Asian Age-Prof P. L. Vishweshwer Rao’s Review


Asian Age Review-
Hinduism painted black
Review |
Prof P. L. Vishweshwer Rao

This voluminous book makes for an interesting and indignant reading. Interesting, because it exposes the fallacious interpretation by American scholars of Hinduism, its numerous facets and their manifestation in ways that are beyond the ken of some. Indignant, because these interpretations demonise, distort and degrade Hinduism.

For several decades now the white, Judeo/Christian ‘scholars’ of various schools of South Asian studies in US have been pathologising Hinduism. However, in the last few years Indian scholars in the US have taken them on and the result is the volume’ review. Hinduism is ‘interpreted’ with a degree of hostility: Bhagavad Gita is dismissed as a ‘dishonest book’ promoting war; Ganesha’s trunk is a ‘limp phallus’, his large belly and love of sweets are proof of Hindu male’s enormous appetite for oral sex. Besides Swami Ramakrishna Paramahamsa is called a pedophile who molested the young Swami Vivekananda. The bindi is interpreted as a drop of menstrual fluid.

Various incidents narrated in Hindu scriptures are explained in Freudian terms and so, the fight between Shiva and Ganesha is an episode of Oedipal conflict.

These ‘scholars’ have not only received awards, but their books are also prescribed as readings in American colleges and universities. Their Hindu-phobic views have also gained respectability in mainstream America.

In these days when India is resurging as a global power, Invading the Sacred sets out to expose the systematic undermining core icons and ideals of Indic culture and thought. The editors explain that these debasing images of India, its culture and civilisation are not just in the realm of the academia nor the result of personal biases and prejudices of a few; they are also in the realm of institutionalised mechanisms.

These images shape popular perceptions in America. For the vast Indian diaspora’s younger generation in America and indeed in this country too, these interpretations are at sharp divergence with all that they have known about their culture, civilisation and religion. As S N Balagangadhara of University of Belgium, one of the contributors in this volume, says: “Our experiences are being trivialised, denied, distorted and made inaccessible by someone else’s experience of the world. You have the feeling of moral or ethical wrongness because such a situation is neither justified nor justifiable.

One is made to think that apparently, there is only one way of experiencing the word: the Western way. Countering this insidious campaign against Hinduism by ‘talking back’ was one of the ways of meeting the challenge in view of the struggles of the Blacks, women, gays and so on.

The present book is one such ‘talk back’.

Although some reviewers fear a security threat to the country and see this anti-Hindu campaign as an attack on its sovereignty, one would rather debate and discuss rather than react, rave and rant. Confidence in our own cultural and civilisational heritage should be expressed through reason and debate. This book does precisely that. An eye-opening read.