about the demolition in Beijing of the Von Ketteler Monument, buit immediately after the Boxer Rebellion to commemorate the German minister killed by the Boxers.  Patriotic Chinese viewed this monument as an extremely humiliating symbol.  "How shameful China is! What a curse the Boxers are!" Chen wrote.  He warned that the Boxer Rebellion might happen again because the superstition and ignorance behind it still prevailed in China.  Sun Yatsen, although praising the Boxers for their spirit of resistance, called the Boxers "bandits," as many educated Chinese of his generation did, and described the Bixer Rebellion as "a widely arrogant and presumptuous action."<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Ghostwriter says:

I see you have been reading Edmund Burke!

Burke’s opposition to the empire should not be gleaned from this now famous comment – that would be misleading. He was not against the Empire because it undermined good government or tradition in India. His real anxiety was that the loot from India will empower a new set of ‘Nabobs’ – the get rich quick, arriviste class – who would buy large estates and seats in parliament; thence undermine all that was noble in the British. Burke’s central anxiety was – and continued to remain – conserving traditions and social norms in Britain.

A very good book on the heartburn that the Indian empire caused in Burke is Nicholas Dirks “The Scandal of Empire”. The author demonstrates how the trial of Hastings conducted by Burke actually strengthened the idea of empire in Britain, Burke playing the good cop to Hastings’s bad cop. Burke said that the likes of Hastings were vultures, while a country like Britain should govern it’s dependencies in a more enlightened, paternalistic way. It laid the foundation for what came next – the British feeling that they were actually doing us a favour by ruling over us!<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
Orientalism by Said p 191
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Added to the oppressive regulation of Oriental matters was the accelerated attention paid by the Powers (as the European empires were called) to the Orient, and to the Levant in particular. Ever since the Treaty of Chanak of 1806 between the Ottoman Empire and Great Britain, the Eastern Question had hovered ever more prominently on Europe's Mediterranean horizons. Britain's interests were more substantial in the East than France's, but we must not forget Russia's movements into the Orient (Samarkand and Bokhara were taken in 1868; the Transcaspian Railroad was being extended systematically), nor Germany's and Austria-Hungary's. France's North African interventions, however, were not the only components of its Islamic policy. In 1860, during the clashes between Maronites and Druzes in Lebanon (already predicted by Lamartine and Nerval), France supported the Christians, England the Druzes. <b>For standing near the center of all European politics in the East was the question of minorities, whose "interests" the Powers, each in its own way, claimed to protect and represent. </b>Jews, Greek and Russian Orthodox, Druzes, Circassians, Armenians, Kurds, the various small Christian sect<b>s: all these were studied, planned for, designed upon by European Powers improvising as well as constructing their Oriental policy.</b><!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

<b>'Arun Ferriera wanted to become priest'</b>
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Arun has six brothers and six sisters. He is the second eldest among the siblings. He graduated from the St Xavier's College in Mumbai and after that took up social work.

Two of his brothers are priests and two sisters are nuns. There are eight flats in the building no. 17 on the St. Martin's road in Bandra. The Ferriera's occupy seven flats out of the eight, while one flat is owned by the Kapadia family.
Arun Ferreira was a member of the state committee of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) which clandestinely operates from Mumbai, top anti-Naxalite officials said on Thursday.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Arun fell in love with Jennifer and married her five years ago. Jennifer
teaches Sociology in a college in the western suburbs. They have a two-year old
Communist function is to appropriate the anti-colonial discourse.
[QUOTE] Zoomindianmedia: U may like to read Bharat Verma's hypothesis to explain why machiavellian thought process was absent in India.

What is the author referring to?
Revilo P. Oliver - profile
Meanwhile book review of Meera Nanda- aka indigenous Wendy Donniger.

from Telegraph, 22 OCt 2009....

Return of the Gods

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->THE RETURN OF THE GODS 

The God Market: How globalization is making India more Hindu By Meera Nanda, Random House, Rs 395

If you want one good reason to read Meera Nanda’s book, you need not look far. It is evident from the subtitle that this is a provocative work, although Nanda insists, rather gratuitously, that it is not “a book of polemics or ideological argumentation”. <b>According to her, “as India is liberalizing and globalizing its economy, the country is experiencing a rising tide of popular Hinduism”, which is being cultivated by “the emerging state-temple-corporate complex [that is] replacing the more secular public institutions of the Nehruvian era”.</b> There can hardly be any quarrel with this line,  :eek: except that Nanda, at times, can be quite combative, even a bit blinkered, while pursuing it. <b>The other problem is her occasionally lopsided logic, a result of her excessive reliance on facts and figures at the expense of politics and history.</b> :mrgreen:

Consider her claim that “this book is about Hinduism and not about organized movements for Hindutva or Hindu nationalism”, followed by a reference to India’s “saffron-tinged superpower dreams” a few lines later. If this is not confusing enough, wait until you get through the rest of the book, a large chunk of which is devoted to charting the rise of “popular Hinduism” among the middle and upper classes. <b>In Nanda’s lexicon, “popular Hinduism” stands for the aam admi’s increasing propensity for observing archaic rituals and allowing themselves to be led by godmen (and women) or spiritual gurus who preach the Art of Living.</b> Many of these influential figures are co-opted by the Hindu far-Right to garner electoral support. These are fascinating, if familiar, facts. Only it remains unclear as to how Nanda’s distinction between popular Hinduism and Hindutva holds true after she herself provides scores of examples to show that the line between the two, in modern India, is rapidly becoming blurred.

Nanda makes no secret of her disdain for religion. <b>She bitterly complains that “religious belief remains widespread among scientists” in India, as if atheism is a pre-condition for pursuing science. Her innate resistance to religion makes her gloss over crucial moments in the history of Indian modernity.</b> In Karnataka, for instance, the traditional goddess of smallpox, Mariamman, has been reinvented as AIDS-amman by a schoolteacher to increase public awareness about the disease. No doubt a beguiling social experiment, but Nanda reserves only scorn for such developments. <b>When she bemoans the emergence of China as “one of the most religious countries in the world” from being a “once atheistic” nation, one is seriously alarmed. Perhaps she is not aware of the atrocious means by which atheism was imposed on China by the Communist Party. Or, maybe, she prefers not to go too deep into matters that can potentially shake her premises.</b>  :mrgreen: For instance, while criticizing the illegal allocation of land for temples, Nanda is silent about the recent irregularities of the wakf board involving property earmarked for underprivileged Muslims.

Nanda would probably prefer a world without religion (although she grudgingly admits in the final chapter that religion is a fact of social life). Hers is an essentially utopian, if not a simplistic, vision, disengaged from the complex reality that is India. <b>Nanda is charmed by Nehruvian socialism, which, she believes, instilled a spirit of secularism close to the letter of the Constitution. So, according to this logic, the economic model followed by Nehru was also a good thing, which the liberalization of the Nineties destroyed.</b>  <!--emo&Sad--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/sad.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='sad.gif' /><!--endemo-->( Nanda admits that the economy was opened up in 1991 to “reduce fiscal deficit”. In reality, the picture was far more disquieting: in 1991, India was reeling from soaring oil prices during the Gulf War, close to defaulting on international debt, and burdened with a corrupt public sector. The economy was deregulated with caution. The then prime minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, and finance minister, Manmohan Singh, carefully controlled prices of essential commodities to avoid inflation.

However, avowed critic of neo-liberalism that Nanda is, she cares neither for good intentions nor for a balanced view, convinced that liberalization has spawned inequality and is the sole reason behind India’s dismal position on the United Nations Human Development Index. Politics does not figure much in her calculations. (The Singur agitation, in Nanda’s summary, becomes a peasants’ revolt against global forces, never mind the complex dimensions of that episode.)

Meera Nanda’s self-proclaimed “work of honest and rigorous scholarship” has much to offer in terms of facts, but not enough by way of nuanced interpretation. More rigorous editing would have made her arguments cogent and less repetitive. And howlers like ‘Maynard Keyenes’ or ‘Keyensian’ (p.19) stick out rather shockingly.


Decline of indology in the West
Post-colonial Indology was political at all levels

By Dr NS Rajaram October 18 - November 8, 2009 (Organiser)
...Ever since he moved to Harvard from Germany, Witzel has seen the fortunes of his department and his field, gradually sink into irrelevance. Problems at Harvard are part of a wider problem in Western academia in the field of Indo-European Studies. As previously noted, several ‘Indology’ departments-as they are sometimes called-are shutting down across Europe.

...Summary and conclusions

We may now conclude that Western Indology is in steep decline and may well become extinct in a generation. The questions though go beyond Indology. Sanskrit is the foundation of Indo-European Studies. If Sanskrit departments close, what will take their place? Will these departments now teach Icelandic, Old Norse or reconstructed Proto Indo-European? Will they attract students? Can Indo-European Studies survive without Sanskrit? A more sensible course would be for Indian and Western scholars to collaborate and build an empirically based study of ancient Indian and European languages- free of dogma and free of politics.

A basic problem is that for reasons that have little to do with objective scholarship, Indologists have been trying to remove Sanskrit from the special space it occupies in the study of Indo-European languages and replace it something called Proto-Indo-European of PIE. This is like replacing Hebrew with a hypothetical Proto-Semitic language in Biblical Studies. This PIE has literally proven to be a pie in the sky and the whole field is now on the verge of collapse. The resulting vacuum has to be filled by a scholarship that is both sound and empirical, based on existing languages like Sanskrit, Greek and the like. Additionally, Indian scholars will have look more to the east and search for linguistic and other links to the countries and cultures of Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam and others that have historic ties to India of untold antiquity.

Notes and references

This is explained in more detail in this writer’s The Politics of History and also in Vedic Aryans and the Origins of Civilization, Third Edition, by Navaratna Rajaram and David Frawley, both published by Voice of India, New Delhi. Some recent developments may be found in Sarasvati River and the Vedic Civilization by N.S. Rajaram, Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi. For the record the full name of Max Müller was Friedrich Maximillian Müller, but he is better known as Max Müller, the name used also by his descendants.

Max Müller’s aristocratic Indian friends included the Raja of Venkatagiri (who partly financed his edition of the Rigveda) as well as Dwarakanath Tagore, the grandfather of the Nobel laureate Rabindranath. When Max Müller was a struggling scholar in Paris, Tagore helped him with Sanskrit as well as financially. He knew also British and European nobility having met Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. In his early years his patrons included Dwarakanath Tagore and Baron Bunsen, the Prussian Ambassador to Britain. It is a tribute to Max Müller’s personality and liberal character that he could attract the friendship of such a wide range of people.

3. It should be noted that the Nazis appropriated their ideas and symbols from European mythology, not India. Hitler’s Aryans worshipped Apollo and Odin, not Vedic deities like Indra and Varuna. His Swastika was also the European ‘Hakenkreuz’ or hooked cross and not the Indian svasti symbol. It was seen in Germany for the first time when General von Luttwitz’s notorious Erhardt Brigade marched into Berlin from Lithuania in support of the abortive Kapp Putsch of 1920. The Erhardt Brigade was one of several freebooting private armies during the years following Germany’s defeat in World War I. They had the covert support of the Wehrmacht (Army headquarters).
Max Mueller came to the assistance of Tilak when we was exiled to Rangoon

(The writer can be contacted at F2, Rajatha Manor, 42, Patalamma Temple Road, South End Circle, Basavanagudi, Bangalore-560 004.) Read on...


Bharat’s decline began with a Psychological confusion as to who Bharatiya’s were
Bharatiya’s accepted the word “Hindu” to describe them
The word “Hindu” does not mean anything in any language
So when a person said “I am a Hindu” in Bharat, it did not mean anything to him
The decline began with a loss of identity
The loss of identity caused – a loss of association with her past, ethos, greatness, teachings etc.
Not being clear of who you are can be a big disadvantage
It allows other people to confuse you further with concepts like secularism etc.
The religions of India are the only truly secular religions
The proper word for the Bharatiya religion is Dharm.
The word Dharm is inclusive of the word “Sanatan”.
To bring India back, the original confusion of “Hinduism” has to be removed
To bring Dharm back you have to start calling it “Dharm”
I will say “I am Dharmik” and that “I follow Dharm” from now on.
Also remember that Dharm is not a religion. It is much larger wider and encompasses everything concerned with human life, humanness and reaching god.
Please send this to as many people as you can.
Anthropologist Levi-Strauss dies
<!--QuoteBegin-acharya+Nov 4 2009, 04:06 AM-->QUOTE(acharya @ Nov 4 2009, 04:06 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->Bharat’s decline began with a Psychological confusion as to who Bharatiya’s were
Bharatiya’s accepted the word “Hindu” to describe them
The word “Hindu” does not mean anything in any language
So when a person said “I am a Hindu” in Bharat, it did not mean anything to him
The decline began with a loss of identity
The loss of identity caused – a loss of association with her past, ethos, greatness, teachings etc.
Not being clear of who you are can be a big disadvantage
It allows other people to confuse you further with concepts like secularism etc.
The religions of India are the only truly secular religions
The proper word for the Bharatiya religion is Dharm.
The word Dharm is inclusive of the word “Sanatan”.
To bring India back, the original confusion of “Hinduism” has to be removed
To bring Dharm back you have to start calling it “Dharm”
I will say “I am Dharmik” and that “I follow Dharm” from now on.
Also remember that Dharm is not a religion. It is much larger wider and encompasses everything concerned with human life, humanness and reaching god.
Please send this to as many people as you can.
Acharya, your attention is also drawn to already existing article on India-Forum:
<!--QuoteBegin-dhu+Nov 3 2009, 06:19 PM-->QUOTE(dhu @ Nov 3 2009, 06:19 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin--> Anthropologist Levi-Strauss dies


The Savage Mind. “Bricoleur” has its origin in the old French verb bricoler, which refers to extraneous movements in ball games, billiards, hunting, shooting, and riding. It has come to mean one who works with his hands, usually in devious or "crafty" ways when compared to the true craftsman, whom Levi-Strauss equates with the Engineer. The Bricoleur is adept at many tasks and at putting preexisting things together in new ways. The Engineer deals with projects in their entirety, taking into account the availability of materials and tools required. The Bricoleur approximates "the savage mind" and the Engineer approximates the scientific mind. Levi-Strauss says that the universe of the Bricoleur is closed, and he is often forced to make do with whatever is at hand, whereas the universe of the Engineer is open in that he is able to create new tools and materials. However, both live within a restrictive reality, and so the Engineer is forced to consider the preexisting set of theoretical and practical knowledge, of technical means, in a similar way to the Bricoleur.
<b>Dr. Francesco: "Did Some Vedic People Emigrate Westwards out of India?" - by B.B. Lal


B. B. Lal
Former Director General Archaeological Survey of India

My attention has been drawn to a review of Chapter 6 of my book, How Deep are the Roots of Indian Civilization? Archaeology Answers, by Dr. Francesco, posted on the Web-site “Indo-Eurasian_research@yahoogroups.com”, dated October 28, 2009. Dr. Francesco opens the review by quoting from his mentor, Professor Michael Witzel, wherein the latter says: “It is surprising how an established archaeologist [referring to me] can be so naïve, in his old age, about facts from outside his field (palaeontology, genetics, texts, linguistics) and still loudly proclaim his ‘revolutionary’ result (also in his latest book ‘The Sarasvati Flows On’.” To this Dr. Francesco adds his own flavor: “Indeed, this new chapter in Lal’s conversion to Hindutva-oriented historical revisionism betrays, at minimum, a very naïve approach to historical an linguistic facts …”.

Professor Witzel is well known for making such unsavory personal remarks. For example, at a seminar organized by UMASS, Dartmouth, in June 2006, when I drew the attention of the audience to the learned professor’s wrong translation of the a very crucial passage from the Baudhāyana S̄rautasūtra, which is the main subject of the discussion by Dr. Francesco, Professor Witzel shot at me by saying that I did not know the difference between Vedic and Classical Sanskrit. He had to be told that I had the privilege of obtaining in 1943 my Master’ Degree in Sanskrit, which course included a study of the Vedas, and that I had obtained a First Class First from a first class university of India, namely that of Allahabad. I have already referred to this incident in my Inaugural Address delivered at 19th International Conference on South Asian Archaeology, held at the University of Bologna, Ravenna, Italy, July 2-6, 2007, which is duly published.

I do not propose stooping down to the low level of these learned scholars. At the same time it must be said that this particular type of debating technique is adopted by these scholars with a view to intimidating the opponent on the one hand and, on the other, impressing upon the reader that the if the author concerned is ‘naïve’ and ‘old’ how can his conclusions be correct? However, it is a great satisfaction that by now the reader all over the world has become fully aware of their game-plan.

I now proceed to answer the various points raised by Dr. Francesco.

Since the passage from the Baudhāyana Śrautasūtra(18.44) forms the central piece in the debate, it is necessary to discuss it in some detail. The relevant Sanskrit text reads as follows:
Pra-n.a-yauh. pravavra-ja tasyaite Kuru--Pan~cha-la-h. Ka-śi- -Videha- ity etad A-yavam pravrājam. Pratyan. Ama-vasus tasyaite Ga-ndha-rayas Parśvo Ara-t.t.a- itya etad A-ma-vasavam

Dealing with this particular passage in his paper, ‘R.gvedic histor̄y: poets, chieftains and polities’, published in 1995 in a book edited by Erdosy, Professor Witzel, wrote, as follows:
Taking a look at the data relating to the immigration of Indo-Aryans into South Asia, one is struck by the number of vague reminiscences of foreign localities and tribes in the R.gveda, in spite of repeated assertions to the contrary in the secondary literature. Then, there is the following direct statement contained in (the admittedly much later) BŚS [Baudha-yana Śrauta-su-tra], 18.44: 397.9 sqq which has once again been overlooked, not having been translated yet: “Ayu went eastwards. His (people) are the Kuru-Pan~ca-la and Ka-śi- -Videha. This is the A-yava (migration). (His other people) stayed at home in the west. His people are the Ga-ndha-ri-, Parśu and A-rat.t.a. This is the Ama-vasava (group)". (Emphasis mine.)

To return to the Sanskrit text itself. It has two parts. In the first part, i.e. in ‘prāṅayuh … pravrājam’ the verb used is ‘pravavrāja’, which means ‘migrated’. In the second part, i.e. in ‘pratyaṅamāvasuḥ …. amāvasam’ the verb is not repeated. However, according to the well known rules of grammar, it has got to be same as in the first part i.e. it has to be ‘pravavrāja’. As a result, the second part would mean that ‘Amāvasuh migrated westwards and his descendants are the Gāndhārī, Parśu and Araṭ̣ṭa.’ (Although it is not necessary, yet I will give an example of how the ‘missing’ verb has to be inserted. Take, for instance, the following sentence: “Yesterday, in a match between India and Australia, the former scored 275 runs, whereas the latter only 230.” In the first part the verb has clearly been mentioned as “scored”, but in the second part it is not so mentioned. Nevertheless, it has got to be the same as in the first part, viz. “scored”. Ser

All this clearly shows that the learned professor had deliberately mistranslated the Sanskrit text in order to tell the unwary reader that while one lot migrated eastwards, the other ‘stayed at home’. In reality it is a case of two-way migration, viz. eastwards and westwards, from one central point. The area of parting is likely to have been somewhere between the Ga-ndhā-ra region on the west and the Kuru region on the east. Since the Ga-ndha-̄ra region is placed in eastern Afghanistan and the Kuru region (modern Kurukshetra) is in Haryana in India, the region from where these eastward and westward migrations took place is most likely to have been the (pre-Partition) Punjab.

There can, therefore, be no denying the fact that a section of the Vedic people did migrate to the west. The text also very clearly mentions the names of the destinations of this migration. These are, seratum: Gandhāra, Paraśu and Araṭta.

Although Dr. Francesco has raised certain objections in respect of the identification of these areas, these objections are meaningless. The term Gandhāra occurs in ancient literature and was doubtless a part of Afghanistan -- whether northern or southern it is of little consequence in the present context. Parśu, which is also referred to by the same name in an 835-BCE inscription of Shalmaneser of Assyria, is again very clearly Persia.(The name was changed to ‘Iran’ only in 1935.) As regards Aratta, most scholars hold it to be Ararata in the Armenian region, but Dr. Francesco, allergic to that identification, would like to take it all the way to Seistan. Says he: “Nowadays scholars … place Aratta somewhere in Iran; a consensus is slowly emerging on the tentative location of the land of Aratta in Seistan.” What is this ‘somewhere’? Evidently, because Dr. Fracesco does not know ‘where’. Again, what indeed is the value of a phrase like ‘a consensus is slowly emerging on the tentative location …’. Surely, this is yet another technique to avoid facing the reality. Truth is sometimes too bitter to swallow!

Now to the evidence of the inscribed clay tablets discovered at Bogazkoy in Turkey. Ascribable to circa 1380 BCE, these tablets recorded a treaty between a Mtanni king named Matiwaza and a Hittite king, Suppiluliuma in which the following gods were invoked as witnesses: Indara (=Vedic Indra), Mitras(il) (=Vedic Mitra), Nasatia(nna) (= Vedic Nāsatya) and Uruvanass(il) (=Vedic Varuṇa). Scholars agree that this treaty establishes the presence of the Vedic people in a part of Turkey. In fact, Dr. Francesco himself admits this reality when he says: “The (Indo-) Aryan deities mentioned in the 1380 treaty are likely to have been worshipped by the Mitanni king.” The only debating point left now is whether these Indo-Aryans were on their way to India or had come there from India. The reason for some scholars to have held the former view was that at the time of the discovery of these tablets, viz. at the beginning of the 20th century, the date of the Vedas, as per the fatwa of Max Muller in the 19th century, was taken to be 1200 BCE. (In this context it must not be forgotten that Max Muller had himself back-tracked by saying: “Whether the Vedic hymns were composed [in] 1000 or 1500 or 2000 or 3000 BC, no power on earth will ever determine.”) In Chapter IV, Section H, of my book under discussion I have given detailed evidence from archaeology, geology, hydrology, C-14 dating and literature, which clearly establishes that the Ṛ̣igveda is older than 2000 BCE. How much earlier is anybody’s guess. However, other scholars like Kazanas and Nahar Achar place the Rigveda in the fourth millennium BCE. The former uses the linguistic evidence, whereas the latter bases his dating on the astronomical data. This new evidence thus shows that the mention of the names of the Vedic gods on the Bogazkoy tablets in Turkey is the finale of the movement of the Vedic people from north-west India to that region. In this context one might as well pose a question: “Was there any country, other than India, in the entire world in the 14th century BCE, i.e. at the time of the Bogazkoy treaty, where the gods Indra, Varuṇa, etc. were worshipped?” The answer is an emphatic “NO”. Then why shy away from facing the reality? In fact, at one stage in his own review, Dr. Francesco admits: “the so-called Mitanni Indo-Aryans can be but a group of Vedic Aryans having migrated to Kurdistan from their supposed ancestral homeland in NW South Asia.”

Research is an ongoing process, not something static. With new evidence pouring in every day, paradigms have to be changed and one should not feel belittled if one’s earlier views have to be modified in the light of the new data. Let not an ostrich-like attitude blind us to the upcoming truth!

Subject title of posting by Dr. Francesco: "Did Some Vedic People Emigrate Westwards out of India?" - by B.B. Lal


came via email


Professor Wendy Doniger, Professor of Religion at the University of Chicago and author of several books, is renowned for evoking provocatively sexual and explicit interpretations from the annals of Hinduism's holiest books. And her latest book, The Hindus: An Alternative History, does not disappoint those seeking more analysis of the ancient Hindu epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata among them, through the Freudian psychoanlytical lens Doniger prefers.

The book was released in the U.S. earlier this year, but its recent release in India has kicked up a dust storm all over again. When academic freedom intersects with the passion, sensitivities and spiritual practices of believers, who blinks first? Should anyone have to blink at all? Doniger delights in provoking with her racy prose, and in recent interviews to the Indian press, she provoked a range of emotions indeed.

Doniger's prose, whimsical, titillating and metaphorical to some, is infuriating to others; and much of her writing on Hinduism distinguishes her, not as one who detests Hinduism, but one who enjoys the ancient, expansive tradition, to use as her muse. But her penchant to sexualize, eroticize and exoticise passages from some of the holiest Hindu epics and scriptures leaves many Hindus reading her analyses disappointed and frustrated.

"Tell me where I have interpreted something wrong," Doniger challenges her critics, believing that there are none among her Hindu readers who have either the wherewithal or the patience to do it. To her surprise, the gauntlet she has thrown has been picked up, and of much worry, factual inaccuracies in her latest book detailed in a prominent Indian media outlet, open the door to questions about Doniger's methodology, and more disturbingly, intentions behind her latest venture.

But we revisit her work now not just because Doniger provokes the Hindu American community much in the same way that her attack on Sarah Palin's femininity viscerally offended conservatives. Doniger represents what many believe to be a fundamental flaw in the academic study of Hinduism: that Hindu studies is too often the last refuge of biased non-Hindu academics presenting themselves as "experts" on a faith that they study without the insight, recognition or reverence that a practicing Hindu or non-Hindu striving to study Hinduism from the insider's perspective would offer.

Hinduism is tenuously positioned in the academy: in contrast to Christianity, Judaism, Islam and even Buddhism which are dominated by recognized scholars that actually practice the faith, Hinduism is more often taught by scholars viewing the religion with the clinical dispassion of one studying ancient Sumeria--neither passionate about the theology of Hinduism nor concerned about the beliefs and sentiments of the faithful. Indeed part of the "blame" for underrepresentation in the Academy lies with the Hindu community which has long focused its academic pursuits in the sciences and engineering; this, albeit slowly, is changing. But until we see a real shift in the imbalance, we as Hindus, especially in the West, continue to grapple with misguided portrayals of Hinduism which do not reach far beyond caste, cows, curry and in this case, the Kamasutras, because the bully pulpit of the ivory tower is owned by the likes of Doniger to permeate the media, school textbooks and the public square.

And as such, we pose two questions to Professor Doniger and others in the Academy:

1) Do academics that study religion as non-believers share a responsibility to consider or respect the religious beliefs ascribed by adherents to their scripture?

Very simply, Doniger denigrates the Gods and Goddesses that Hindus worship as a manifestation of the Divine. Parallelisms are proferred in her latest book comparing the sacred stone icon representing Lord Shiva to a leather strap-on sex toy, and Lord Rama, one of the most popular deities in India, is accused of acting out of fear that he was becoming a sex-addict like his father. A Danish cartoonist would be hard pressed to match the disturbing parodies of a believer's faith that Doniger offers.

The great Hindu yogi, Patanjali, cautioned in the 2nd century BCE, against falling into the trap of false "meaning making" when reading scriptures that contain subtle, esoteric meanings as well as moral edicts. Doniger's book becomes then an idiosyncratic exposition that is "meaning making" out of profound revelations perhaps not meant for the spiritually untrained, non-seeking mind.

2) Is Freudian psychoanalysis relevant to deconstructing scripture and its divine and human characters (the latter now dead) from several millenia ago, and what, if any value, is in these interpretations?

A Freudian true-believer, Doniger may believe that sex, desire and repressed urges animate the human condition, but modern/humanistic psychology has challenged this school of thought's approach as limited and limiting. Using Freudian analysis, then, to retrospectively find psychosexual motivations of Hindu deities seems egregiously inappropriate. Expected from a fringe Freudian die-hard perhaps, but from a celebrated authority on Hinduism at the prestigious University of Chicago?

As Professor Ramesh Rao, the chair of Communication Studies and Theatre at Longwood University, wrote to me after reading Doniger's latest book, "Doniger's is not a prayerful, thoughtful approach, but a whimsical, frivolous approach to both the mundane as well as the esoteric."

The Hindus: An Alternative History does not represent nor provide insight to the contemporary practices and interpretations of Hinduism and its scripture. It is as if Doniger and contemporary Hindus are reading completely different texts, given the differences in their presuppositions and inherent biases. Comparatively, though the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament are the same text, containing the same collection of words, the meaning to Jews and Christians is very different. In the end, rather than offering the reader a depiction of a family of vibrant religious traditions practiced by a billion Hindus globally, Doniger offers a deconstruction of some of the most important epics and episodes in Hindu thought and belief that shocks and offends at best, and offers grist to Hindu hate groups at worst. Indeed, pornographic depictions of Hindu Gods and Goddesses captured from Doniger's writings grace the websites of some banefully anti-Hindu hate sites with their own varied agendas.

Doniger's work demonstrates a lifelong fascination for Hinduism. But her proclivity for sexualizing Hindu deities and expressing caustic intolerance of critics from outside academia is legend. With a broad sweep, she has delighted in tarring many of her opponents as Hindu extremists; a tactic that only decimates the public space for debate.

Academic freedom should not be infringed upon and is sacrosanct. But academic legitimacy in the eyes of the public, outside of what is oft viewed as the incestuous academy, sets a much higher bar.
The Hindu American Foundation is a 501©(3), non-profit, non-partisan organization promoting the Hindu and American ideals of understanding, tolerance and pluralism.
Brilliant Stuff!! Every one watch.


The Infosys campus, where the event was held was truly impressive. The buildings which were neo-colonial or Spanish or ultra modern, the clean roads and clean rooms and the do-not-walk-on-the-grass rule seemed rather un-Indian but it displayed what Indians can create. More impressive than the infrastructure was the staff of Infosys, who treated you like their own personal guests.
Quote:A sentence in today's (Sunday, December 13) New York Times


"Belief systems in which the categories of Western religion are reproduced in

the guise of pseudo-science, they are redundant in a world where the most

rapidly advancing nation state has never been monotheist."[/size]



Full context:

"Today The Times Magazine looks at ideas that made an impact this year. But in

The New Statesman, John Gray looks at influential ideas that faltered across the

decade now ending — from neoconservatism to liberal interventionism to the

neoliberal "Washington consensus" about debt-fueled free markets. And in them he

finds a common denominator."

It is not often that large-scale crises are due to intellectual error, but a

single erroneous belief runs through all of the successive delusions of the past

decade. [size="5"][color="#8B0000"]With few exceptions, both left and right seem to think that history is a

directional process whose end point — after many unfortunate detours — will be

the worldwide duplication of people very like themselves.[/color][/size] At the end of the

decade, opinion formers in Britain, the United States and Continental Europe

still imagine that the normal pattern of historical development leads eventually

to an idealized version of Western society, just as Francis Fukuyama forecast 20

years ago.

But whereas this confidence-boosting notion was still genuinely believed a

decade ago, today it is a kind of comfort blanket against an unfamiliar world.

The reality, which is that Western power is in retreat nearly everywhere, is

insistently denied. Yet the rise of China means more than the emergence of a new

great power. Its deeper import is that the ideologies of the past century —

neoliberalism just as much as Communism — are obsolete. Belief systems in which

the categories of Western religion are reproduced in the guise of

pseudo-science, they are redundant in a world where the most rapidly advancing

nation state has never been monotheist.
Western societies are well worth

defending, but they are not a model for all of humankind. In future they will be

only one of several versions of tolerable modernity."


One can go to the New Statesman:


It continues:

"For secular western intellectuals to accept this fact would rob their life of

meaning. Huddled in the tattered blanket of historical teleology, which tells

them they are the leading lights of humanity, they screen out any development

that demonstrates their increasing irrelevance. Religion is resurgent in many

parts of the world, not least emerging powers such as Brazil and China, but for

the secular intelligentsia this is just an unfortunate lag, a temporary setback

in humanity's slow march to join them on the sunlit uplands of reason. The

hysterical stridency of evangelical atheism - one of the most characteristic

phenomena of the Noughties - is symptomatic of a pervasive cognitive dissonance.

Like everyone else, these intellectuals assert their beliefs all the more

adamantly when the only reason for holding them is a well-founded suspicion that

they are not true."


Is yoga Hindu?

At the PWR’s Hindu Convocation, the host of the forthcoming International Yoga Festival, Swami Chidanand Saraswati, urged the taking up of yoga. For the good of our health, Swami Saraswati said. He wasn’t the only one advocating the merits of yoga at the Parliament: so were yoga practitioners who described themselves as ‘spiritual’ rather than Hindu. All of which gives rise to some interesting questions: what is the fate of a practice when it is detached from its source tradition? Does it go about the world under false pretences, possibly sometimes empty and flaccid? Is it in danger of distortion? Or does it retain its load-bearing capacity – and conceivably act as a vehicle for conversion?

All questions that can be extrapolated to discussion of other ‘derived’ practices and disciplines.

The Hindu American Foundation is interested in having yoga (as practiced in the West) recognised as a spiritual practice of the Hindu tradition. It sponsored a PWR panel session called : Practising Yoga: Covert Conversion to Hinduism or the Key to Mind-Body Wellness for All. In Malaysia the National Fatwa Council thinks it is the former: in November 2008 it issued advice that yoga is inherently Hindu, so Muslims should not do it.

However, the PWR panel included Dr Amir Farid Isahak, a medical practitioner and the Chairman of Interfaith Spiritual Fellowship Malaysia: he said there was no problem, provided a Muslim understood what they were getting into. His Holiness Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami (publisher of Hinduism Today) remarked that if you have the root of Hinduism, then the stem is Hinduism, and the flower is Hinduism. Another panellist, Professor Christopher Key Chapple, explained that yoga had traces of Jain and Buddhist elements in it too.

The Moderator of this session, Rev Ellen Grace O’Brian, runs the Centre for Spiritual Enlightenment in San Jose, California. Rev O'Brian said that yes, yoga had Vedic origins, and she certainly draws on the Patanjali Sutra, though at her centre they taught it as a spiritual practice for people of all religious backgrounds. Thus, at her Sunday morning ‘services’ she wears a stole like a minister. She offers a Winter Solstice Mass and at her Christmas Eve noon service , ‘with the beautiful ritual of the burning bowl’ they’ll make offerings of frankincense.

So, more questions: who really owns a tradition? And what is the fate of Hinduism when its offspring takes off, as yoga has done in the West? And finally, what happens to traditions when they encounter each other not at their respective centres, but at points a long way distant from those meaningful core places?

Forum Jump:

Users browsing this thread: 14 Guest(s)