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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Doniger’s book on Hindu history - Factual errors

Doniger’s book on Hindu history - Factual errors
Friday, March 5, 2010 at 3:04pm

The book: Hindus, an alternate history is out now. Wendy Donigers writes on Indian History laden with errors. It is our responsibility to hightlight the errors, and as civil socieites we cannot perpetuate the errors and pass on to the next generation as facts. Let the reader "beware clause" be added to the book that the facts are not verified.

The petition listed below points out the following mistakes and if you agree with the contents please sign; I have signed # 5935

As responsibile citizens we have an obligation to stop and chuck errrors from getting into circulation, she is a popular author and we are making her even more popular. Now the responsibility falls squarely on her shoulders to set the record right. The publishers need to add a note of caution; that it is her version of the history and not verified to be true.

A few clauses in the petition may not have any grounding, but overall, the book has errors and needs to be addressed.

The contents of the petition are posted below and this is the petition.

Signing the petition does make a difference, I recall driving the signatures for Diwali Stamp drive on my radio show and all my groups. We need a whole lot more signature for that, the last count was abour 120,000. Thanks to the Facebook, I will post it there as well as send it to my groups.

Mike Ghouse is a frequent guest at the TV, radio and print media offering pluralistic solutions to issues of the day. He is a thinker, writer, speaker, optimist and an activist of Pluralism, Interfaith, Co-existence, Peace, Islam and India. He His work is reflected at three websites and 22 Blogs at http://www.mikeghouse.net/

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The following errors are pointed in the petition:

“The Hindus: An Alternative History” is rife with numerous errors in its historical facts and Sanskrit translations. These errors and misrepresentations are bound and perhaps intended to mislead students of Indian and Hindu history.

Throughout the book, Doniger analyzes revered Hindu Gods and Goddess using her widely discredited psychosexual Freudian theories that modern, humanistic psychology has deemed limiting. These interpretations are presented as hard facts and not as speculations. Doniger makes various faulty assumptions about the tradition in order to arrive at her particular spin. In the process, the beliefs, traditions and interpretations of practicing Hindus are simply ignored or bypassed without the unsuspecting reader knowing this to be the case. This kind of Western scholarship has been criticized as Orientalism and Eurocentrism. The non Judeo-Christian faith gets used to dish out voyeurism and the tradition gets eroticized.


The following are a just a SMALL SAMPLING of examples of the factual errors that run rampant through this disgusting book. By due diligence that is badly overdue from your editors, you can either find for yourself, or we will be glad to direct you to, scholarly references so that you can verify these errors yourself and withdraw this obscenity.

[Page number precedes a reference to inaccurate statements in the book. This is followed by a comment citing verifiable facts.]

Maps in front pages: Maps titled ‘India’s Geographical Features’ and ‘India from 600 CE to 1600 CE’

COMMENT: In the first map, the Waziristan Hills area is marked erroneously as ‘Kirthar Range’. The Kirthar Range is at least 200 miles further south. In the third map, Janakpur, Nagarkot, Mandu and Haldighati are marked several hundred miles from their correct geographical location.

Pg. 67 - It is claimed that the entire Harappan culture had a population of 40,000!

COMMENT: This is estimated as the population of Mohenjo-Daro alone. The population of the entire culture is estimated around 500,000.

Pg 112 - Wheat is mentioned as a food item in the Rigvedic period.

COMMENT: Wheat is not mentioned in the Rigveda at all. It first occurs in the Maitrayani Samhita of the Yajurveda.

Pg 130 - The author claims that there are no Gods in the Vedas who are Shudras.

COMMENT: It is anachronistic to assign castes to Rigvedic deities, but nevertheless, Pushan, Vesmapati and others have been considered Shudra deities in later times.

Pg 194 fn.- Gandhi's commentary on the Gita (a sacred Hindu scripture) was titled 'Asakti Yoga' (translated as ‘the science of deep attachment’).

COMMENT: The title of Gandhi’s work is 'Anasakti Yoga' (trans. ‘Science of non-Attachment’).

Pg 206 - The book wrongly states that the Hindus had only a triad of passions.

COMMENT: Hindu scriptures list six main evils and the concept of shadripus (six internal enemies) is very well known.

Pg 441 - The book claims that Firoz Shah redeemed a number of Hindu slaves…

COMMENT: A misrepresentation of the fact that he employed (not ‘redeemed’) 12,000 of his 180,000 slaves forcibly in royal factories for producing articles of consumption by Muslim elites. No “manumission” was involved.

Pg 445 - Dates of Saint Kabir are given as 1450 – 1498.

COMMENT: His demise is believed to have occurred in 1518, and the traditional date of birth is 1398.

Pg 448 - In 713 Muhammad ibn Qasim invaded Sind.
COMMENT: Muhammad bin Qasim invaded Sind in 711.

Pg 450- It is claimed that Emperor Ala-ud-Din Khalji did not sack temples in Devagiri.

COMMENT: His contemporary Amir Khusro clearly mentions that the Emperor sacked numerous temples and raised mosques instead.

Pg 459 - King Ala-ud-din Husain of Bengal patronized Saint Chaitanya.
COMMENT: Saint Chaitanya never met the king, and left his kingdom to avoid persecution, as did his disciples. The king had destroyed Hindu temples in Orissa.

Pg 532 - Emperor Akbar moved his capital from Fatehpur Sikri to Delhi in 1586.
COMMENT: Emperor Akbar moved his capital to Lahore in 1587, and thereafter to Agra.

Pg 537-8 - The Sikh teacher Guru Govind Singh was assassinated in 1708, while 'attending Emperor Aurangzeb'. Emperor Aurangzeb died in 1707.

COMMENT: Guru Gobind Singh was assassinated in 1708 during the reign of Aurangzeb’s successor, Emperor Bahadur Shah I. It is insulting to say that the Guru was ‘attending’ on the Emperor.

Pg 550 - The book claims that Mirabai lived from 1498-1597, and then on p. 568, the author claims that Mirabai lived from 1450-1525!

COMMENT: Both dates are wrong and the commonly accepted dates are 1498-1547.

Pg 552 - The book claims that the Ramcharitmanas was written at Varanasi.
COMMENT: Both modern scholarship as well as tradition accept that the work (or at least most of it) was written in Ayodhya.

Section on Bibliography: “Shekhawat, V. “Origin and Structure of purushartha Theory: An attempt at Critical Appraisal.” Journal of Indian Council of Philosophical Research 7:1 (1900), 63-67.”

COMMENT:The correct issue and year of this Journal issue are actually 8:2 and 1991. The bibliography has dozens of errors. Some references cited by Doniger simply do not exist.


Clumsily written, each chapter is a shocking and appalling series of anecdotes which denigrate, distort and misrepresent Hinduism and the history of India and Hindus. Doniger uses selective quotations from obscure and non-original, peripheral and ignorant references with a bizarre emphasis on sexuality and eroticism. Cited below are only a handful of quotes along with our understanding and interpretation, with references from Hindu scripture.

[Page number precedes the quote from the book. This is followed by a rebuttal comment.]

Pg 40 – “If the motto of Watergate was ‘Follow the money’, the motto of the history of Hinduism could well be ‘Follow the monkey’ or, more often ‘Follow the horse’.”

COMMENT: Very derogatory and offensive. The motto of Hinduism is to follow the truth and unite with God.

Pg 112 - The author alleges that in Rigveda 10.62, it is implied that a woman may find her own brother in her bed!

COMMENT: The hymn has no such suggestion. It is offensive to suggest that the sacred text of Hindus has kinky sex in it.

Pg 128 - The book likens the Vedic devotee worshipping different Vedic deities to a lying and a philandering boyfriend cheating on his girlfriend(s).

COMMENT: This is offensive and ignores that fact that in the Rigveda, the gods are said to be all united, born of one another, and from the same source.

Pg 225 -“Dasharatha’s son is certainly ‘lustful’... Rama knows all too well what people said about Dasharatha; when Lakshmana learns that Rama has been exiled, he says, “The king is perverse, old, and addicted to sex, driven by lust (2.18.3)”

COMMENT: Sri Rama is revered and worshipped as a deity. The highly acclaimed and critical edition of Valmiki’s Ramayana records no such statement attributed to Lakshmana. An imagined phrase, 'kama-sakta' is mistranslated as 'addicted to sex' by the author whereas it normally means ‘filled with desires’. Valmiki uses a phrase 'samani-madhah' (trans. Possessed of passion).

Pg 467 - Harihara and Bukka (the founders of the Vijayanagara Empire that saved Hindu culture in S India) ‘double-crossed’ the Delhi Sultan when they reconverted to Hinduism.

COMMENT: The brothers committed apostasy as they had been imprisoned and forcibly converted to Islam, and immediately reverted to Hinduism when they were 1000 miles from the Sultan, under the influence of a Hindu ascetic.

Pg 468-469 -“…The mosque, whose serene calligraphic and geometric contrasts with the perpetual motion of the figures depicted on the temple, makes a stand against the chaos of India, creating enforced vacuums that India cannot rush into with all its monkeys and peoples and colors and the smells of the bazaar…”

COMMENT: It is simply unacceptable that a scholar can flippantly, pejoratively and derogatorily essentialize the Hindus as “monkeys and peoples, colors and smells.., and chaos” in most insulting manner with the aspersion thrown at the entire Hindu culture and community all over the world. Such generalization has no place in serious scholarly work.

Pg 509 - ”Shankara and the philosopher’s wife…This tale contrasts sex and renunciation in such a way that the renunciant philosopher is able to have his cake and eat it, to triumph not only in the world of the mind (in which, before this episode begins, he wins a series of debates against the nonrenouncing male Mimamsa philosopher) but in the world of the body, represented by the philosopher’s wife (not to mention the harem women who clearly prefer Shankara to the king in bed).” The author attributes the tale to Shankaradigvijaya of Madhava and to Ravichandra's commentary on Amarushataka.

COMMENT: The author concocts the story as a sexual orgy in which the Saint Adi Shankara and King Amruka take turns making love to the latter’s wives after he is tired. Both her sources however state that the King was already dead and the Saint transferred his soul into the dead King’s body through his yogic powers. There is no suggestion in the texts that the queens ‘prefer Shankara to the king in bed’.

Pg 571- It is alleged that in a hymn from Saint Kshetrayya’s poetry, ‘God rapes’ the women devotees.
COMMENT: The hymn merely presents devotion using spiritual metaphors and the hymns of the Saint seen collectively depict it as a passionate love affair between the God and the devotees. No rape is implied in this hymn at all.

Again, the above is simply a sampling of the scandalous and offensive statements in the book. By her own admission in the book, Doniger has no credentials as a historian and the title of the book is misleading as the book is not on the “History nor an Alternative History” of India. This shows that the author is not an authority on the subject as she is not able to understand the deep meaning of Sanskrit verses or Indian Concepts. These cast serious doubts about the author’s integrity as a researcher and ability to interpret accurately. Additional examples of the author’s shoddy scholarship will be made available upon request.

We emphasize that this defamatory book misinforms readers about the history of Hindu civilization, its cultures and traditions. The book promotes prejudices and biases against Hindus. Can Penguin’s editors really be incompetent enough to have allowed this to pass to publication? If this is not deliberate malice, Penguin must act now in good faith.

As concerned readers, we ask PENGUIN GROUP to:

1. WITHDRAW all the copies of this book immediately from the worldwide bookshops/markets/Universities/Libraries and refrain from printing any other edition.

2. APOLOGIZE for having published this book “The Hindus: An Alternative History”. This book seriously and grossly misrepresents the Hindu reality as known to the vast numbers of Hindus and to scholars of Hindu tradition. PENGUIN must apologize for failure to observe proper pre-publication scrutiny and scholarly review.


The Undersigned




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