The World of Wendy Doniger’s Translations

The World of Wendy Doniger’s Translations

“Aldous Huxley once said that an intellectual was someone who had found something more interesting than sex; in Indology, an intellectual need not make that choice at all.”

– Wendy Doniger, When the Lingam is Just a Cigar


Wendy Doniger, a professor of religious history at the Chicago University, has engaged herself for a long time in interpreting Hindu texts and traditions in sexual terms. She spares nothing: epics, festivals, deities or folklore of Hindus are valid subjects for her seeming obsession with giving them an erotic turn.

As the above quote from Wendy Doniger[i] shows, she believes intellectual work per se on Hinduism is tantamount to erotic exercises.  Strange as it may seem, this has been a kind of signature tune of Wendy Doniger. 

Textual Sources for the Study of Hinduism (1988)

For instance, Wendy discussed the original sources necessary to study Hinduism in her Textual Sources for the Study of Hinduism (1988). The book contains, according to Wendy, the basic information about the most significant Hindu tests.

On the ‘Contents’ page in the beginning of the book, under the Chapter ‘Vedas’, she has given the titles of themes as “Killing the dog”, “The mockery of the women”, “The king copulates with the people”.

Further, under the Chapter ‘Shastras’, she gave titles such as “Women not to sleep with”, “Married women to sleep with”, “Married women who will sleep with you”, “Married women who will not sleep with you”, “The karma of marriage: the king’s wife, the Brahman’s wife, and the ogre”, and so on.[ii]

With such subtitles, Wendy has undertaken to guide a new researcher in the West to study Hinduism.

Going into some detail of this initial enterprise of hers is useful for understanding both her approach and determination to portray Hinduism as sex and fantasies. Therefore, a whole school of Indology guided by her, aptly called ‘Wendy’s Children’ producing similar studies and competing with each other in giving anything in Hindu tradition a thick sexual colour.

Mistranslating Primary Vedic Texts

So, the Textual Sources…presents Vedas primarily as rituals. Under the rituals, sex-related rituals is the main thing one can find in her book. She has quoted from Shatapatha Brahamana extensively. However, the peculiar thing is that her quotes from it do not match the text she has mentioned in her Bibliography.

The Bibliography mentions “Shatapatha Brahmana translated by J. Eggeling, Sacred Books of the East, Oxford, 1882.”[iii]

However, the extensive quotes given by Wendy in her book from the Shatapatha Brahmana vastly differs from the translation given by J. Eggeling. The complete text, translated by Eggeling is available online at We should see a sample text, for example, given by Wendy Doniger and the same by Eggeling.

First, the text of Shatpatha Brahamana ( as translated by J. Eggeling:

13:2:9:6. [The Adhvaryu addresses one of the attendant maids, Vâg. S. XXIII, 22,] ‘That little bird,’–the little bird, doubtless, is the people (or clan),–‘which bustles with (the sound) “ahalak,”‘–for the people, indeed, bustle for (the behoof of) royal power,–‘thrusts the “pasas” into the cleft, and the “dhârakâ” devours it,’–the cleft, doubtless, is the people, and the ‘pasas’ is royal power; and royal power, indeed, presses hard on the people; whence the wielder of royal power is apt to strike down people.

13:2:9:7. [The Brahman addresses the queen consort, Vâg. S. XXIII, 24,] ‘Thy mother and father,’–the mother, doubtless, is this (earth), and the father yonder (sky): by means of these two he causes him to go to heaven;–‘mount to the top of the tree,’–the top of royal power, doubtless, is glory: the top of royal power, glory, he thus causes him to attain;–‘saying, “I pass along,” thy father passed his fist to and fro in the cleft,’–the cleft, doubtless, is the people; and the fist is royal power; and royal power, indeed, presses hard on the people; whence he who wields royal power is apt to strike down people 

13:2:9:8. [The chamberlain addresses the king’s fourth wife, Vâg. S. XXIII, 30,] ‘When the deer eats the corn,’–the grain (growing in the field), doubtless, is the people, and the deer is royal power: he thus makes the people to be food for the royal power, whence the wielder of royal power feeds on the people;–‘it thinks not of the fat cattle,’–whence the king does not rear cattle;–‘when the Sûdra woman is the Arya’s mistress, he seeks not riches that he may thrive,’–hence he does not anoint the son of a Vaisya woman.

13:2:9:9. But, indeed, the vital airs pass from those who speak impure speech at the sacrifice. [The queen consort having been made to rise by her attendants, the priests and chamberlain say, Vâg. S. XXIII, 32, Rig-v. S. IV, 39, 6,] ‘The praises of Dadhikrâvan have I sung, (the victorious, powerful horse: may he make fragrant our mouths, and prolong our lives!),’–thus they finally utter a verse containing the word ‘fragrant’: it is (their own) speech they purify, and the vital airs do not pass from them.

[contextly_sidebar id=”DqOASDZGGPao9DWsRl05hkFVe6Q4Rbs9″]

Now the same section presented by Wendy Doniger is as follows. The quotation marks in the passage are all as given in Wendy’s book. The entire passage below does not appear to be an interpretation by Wendy, because she has presented it as the translated text of the original in the Shatapatha Brahmana:

‘The little female bird rocks back and forth making the sound “ahalag” as he thrusts the penis into the slit, making the sound “nigalgal”, and the vulva swallows it up.’ Now, that bird is really the people, for the people rock back and forth at the thrust of the royal power. And the slit is the people, and the penis is the royal power, which presses against the people; and so the one who has royal power is hurtful to the people.

‘Your mother and father climb to the top of a tree; saying, “I desire to have you,” your father presses his fist back and forth in the slit.’ Now, the mother is this (earth), and the father is that (sky); by means of these two (the priest) causes (the king) to go to the world of heaven. The top of the royal power is glory, and thus he causes him to attain the pinnacle of royal power, glory. The slit is people, and the fist is royal power, which presses against the people; and soothe one who has royal power is hurtful to the people.

‘When the deer eats the barley, (the farmer) does not hope to nourish the animal; when the low-born women becomes the mistress of a noble man, (her husband) does not hope to get rich on that nourishment.’ Now, the barley is the people, and the deer is the royal power; thus he makes the people food for the royal power, and so the one who has the royal power eats the people. And so the king does not raise the animals; and so one does not anoint as King the son of a women born of the people.

But the vital breaths go out of those who speak impure speech in the sacrifice. And so they utter at the end of the sweet-smelling verse, the verse that begins, ‘I praise Dadhikravan.’ Thus they purify (their) speech, and the vital breaths do not go out of them. (Shatapatha Brahman[iv]

One can compare the two texts, both said to be the exact translation of the same four stanzas of the Shatapatha Brahmana.

What makes it mysterious is that Wendy has not mentioned whether she has presented her own translation of the text or has borrowed someone else’s translation. However, as the Bibliography given at the end of her book mentions, the text is translated by the same J. Eggeling, and none other. It becomes a moot question whether she presented Eggeling’s translation intact. If yes, why this sort of enormous discrepancy, nay a huge distortion? If not, then whose translation has Wendy presented in her book? Is this translation the product done of her own fancies and erotic imagination?

This vital point should be examined seriously by Sanskrit and Vedic scholars to evaluate actual, and not the perceived worth of Wendy as a serious Indologist.

Caricaturing the Vedas

In any case, the curious choices made by Wendy to guide a Western reader about basic Hinduism is obvious.

The aforementioned instance is not an exception to her presentation of the Vedas, but a typical case. Indeed, she has herself candidly declared that

“Within each genre, I have picked the texts I like best, and these have tended to be texts about women, animals, sin, food, and sacrifice; the arbitrariness of this selection was in any case inevitable, but it does have the incidental advantage of demonstrating how certain themes run like a thread through several different genres…”[v] 

This shows, at least to an Indian scholar, that Wendy’s presentation of the Vedas is at best amateur. This writer asked a learned Hindu scholar about the Shatapatha Brahmana. He observed:

A printed version of the Shukla Yajurveda.

“This is a Shukla Yajurvedian Brahmana volume, divided into two branches: Madhyandin and Kanva. It is called Shatapatha because it has one hundred chapters, though the later branch has one hundred and four chapters. The entire theme of this volume is Yajna. All kind of yajnas are described in this volume, such as bricks, their selection, formal making of yajna vedis, havan, duties, donations, repentance, self-studies, Astronomy, Devashastras, Akhyanas (stories), geographical details, cosmology, etc.”[vi]   

In view of this basic information about the Shatapatha Brahmana, the selections made by Wendy and presented along with other Hindu texts and folklore in her book clearly appear to be a caricature of the Vedas. Or plain ignorance, if one goes through the commentaries written by Indian scholars from olden times to the present.

Either Wendy Doniger is not able to or she has not tried to understand the symbolic language of the Vedas. The best proof for this hypothesis is her own Bibliography given in the book. It simply misses the names of well-revered commentators on the Vedas.

Therefore, not only has Wendy selected the pieces in Hindu texts ‘arbitrarily’ and what she ‘liked best’ but she also willfully chose to ignore such authorities from whom she could not find any help in her pet project of sexualizing the Vedas.

Second Rate Minds, Third Rate Output and Politics

Can we therefore reasonably conclude that all that Wendy Doniger has done so far for decades is only to titillate the Western novices coming forward to become ‘experts’ on Hinduism? As academic history shows, Indology is a subject chosen in Western countries usually by third or second rate brains.

The best go to science and technology, followed by Russian studies, Sinology, Islamic studies, Biblical studies, etc. Only the leftovers come to Indology, where there are no strict demands for merit and impeccable research. All of Wendy’s children illustrate this.

And when challenged, all of them, along with their mentor Wendy, resort to organizational tricks, censorship, and abusing critics. Among others, Rajiv Malhotra and Koenraad Elst have documented detailed incidents that show how they were gagged and abused by Wendy Doniger and her admirers both in India and abroad.

However, the answer to this question can wait. We can next examine her other big book The Hindus: An alternative history (2009), and also her direct observations about Hindus as a people, Hindu texts and Hinduism.   

Wendy Doniger has invited criticism mainly on the ground that she misled the Western public and academia about Hinduism. In fact, it did not just stop at the academic level. Wendy Doniger’s work has distorted India’s general image and specifically, the image of Hindus among Western policy-makers.

Their generous donations and politico-diplomatic support for all kind of vicious and deadly anti-Hindu political groups in India masquerading as ‘human rights’ or ‘Dalit activists’ is directly influenced by Wendy’s kind of scholarship, which continues to laboriously tarnish everything in Hinduism.

It is thus no coincidence at all that all anti-Hindu political groups in India stood united to defend Wendy Doniger irrespective of the fact that most of them never bothered to read her book. So what explains this glue-like affinity with her?

The answer is provided by Wendy herself. Her direct observations about Hindus, Hinduism and present day Indian politics leaves no doubt where her sympathies and pathologies lie. Hence the open, partisan show of unity. And this has nothing to do with academics.

Wendy’s Work not Open for Evaluation

Thus, it would be in order to evaluate Wendy Doniger academically as it is necessary to read her learned critics too.

A one-sided presentation of her books and her views have been rightly accused as being fiction, not worthy of being called scholarship. The correct and accepted method is to lay facts and arguments from both sides on the table. Wendy Doniger, till now, is not ready for this. She assumes the air of the Final and Sole Authority on Hinduism, to whom everyone should just listen and not question.

Therefore, Wendy does not seem to realize that there’s nothing etymologically or methodologically wrong to paint Hindu texts chiefly in a sexual tint. There seems to be no other explanation for why she keeps doing the same again and again.

When her controversial book The Hindus… appeared in 2009, she gave an interview to the Indian weekly ‘Outlook’ (26 October 2009). She casually repeated her observations about Ramayana as if every character in this timeless epic was nothing beyond a sexually aroused, obsessed or perverted being.

A scene from the Ramayana

According to her, Dashratha was a ‘sex-addict,’ Rama was on the verge of being a similar sex-addict when he deserted Sita. Her leitmotif of the entire interview was aptly summarized by the magazine in its title:  “Ram Was Happy With Sita…Indulging In Every Way…And Then He Threw Her Out.[vii]

None of the Ramayanas starting with the Sanskrit original by Valmiki or Tulsidas or Kamban support this characterization.

One wonders where Wendy found literary or scholarly support for this sort of arcane interpretation. The answer is available, again, in the huge bibliography given at the end of her book The Hindus… Although original sources, are present in the Bibliography, a major chunk comprises all kind of stray writings, many of them hardly related to Ramayana. Materials intended for a history of the Hindus include comments, op-ed pieces, observations, etc. by people who seem to support her line of pre-fixed conclusions.

An analogy helps in this context.

Suppose you come to a pre-decided conclusion that America is a country of murderers. Now, a la Wendy, all you have to do is to collect newspaper clippings and op-eds for a year in a dozen French and Russian media outlets and select leftist Americans’ articles on the subject of crime, law and order, etc.

By the end of a year, any year, you might have hundreds of news clippings, statements, and articles lamenting the law and order situation, and stories and anecdotes about murder, crimes, rapes, etc that occurred in the US. If you gather all of them in a thick volume, with your own ‘expert’ interpretation of all those items accumulated, and get it published in book form by a reputed international publisher, it will be a volume on par with what Wendy seems to have done in The Hindus… The bibliography at the end of this book does indicate this sort of selection of materials.

The unfortunate fact is that while no good publisher would agree to publish your ‘America is a Nation of Murders’ as a history book, in the case of India the opposite is true.

Only books portraying India negatively are lapped up by international publishers on Social Sciences. (Why this is so is a different, though a very relevant, subject.)  Because of this established trend, Wendy could not only continue to write her fiction-as-history books on India, but become ‘the authority’ on Hinduism.

Familiar Marxist Tactics

And so, in the interview to the Outlook she nonchalantly reels of one outrageous claim after the other with the help of ‘probably’, ‘might have been’—Brahmans might have removed such portions in a text, etc— without giving an iota of evidence.  The best Wendy could do was to redirect Indian readers to non-descript current Indian literary writers, and the good old Marxist Romila Thapar.

Thus, to claim that the Sri Lanka of today is not the Lanka described in the Ramayana, Wendy had this to offer: “We don’t even know, as Romila Thapar has pointed out, that the Lanka of the Ramayana is the Sri Lanka of today. There’s a lot of evidence that they are not the same place at all.”

This is the pet tactic of the Indian Marxists as well:  refer each other, cleverly but speciously, thus try to prove the case and win the game – without actually giving any evidence at all. Now, what are Romila Thapar’s credentials for us to trust her on such a point?

She is definitely no historian of Sri Lankan history, much less of Ramayana. So quoting Romila Thapar is a deception to befuddle the reader; that since another big name also says so, it must be right. However, if you could question Romila about how she is sure about the point on Sri Lanka, the answer may be equally pointing yet someone else or just evading as she has done on numerous issues.

Romila Thapar

We don’t know for sure who learnt this tactic from whom: Romila and her clan from Wendy and her children, or the reverse? Apparently it is the later.

But the method is obvious in the book The Hindus… When in want of credible evidence on a crucial item, Wendy could not point to a single, credible, original source. She refers us to Romila or other historians. Just as Romila referred a questioner on evidence (about her oft-repeated claims of ‘Hindus too destroyed temples’, and that it was a ‘custom’ in Indian history) to refer this or that kindred professor or scholar, never herself being competent to write even an article on such stupendous claims.

Thus, flaunting each other’s “eminences” have been a ploy of Indian Marxist historians for decades: ‘Trust us, we are the authority’ seems a perfectly valid substitute for hard evidence.

It is noteworthy that Wendy Doniger, too, uses this subterfuge on crucial issues about Hindu history presented by her. The Sri Lanka instance is just one of the issues. After all, it was Wendy who took up the ambitious task of writing about the Ramayana, not Romila. And so, when cornered about evidence, why refer to a third party?

To quote her:

You have a chapter in Valmiki’s Ramayana where  Rama was so happy with Sita, they drank wine together, they were alone, enjoying themselves in every way, indulging in various ways, not just the sexual act. And in the very next chapter he says I’ve got to throw you out. So I’m suggesting: what is the connection between those two things? And what does it mean that Rama knows that Dasaratha, his father, disgraced himself  because of his attachment to his young and beautiful wife. So I’m taking pieces of the Ramayana and putting them together  and saying these are not disconnected.[viii]

Read it closely, and the brazen academic errors made by Wendy Doniger would become all too apparent.

Distort, then Draw Conclusions

First, she wants to use Valmiki’s authority for her conclusions about what she calls an ‘alternate’ history. It would thus only be logical to show this alternate source to back up her claims because Valmiki never formulated the conclusions Wendy wants to thrust.

Although she claims to bring together ‘pieces’, she fails to mention these pieces. Imagination plus one’s own creative interpretation of Valmiki does not add up to a credible alternate history. What she tries to connect are her own wild imagination and selective parts, that too, with distorted translations. All these may become a fiction of period-literary genre, but calling it a history book is far-fetched at the least.

Please also consider: why doesn’t Wendy mention anything at all about the period after Valmiki and directly jumps to the sixteenth century devotional poets of India?

She starts from a source from a date before Christ and then fast forwards directly to A K Ramanujan and then to Romila Thapar where she gets to interpret the Ramayana as she pleases. This does not reflect a study of tradition.

At any rate, Wendy hardly has any material except present-day opinion articles, observations and interpretations of like-minded girls and boys.

In the course of that interview, Wendy did more surmising than informing.  To the question “If whatever you say about the Ramayana is all there in the texts, why don’t we recognize it?” she responded, “It happened over the centuries. After all, the oldest Ramayana is well over 2,000 years old. Over the years things have happened, Hinduism has changed a lot. It probably started with the Bhakti movement —in the sense of the passionate worship of a single god.”

The crucial part is over the years things have happened. But it’s clear that Wendy was unable to give an example of what actually happened, and how one can learn about it. Blanking out at least eighteen centuries, without mentioning one native source, story, anecdote, even foreign travellers’ accounts over such long eras, she clutches at the Bhakti movement and that, with a probably.

Her whole answer to the vital question is simply a restatement of the question in an affirmative way, a bland assertion and mere proclamation that what she wrote about Ramayana must have been so. You don’t recognize it because the evidence could have been faded, destroyed, erased, etc. It is but plain begging the question.

The question precisely is: how she wrote what she wrote? Is it on the basis of specious conjectures?

Like our Marxist “historians” who wrote histories of ancient India on the support of just a theory of historical materialism. That the past must be an age of slavery, what else it could be? Plus, some imagination gained from the present.

As Wendy said: “Well, in order to have a temple you have to have a real movement. You have to have a lot of money, land, a whole system of building temples, which the Hindus did not have at first.”

This is the error of gross presentism (amply found in Romila Thapar as well), that is, projecting today’s perceptions and reality and customs onto a distant past. That since this is logical today it must be the same ages ago, too, although we have nothing at hand to ascertain that in order to build a temple what they required two thousand years ago. Land, money, license, etc are today’s requirements. Ergo, the same must be two thousand years ago goes this infantile logic.

This “logic” and plenty of surmise is thus more prominent in Wendy Doniger’s scheme of writing history than hard, corroborative, verifiable evidences. Apparently she learned this easy way from her Indian Marxist friends.

In the same interview, Wendy says,

“Then you have other stories that say that in fact Lakshman was really in love with Sita , which of course Tulsidas doesn’t say, and neither does Valmiki. And you have stories in which Sita is the daughter of Ravana. Until recently, there was no one who said there was only one way to tell the Ramayana. Everyone in India knew that the stories were told differently…”[ix]

In this instance too, Wendy Doniger did not name any identifiable ‘story’ to support her astounding claim though she knows very well the weight of even a single evidence. The point is:  her titillating, provoking statements are invariably supported by nothing in particular.

To counter the narratives of Valmiki and Tulsidas, her refuge is either in unnamed ‘stories’ or some Ramanujam, who again was just another Marxist claimer like she is. Ramanujan hasn’t written any Ramayana belonging to any period—7th century or no. He too just made claims similar to Wendy that there had been hundreds of Ramayanas. Clutching to stories of doubtful credibility claimed by another is at best a purveying of claims, not writing a history.

The last sentence in the Outlook interview again confirms the use of presentism. Because different persons narrate an incident today in different ways, so the story of Rama, Sita, Ravan, etc. must have been different. And one version might have been what I like to imagine. This is the “probability theory” she seemingly resorts to in a haughty fashion. And so, if I ‘like best’ imagining all manner of intercourse, incest, etc. why can’t I interpret and explain texts of Hindu epics in such terms? If Hindus object, it is nothing new. The Hindus keep objecting anyway, don’t they?

Obsession with Sex

The central fallacy in Wendy Doniger’s entire project of writing an alternate history of Hindus is that she presents her imaginary interpretation not as hers, but as coming from the ‘people’ of India centuries ago. Otherwise, she could have honestly mentioned details: at this time, in that area, according to this source or folklore it was said that Sita was a lover of Lakshman, or the elephant-trunk of Lord Ganesha is but a ‘limp phallus’.

This last piece of wild imagination is found in a Ph. D. study done under Wendy’s guidance. Have a look of this study by one of Wendy’s children, Paul Courtright:

…there is a meaning in the selection of the elephant head. Its trunk is the displaced phallus, a caricature of Shiva’s linga. It poses no threat because it is too large, flaccid, and in the wrong place to be useful for sexual intercourse… [Ganesha] remains celibate so as not to compete erotically with his father, a notorious womanizer, either incestuously for his mother or for any other woman for that matter. … Ganesha is like a eunuch guarding the women of the harem. In Indian folklore and practice, eunuchs have served as trusted guardians of the antahpura, the seraglio. “They have the reputation of being homosexuals, with penchant for oral sex, and are looked upon as the very dregs of society” (Hiltebeitel,1980, p. 162) … Like the eunuch, Ganesha has the power of bless and curse; that is, to place and remove obstacles.[x]

This then is the ‘alternate’ ‘interpretation’ of Lord Ganesha, which according to Wendy Doniger, merited a PhD. By now it is becoming obvious what she likes best. Obsession with sex fantasies seems to be on the top of her list. Evidence or no, even a psychoanalytical conjecture into the past is considered history in her books. More about this later.

Indeed, it is conjectures galore in Wendy Doniger.

In her enthusiasm of giving alternative narratives, she little cares about contradictory stances. For example, on the one hand, she invokes Valmiki for claiming certain things, and then doubts if there was any such person in history. In her words, “we don’t know who Valmiki was. It’s unlikely that one person wrote the whole Ramayana. Certainly unlikely that Vyasa wrote the Mahabharata—it was too great a book for a single author.”[xi]

[contextly_sidebar id=”igbJwuLkfIsSQNdhW7ePmaKk00rpHFyg”]

Please note the strange basis of denying an author’s existence. As if standardizing one’s limited inability, a great book cannot be written by a single author.

Contradiction is also glaring in her presentation of Rama, Sita, Dashratha, etc. in various hues, because at another place she also says that Ramayana is a fiction. So, portraying colourful sexual fantasies about them is history but if Ramayana is taken as an indicator of the cultural greatness of India ages ago, then the same is mere fiction!

This is no consistency in academic outlook.

Ideology Trumps Academics

Then again, this is very similar to the Marxist historians’ approach. Picking Shambuka-vadha as evidence of caste oppression at the hands of Brahmins, but denying Ayodhya as a land of happiness and absence of sorrow in the same narrative. This pick-and-choose is never done out of any academic considerations, but to solely satisfy ideological imperatives. Wendy Doniger also belongs in the same basket.

There are other defects in Wendy’s observations on Hinduism.

First of all, what is called ‘Hindu religion’ is not a faith and ideology, based on a fixed book and official instructions. Theoretically, Wendy too, has in a way, recognized it. In her Textual Resources… she has noted that, “Hinduism as a whole has been well characterized as orthopraxy rather than orthodox: Hindus define themselves by what they do rather than by what they think.”[xii] Still, her interpretations and judgments choose more from books than the deeds of Hindus. And that, from books, with significant omissions and ideological slants.

Her decisive statements about present day Hindus are sweeping and not supported by empirical data. For example, “Mainstream Hinduism is the Hinduism of the Sanskrit texts, the Hinduism that supports caste laws and orient itself in terms of Vedas; this is the Establishment that establishes the rules of the game in India.”[xiii] Who is the ‘Establishment’ she is referring to? This is an arbitrary imposition, unsupported by evidence or the practices of Hindus today.

One of the biggest drawbacks of Wendy Doniger’s controversial book, The Hindus … is its reliance on tertiary, not even secondary, sources.

She has taken stray observations, opinions of all manner of writers giving them the same weightage as to a serious historian or to a solid, primary text. The bibliography of this book comprises 50 pages, with about two thousand books and articles.

The fact to note is that 90 per cent of this material is non-Hindu and non-Indian.[xiv]  In other words, by their very nature, all those articles and books, and observations therein, cannot be considered primary material to know about Hindu history, people, religion and culture. They are secondary-tertiary, many of them irrelevant, and highly selective only to suit Wendy’s proclivities. Since the beginning of her career, she has made attempts to conceal these proclivities.


It is her predilection to sensuous conclusions that has determined her selection of materials. That is why we see no attempt whatsoever to verify or weigh a material supposed to help writing a history book.

Unlike fiction, history is made of evidence and not opinions that Wendy has used so liberally. Such a frivolous style, and collection of materials would not be acceptable in similar studies on Christianity, Islam or Judaism.

That Wendy did so with regard to Hinduism is also reflective of her conceit and racial-colonial mindset. It is quite reasonable to deduce that she considers herself way too superior to Hindus to brook even academic objections from them.

Whether this emanates from the high chairs coming her way at a very young age or from being called ‘the queen of Hinduism’ by sycophants almost throughout her career, we do not know. But she’s undoubtedly arrogant, a fact that she herself confirms from her various statements about the Hindus.


[i] Wendy Doniger, “when a Lingam is Just a Good Cigar”, Jeffrey Kripal and T H Vaidyanathan (ed.), Vishnu on Freud’s Desk (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 279. Quoted in Krishnan Ramaswamy et al (ed.) Invading the Sacred: An Analysis of Hinduism Studies in America (New Delhi: Rupa and Co., 2007) p. 485

[ii] Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty, ed. and trans. Textual Sources for the Study of Hinduism (Manchester: University Press, 1988), pp. v, 15-17, 103-106

[iii] Ibid, p.189

[iv] Ibid, pp. 17-18

[v] Ibid, p. x

[vi] Rameshwar Mishra ‘Pankaj’ provided the description about the Shatapatha Brahman. He is a distinguished scholar.

[vii] An interview with Wendy Doniger, by Sheela Reddy, Outlook (weekly), New Delhi, 26 Oct. 2009

[viii] Ibid

[ix] Ibid

[x] Paul Courtright, Ganesha Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), quoted in Krishnan Ramaswamy et al (ed.) Invading the Sacred: An Analysis of Hinduism Studies in America (New Delhi: Rupa and Co., 2007) pp. 53-54

[xi] Outlook (weekly), New Delhi, 26 Oct. 2009

[xii] Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty, ed. and trans. Textual Sources for the Study of Hinduism (Manchester: University Press, 1988), pp. xi

[xiii] Ibid

[xiv] Wendy Doniger, The Hindus: An Alternative History (New Delhi: Penguin Viking, 2009), pp. 929-79

Shankar Sharan

Dr. Shankar Sharan is Professor, Political Science at the NCERT, New Delhi