A reminder of satanic slokas alongside the divine
For the last about six months I have been labouring with a book, controversial only in India, “The Hindus — An Alternative History” by Wendy Doniger, an American Philologist, Scholar in Sanskrit and Indian Studies. At the pace I was reading the book it would take another six months to complete, without cheating. Well, 692 pages of pure text in rather small print with another 87 pages of index, notes etc., is too much of a book to hold in hand and read in the bed. Even a fractional increase in its type-font size would push up the avoirdupois of the book to an unreasonable level for a reader’s comfort.
But then, it seems, the author by her deep and vast studies of Hindu scriptures in original Sanskrit of Vedas, Puranas and epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata came to realise that Hinduism per se is different to different Hindus! This is under the varnashrama social hierarchical system and beyond extending to those who lived in the jungles. Which is why Wendy Doniger sees a Hindu elephant in Hinduism and recalls the metaphors of six blind men attempting to know what an elephant is.
The blind man who touches its leg concludes it is like a pillar, the one who touches its tail concludes that an elephant is like a rope, the one who feels its belly thinks it is a wall, the trunk becomes a branch of a tree for another, while the one who touches its ear says it is a big hand-fan and the sixth one who feels the tusk says it is like a solid pipe. In Jainism, it is thus explained that truth can be stated in six different ways.
In 1992, I visited a book shop, Barnes and Noble, in Houston, US and bought a fat book about Vedas and Upanishads. Reading it I realised that the books I have read on Vedas and Upanishads so far are well-edited, refined and expurgated, brought out after separating chaff from the grain. I realised there was much chaff in the original scripture that came down orally and later commi...more