Brahmin: oppressor or benefactor?

Wendy Doniger Against Dharma

[Counters temporarily disabled]

[Part 1 | Part II | Part III]

 [Digest is still being compiled and edited, Introduction to be written – Sunthar]

This extended debate pits traditionalist Hindus against American Indologists—with various shades of opinion in-between—around the work and personality of Prof. Wendy Doniger at the University of Chicago. [Do let me know if your views have been inadvertently omitted or distorted: this is an evolving archive!] It was sparked off by Sunthar Visuvalingam’s follow-up observations, ..... [Intro to be completed – SV] 


Index of threads


Related threads at svAbhinava:

Rajiv Malhotra - What is the ‘political’ agenda behind American studies of South Asian Tantra?

Gautam Sen - Academic researchers versus Hindu civilization

Hermeneutics of Ganesha: Psychoanalysis, Hindu Wisdom and Transgressive Sacrality (dialogue) 


From: Irving Birkner
Sent: Monday, November 5, 2018 11:28 AM
Subject: [cosas_student_list] [cosas_all] Nov. 30: Candrarekha's Lament, a lecture by David Shulman in honor of Wendy Doniger

Candrarekha’s Lament: A Not-so-lovely Courtesan, A Bittersweet Poet, and a Very Little King: A public lecture by David Shulman

Honoring the scholarship and teaching of Wendy Doniger , the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions

Friday November 30 |4:30pm | Swift Lecture Hall | A reception will follow

This lecture is presented in honor of the scholarship and teaching of Wendy Doniger, the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions,who will retire from the teaching faculty of the Divinity School at the end of Winter Quarter.

Free and open to the public. A reception will follow.

Join us also on November 14th for a Wednesday Lunch with Prof. Doniger, who will be interviewed by her PhD student, Seema Chauhan (register in advance by emailing ; see details at

David Shulman,the Renee Lang Professor of Humanistic Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, is an Indologist and one of the world’s foremost authorities on the languages of India. His research embraces many fields, including the history of religion in South India, Indian poetics, Tamil Islam, Dravidian linguistics, and Carnatic music. He has authored or co-authored more than 20 books on various subjects ranging from temple myths and temple poems to essays that cover the wide spectrum of the cultural history of South India. Prof. Shulman is a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, and was the 2016 Israel Prize winner.

From: Sunthar Visuvalingam 
Sent: Monday, November 5, 2018 12:43 PM
To: 'Abhinavagupta egroup; 'Chicagoland Desis'; 'JerusalemBenares
Cc: 'Dia-Gnosis
Subject: "Candrarekha's Lament," a lecture by David Shulman in honor of Wendy Doniger (UC, Nov. 30)

David Shulman, the privileged ‘first-born’ of “Wendy’s children,” is also the second holder of the UC Vivekananda Chair, so generously endowed with $1.5M of Indian taxpayer money:


From: Sunthar Visuvalingam
Sent: Sunday, December 2, 2018 3:47 PM
To: 'Abhinavagupta egroup; 'Chicagoland Desis'
Cc: 'Dia-Gnosis ('; 'Ontological Ethics
Subject: David Shulman's obscene tribute at UC Divinity School to Wendy Doniger, queen of Hindu (literary) porn (audio recording)

Nagaraj-garu, Bharat-ji and friends,

Sorry for the poor quality of the recording (arrived just before his talk began and were lucky to find a couple of remaining empty chairs way back beside a noisy radiator in the full hall): (talk) (preface to published Telugu edition)

I’d be interested to know what you make of not only the content, but also its larger context and implications…



Israeli Indologist David Shulman gave a well-attended public lecture Nov. 30, 2018 in honor of professor Wendy Doniger, the notorious American interpreter of Hindu mythology, at the University of Chicago (UC) Divinity School, before she retires from her long teaching career at the end of this winter quarter.

Under the title “Candrarekha’s Lament: A Not-so-lovely Courtesan, A Bittersweet Poet, and a Very Little King,” Shulman presented this Telugu poem in three cantos by accomplished poet Kuchimanchi Jaggakavi that comically describes the narcissistic infatuation of a petty king for an ugly prostitute. What is most striking about this avidly read poem that had long circulated only in manuscript form is its thoroughly obscene content, often in the coarse language of the gutter, that would readily qualify as pornographic were it not for its undeniable literary merits. The talk consisted in providing necessary context and reading out choice passages in translation to demonstrate its parodying techniques of inversion, wherein her revolting ugliness and his petty self-importance only served to fuel their mutual lust: the sort of material that has been especially worthy of Doniger’s attentions, as Shulman noted.

During this hour-long eulogy, greeted repeatedly by raucous laughter at its lurid intonations, there was no mention of our common knowledge that Doniger is despised by large sections of Hindus, not just religious fundamentalists, to the extent that her book on The Hindus: An Alternative History was banned in India. Nor that a growing number of American Indologists and humanities scholars, even (former) UC colleagues, find her work profoundly objectionable. Public intellectual Rajiv Malhotra has fittingly coined the label ‘Wendy’s Child syndrome’ for the shared propensity of her PhD students to give free rein, with an exulting in-your-face irreverence, to the most demeaning interpretations of Hinduism.

Doniger attempts to justify her predilections by claiming that her humorless Hindutva detractors have lost the facility with which Hinduism earlier transgressed its own norms. In the 1902 publication of Candrarekha’s Lament, its learned Telugu editor rewrote all the offensive passages to render the poem more palatable to contemporary Indian sensibilities inflected by Victorian puritanism. He expresses the fervent wish that, with its printing, the unexpurgated manuscripts would gradually disappear from circulation. By thus resurrecting the original within the haloed crowded confines of the UC Divinity School, the ‘first-born child’ seemed to demonstrate that the classical tradition was on his teacher’s side. Starting on his PhD, Shulman began studying with Doniger in 1972 during her stint at SOAS London.

Having already proven his poetic worth through prior works attesting mastery of classical technique, style, and taste, Jagga Kavi was not merely lampooning the inordinate lust of his miserly ‘royal’ patron but parodying the sterile conformity of his mediocre predecessors to stale literary canons. Shulman, however, balked at reducing Kavi’s rhetoric to the procedures of “inversion” (of professed ideals) that define irony and satire. Instead, he coined the term “supraversion” to propose that through incongruous juxtaposition to the sublime, the obscene has been transvalued into an even higher and innovative level of artistic expression. I would add that this underlying principle was already enshrined in the earlier tradition of the ‘great brahmin’ clown of the Sanskrit theater, who was obliged to mouth profanities in the vernacular that were not only labeled ‘poetic humor’ but accorded a sacred status beside the king.

Whereas Doniger’s interpretive methods and predilections have been sharply critiqued even by fellow Western scholars in Indology and religious studies, the choice of Shulman to confer this ultimate honor would seem to vindicate (the portrayal of Hinduism in) her life work. For he was the second holder of the prestigious UC Vivekananda Chair that the Indian government had generously funded with US$1.5M in taxpayer money. In December 2017, he was conferred the International Award “for promoting Indian culture” by the Kanchi Shankaracharya. Emerging from UC Swift Hall, a retired Indian psychiatrist praised to me in Hindi the “excellence” (kamaal) of his talk. Keen to promote collaborations at academic institutions in India, a visiting Hindu research scientist, who seemed to have slept through most of the peroration, joined the following reception to exchange pleasantries with Doniger and Shulman.

Shulman concluded by offering (his exposition of) Candrarekha’s Lament as “a very small guru-dakṣiṇā, a gift, to my teacher Wendy, by far the most generous human being I have met.” It seems to me that to be generous in the exercise of an intellectual discipline that claims to interpret alien peoples is, above all, to attempt to understand them through their own values and thought-categories, exemplified in the pioneering representations of ‘primitive’ cultures by anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, whom Doniger invoked long ago as the primary inspiration for her doctoral thesis. Without such scholarly empathy, abundantly displayed by her senior retired UC colleague and fellow Indologist, McKim Marriott, we are left witnessing the mutual backscratching through which dubious academics promote their own careers.

Sunthar V., "UC Divinity School hosts obscene homage to Wendy Doniger" (India Post, 14 Dec. 2018, pp.17, 23)

Dear Nagaraj, Jeff, Bharat and friends,

Many American Indologists start off with a valuable PhD, under the critical eyes of their academic supervisors, that contributes greatly towards advancing their research area by casting the spotlight on recurring motifs and neglected patterns in Hindu texts and practice. Though criticized by knowledgeable peers for her methodology, conclusions, etc., Wendy’s first book, Asceticism and Eroticism in the Mythology of Śiva, exemplifies this and served as a key reference for Elizabeth’s own interpretations of Bhairava and transgressive sexuality. Similarly, though mistakenly intent on demonstrating the ‘bloody’ distinctiveness of South Indian Hinduism, Shulman’s Tamil Temple Myths does confirm their conservation of (the violence of) pre-classical Vedic sacrifice (Heesterman). The “syndrome” that distinguishes Wendy and her “children” is their subsequent extravagant license, after having consolidated their faculty positions and academic credentials, to wax ‘creative’ in the prejudicial interpretation of the texts and practices to the extent of obscuring the deeper—if not immediately apparent—and inner coherence of the alien system of thought and values that informs them. An excellent case in point is Shulman’s The King and the Clown in South Indian Myth and Poetry (1986) that I received in Banaras from Princeton University Press for review soon after my own doctorate on the clown of the Sanskrit theater.

Yes, we need to look more closely and critically—soon enough—at the (comic) performances and (insidious) roles of these various (overrated) actors on the (increasingly politicized) Indological stage….



From: Rashmi Joshi

Sent: Friday, February 7, 2020 3:36 PM


Subject: [cosas_student_list] [cosas_all] South Asia Events Next Week

Feb. 7 and Feb. 8 (Fri. & Sat.)

"Regimes of Knowledge in the Early Indic World,” Part of the 2019-2020 Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, “Śāstram: Form, Power, and Translation in Indic Scholasticism.” (2/7, 1:30pm-6:30pm, 2/8, 12:15pm-5:30pm, Regenstein Library S-102)

The domain of śāstra – disciplined, textualized systematic thought, composed in Sanskrit and other languages – forms premodern southern Asia’s greatest archive for the history of knowledge. The intellectual sophistication of these many domains and their intertextual complexity present formidable challenges to interpretation, often to the expense of framing wider questions about what could be termed śāstra’s micro- and macro-sociologies. In this two day symposium, leading scholars will present attempts to rectify this imbalance, seeking to offer preliminary theories and case studies of its worldly existence from Kashmir to Java, and from antiquity into the medieval period.


Friday, February 7th:
1:30: Welcome, Opening Remarks, and Introduction
2:00-2:45 Isabelle Ratié (Paris-III) "A śāstra for whom? On the intended readership of the Pratyabhijñā treatise"
2:45-3:00 Response (Gary Tubb, SALC, UChicago)
3:00-3:30 Discussion
3:30-4:00 Break
4:00-4:45 Whitney Cox (SALC, UChicago) “Yāmuna’s insurgent Brahmanism”
4:45-5:00 Response (Anand Venkatkrishnan, Divinity, UChicago)
5:00-5:30 Discussion
5:30-6:30 Reception

Saturday, February 8th

 12:15 Welcome
12:30-1:15 Tom Hunter (UBC/Neubauer), “When Śāstram Met Literature: the Tale of Tantri in the Language Order of Premodern Java”
1:15-1:30 Response (Andrew Ollett, SALC UChicago)
1:30-2:00 Discussion
2:00-2:30 Break
2:30-3:15 Mark McClish (Northwestern), "Nīti as Śāstra: Text, Tradition, and Authority in Ancient Statecraft"
3:15-3:30 Response (Wendy Doniger, SALC/Divinity emerita, UChicago)
3:30-4:00 Discussion
4:00-4:15 Wrap-up
4:15-5:30 Reception

From:Sunthar V

Sent:Wednesday, February 12, 2020 4:18 PM

To: 'Abhinavagupta egroup'; 'Hindu-Buddhist'; 'Dia-Gnosis'

Cc: 'MeccaBenares (egroup)'; 'Chicagoland Desis'; 'Ontological Ethics'

Subject: [Abhinavagupta] “Śāstram: Form, Power, and Translation in Indic Scholasticism” (UC, Feb 7-8, 2020) - Brahmin, oppressor or benefactor?


While the above conference presented a wealth of materials on disparate domains and posed valuable questions of wider theoretical interest on each, there was no comprehensive ‘wrap-up’ attempting to juxtapose the four papers to highlight divergent approaches to common threads. A couple (or more) of the speakers are (understandably) uneasy about circulating work-in-progress and thus being held to account for specific details of their arguments. Though I ventured critical observations, both in public and in private after each session, I’ll restrict myself here to a single overarching but often implicit issue.

Whether to valorize or debunk such ‘authoritative’ treatises (śāstra) seems to be a function of whether its brahmin authors are perceived to be oppressors or benefactors. Though co-host Whitney Cox’s “Yāmuna’s insurgent Brahmanism” explicitly elevates this ‘subtext’ to center-stage of the conference, he clearly showed that (the claim to) ‘brahmin’ identity (and authority) was a contested one in the Tamil Kaveri delta and may have always been so at all times and places. There was no homogenized caste of brahmins imposing their power on the rest of Hindu society through the form of treatises, because any (unstable) consensus attained, if at all, among these ‘law-givers’ was the result of (often bitter and open) dispute, possibly involving other stakeholders (local kings, land-owning Vellālars, etc.) as adjudicators.

Tom Hunter’s “When Śāstram Met Literature: the Tale of Tantri in the Language Order of Premodern Java” showed how Sanskrit treatises from (Hindu) India were assiduously studied and translated by natives into Old Javanese thereby co-creating this new literary language. In the next (two) phases of local development, however, the Javanese were more intent in creative expression in their ‘vernacular’ tongue while drawing inspiration from the received brahmanical corpus. Whitney pointed out that the original śāstra, elided in the final stage of the poetic hierarchy, remains implicitly present as its authoritative summit. In other words, though flourishing historical exchanges with the subcontinent had long ceased, the (now Muslim) Javanese continue to revere the brahmanical cultural norms of those treatises.

Mark McClish’s "Nīti as Śāstra: Text, Tradition, and Authority in Ancient Statecraft" showed how preexisting, probably disparate, streams of political thought coalesced into the authoritative Artha-Śāstra attributed to the ‘Kauṭilya, Machiavellian’ counselor to Chandragupta, founder of the Mauryan empire. Critique of form suggests its text had been rearranged to receive a brahmanical imprimatur, where discussions of diverse topics lead up to a ‘conclusive’ (siddhānta) position that would conform to dharma. Its orthodox redactors nevertheless retain even extreme alternate views as prima facie arguments (pūrva-pakṣa) to be refuted. Instead of imposing his own ‘definitive’ take on the treatise, Mark presented various facets of its contents, bracketed between a series of opening and concluding interrogations.

The core puzzle was what it meant for a statesman to have this ‘definitive’ Hindu treatise for his eyes (śāstra-cakṣus)? How were its general precepts applied in concrete contexts, bridging the gap between “saying” and “doing”? Discussant Wendy Doniger, recent author of her own notorious tract Against Dharma, claimed that these “subversive” pūrva-pakṣa views reflect the authentic ideology of the brahmin authors, who were thereby circumventing the oppressive censorship (and surveillance?) of their unsuspecting dharmic peers. Taking my cue from UC’s prima donna, I proposed that crucial for the king’s counselors was familiarity with a wide variety of (even contradictory) options to apply in often unique contingencies: in the otherwise diametrically opposed Sino-Korean Neo-Confucianist framework, they deliberated the appropriate course of action by invoking and arguing the relevance of historical (near-) precedents. Wendy, I observed, is being more dogmatic than the brahmin orthodoxy to be debunked.

"A śāstra for whom? On the intended readership of the Pratyabhijñā treatise" takes it for granted that its authors, Utpaladeva and Abhinavagupta, had undertaken this monumental exercise of rational thought primarily out of altruistic motives to make self-realization accessible to all, not just to adherents of other brahmanical schools, but also their Buddhist adversaries, and in principle to illiterate (at least in Sanskrit) women and untouchables. Though qualifying their ‘Doctrine of Recognition’ as a “heterodox” philosophical current, Isabelle Ratié (the primary reason for our attending this conference…) shows, already in her hefty and formidable French doctorate, that these consummate brahmins were so universal in outlook that they deliberately bracketed aside their (Śaiva) sectarian affiliations in their outreach.

We already know since the beginnings of Indology that the ‘nonviolent’ brahmins are a self-serving conspiratorial bunch who managed to impose their oppressive stranglehold over Indian society through sheer cunning. Otherwise, how to explain the continuing prestige of their śāstras over indigenous folks, so far removed in time and space from classical India as the Javanese? Wendy now wants us to believe that they were at the same time incredibly and credulously stupid, for not being able to see through the same textual and literary ruses resorted to by fellow “subversive” brahmins against dharma?

What a pathetic (UC) finale to an otherwise (once-) promising legacy of insightful scholarship on Hinduism… :-(



PS. Despite the USSR having dissolved three decades ago, Wendy, perhaps leveraging the ambient Russophobia, ‘clinched’ her case with a flippant invocation of the (brahmin) “KGB”! Given the growing public contradiction between the ongoing loud profession of humanitarian motives and the self-serving bloody interventions across the globe, shouldn’t we be looking closer to home at the American deep state?

From: Prof. C. K. Raju

Sent: Wednesday, February 12, 2020 5:24 PM

To: Sunthar Visuvalingam

Subject: Re: “Śāstram: Form, Power, and Translation in Indic Scholasticism” (UC, Feb 7-8, 2020) - Brahmin, oppressor or benefactor?

Nice to hear about it Sunthar,

I have stayed away from Indology (in the pejorative sense), but got roped in as a convenor for the conference next month . Here is my abstract on Precolonial appropriations of Indian gaita: epistemic lessons , though I have largely stayed away from the organization of the conference because I have been down for the last 3 months. You may also be interested in a seminar on "Ganita vs mathematics" I gave just before my frostbite

"Re-Examining Indology : Retrospect and Prospect" | Indian Council for C...

I am also taking up the issue of how a religious bias (about the nature of time) creeps into science, through the biased metaphysics of infinity in formal math. This is at a forthcoming workshop and festival in Berlin .

Have been talking about this also in the context of decolonisation in South Africa, but instead of listening to people the way you people listen to Wendy Doniger, they censor me and Hawking's co-author Ellis launched a scurrilous attack on me. (But the censored article is now in the Rhodes Must Fall book from the Oxford group.)

BTW did you see this not-so-old article of mine on Scientific temper in ancient India ?





Mathematics, Decolonization and Censorship: C. K. Raju

Guest post by C.K.RAJU Did you find math difficult in school? Does your child? If so, what is the solution: chan...

[Response to Sunthar’s post (12 Feb 2020) at

“Śāstram: Form, Power, and Translation in Indic Scholasticism” (UC, Feb 7-8, 2020) - Brahmin, oppressor or benefactor?]



From: Sunthar V

Sent: Tuesday, February 18, 2020 4:38 PM

To: 'Abhinavagupta egroup'; 'Dia-Gnosis'; 'Hindu-Buddhist

Cc: 'MeccaBenares (egroup)'; 'Indo-Greek'; 'Ontological Ethics'

Subject: [Abhinavagupta] "Re-Examining Indology: Retrospect and Prospect" (March 13-15, 2020; IIAS, Simla) - Abhinavagupta & the Synthesis of Indian Culture

Every civilization has an inbuilt mechanism to recollect and interpret its past which is a storehouse of its history and culture. This gives a sense of continuity on the basis of which traditions are built. Long before the emergence of Indology as a colonial discipline in 18th century, India had her own intellectual traditions of self-recollection, self-identification, and self-representation. These traditions were abounding with foundational texts inquiring into everything—from astronomy and grammar to the nature of ultimate reality—and developing appropriate knowledge systems for almost all aspects of human life. These texts were continuously reflected and commented upon by a chain of commentaries in various forms along with history (Itihāsa) as recollected, chronicled, and retold through various means not to speak of myth and kāvya traditions. Without bearing any formal disciplinary nomenclature such as Indology, this vibrant and living engagement with the past—a realization of its own civilizational-self (ātma-bodha)—was derived from an ‘internalist’ perspective of its agency which was an integral part of those living traditions.


Pertinent Questions :

How should Indian scholars contribute to the generation of a new Indology in partnership with their confreres in the global arena in a manner which is true to the spirit and substance of India’s rich, varied and living cultural heritage? What would be the appropriate epistemological underpinning of such a reconstructed Bhārat-Vidyā that could serve as a vehicle to understand India’s civilizational self?

Focusing on these questions, Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR, New Delhi) and Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS, Shimla) propose to organize an International Seminar to address some of the methodological, archaeological, historical, sociological, and philosophical issues involved in understanding the complexities of Indian society with particular attention to desiderata including the appropriate identification and use of source materials, knowledge systems, as well as methods of translation and interpretation.

Objectives of the Seminar:

• to focus on contemporary value/relevance of Indological research

• to take forward some major debates in Indology

• to stress inter-disciplinary potential of Indology

Issues to be discussed:

• Pre-Indological appropriation of Indian knowledge

• Contemporary relevance of Indian Gaṇita (Mathematics), Āyurveda (Medicine), Darśana-Śāstra (Philosophy), and Vijñāna (Science).

Indian concept of State

Date: March, 13,14,15, 2020.

Venue: Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, India.

" Re-Examining Indology: Retrospect and Prospect "

(March 13-15, 2020; Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Simla), prospectus

Nearly 30 years ago, a group of influential intellectuals in India decided: let us tell our own stories. The West has been telling our stories for us for far too long. I participated in the initial discussions, and in the resulting Project of History of Indian Science, Philosophy and Culture, and eventually authored one of its over 100 volumes.


Therefore, it is time to stand on its head a whole lot of earlier Indology , and to recognize that the contribution of Indian mathematics was not merely zero. It is time also to challenge the Western authority, on which fantasies about Greek achievements are based, to provide primary facts, from contemporaneous texts, and to also engage with the non-textual evidence.

C.K. Raju, “ Pre-colonial appropriations of Indian gaṇita: epistemic lessons ” (abstract)

Dear Raju,

Thanks for alerting us to the above project, which parallels the Neubauer project here on "Regimes of Knowledge in the Early Indic World” but from an emic perspective!

However, even as your collective attempt to rehabilitate the Śāstras begins to make headway, it will inevitably run aground on two fundamental (and ‘treacherous’) objections. First, whatever the discipline (philosophy, aesthetics, religion, etc.), the very wealth and diversity of our heritage has become a liability: where is its coherence and unifying vision, as elusive as the retrospective application of the term ‘Hinduism’ or even Indian Civilization? I can think of no better individual as starting point than Abhinavagupta (c. 975-1025), within whom so many disparate streams converge to become integrated insights, to not only better understand the ‘teleology’ of our past but to serve as building blocks for a civilizational future he could not have foreseen. Second, the classical brahmins who laboriously built this magnificent multistoried intellectual edifice also architected and imposed the caste-hierarchy that even their contemporary descendants are at a loss to explain, let alone justify. We have personally witnessed a militant ‘subaltern’ brahminess of the likes of Gayatri Spivak, intent on ‘provincializing Europe’ in Paris, being abruptly reduced to self-flagellation by this trivialized ploy of a French sociologist. What will we do when our Dalit brothers latch on doggedly to this characterization of our civilization as a “tyranny [but] of the sages” by Swami Vivekananda, the paragon of Hindu nationalists?

Abhinavagupta: Reconsiderations , co-edited with IIAS Director Makarand Paranjape and funded by Rajiv Malhotra’s Infinity Foundation, was integral to a larger collective project on The Synthesis of Indian Culture. My introductory overview chapter “Towards an Integral Appreciation of Abhinava’s aesthetics of Rasa” must be further elaborated and complemented with parallel initiatives in philosophy, religion: even topics that the sage of Kashmir did not directly address—such as the ‘politics of freedom (svātantrya)’ to which the Swami had penned an (American) ode—but bear scrutiny in the light of his vision. At the BHU 29 January 2020 release of Makarand’s latest book on Vivekananda, my guru-bhai Prof. KD Tripathi’s inaugural address dwelt fittingly enough on our above volume. If there is interest on the part of the organizers of “Re-Examining Indology," I’d be happy to present via videoconference a PowerPoint on the above project, with a slide devoted to Abhinavagupta and the (semiotics of the) Great Brahmin.

Yes, we first visited Chicago in the bitter chill of Jan 1986 only to meet Wendy, then worth listening…and talking to. Receiving us at her home on campus, she was receptive to Elizabeth’s (re-) interpretation of her own pioneering structural analysis of the Bhairava origin-myth. I learned that she had judiciously sent on my PhD thesis on Abhinavagupta, received at my insistence for pre-publication review, to a more competent American scholar, who was still completing his latest book on classical Indian humor. I do not recall her ever disagreeing with my subsequent interventions at UC (including at this symposium) and elsewhere, even when they seemed to run counter to her own ideological (e.g., feminist) leanings. On the contrary, she has always listened carefully and immediately understood, even endorsing my observations in the face of criticisms (with sometimes amusing results). At a pre-submission presentation by a PhD candidate on the Kāvya-Mīmāṁṣā, she observed condescendingly that its author seemed to have construed the Puruṣa-Sūkta upside-down. After the round of spiteful ridicule at the incapacity of brahmin ‘authorities’ to understand their own śāstras, Wendy, seated next to me, nodded approvingly (much to the discomfiture of her chorus…) when I pointed out that Rājaśekhara was aiming to reconstitute, through creative poetry, the Cosmic Man whose ritual fragmentation was proclaimed by the Ṛgvedic hymn. (part III just launched...)

I look forward to reading your recent (often undated…) interventions, the links (below) to which have been already included in your svAbhinava profile:

With best wishes,


PS. Indological censorship at UC and across American academia is more subtle than the ‘liberal’ mainstream media’s active dissemination of “fake news” (Trump)…but this is another story.

From: Prof. C. K. Raju

Sent: Tuesday, February 18, 2020 6:42 PM

To: 'Abhinavagupta egroup'; 'Dia-Gnosis'; 'Hindu-Buddhist'; Sunthar Visuvalingam

Cc: 'MeccaBenares (egroup)'; 'Indo-Greek '; 'Ontological Ethics'

Subject: Re: "Re-Examining Indology: Retrospect and Prospect" (March 13-15, 2020; IIAS, Simla) - Abhinavagupta & the Synthesis of Indian Culture

Dear Sunthar,

Needlessly busy and usual, but two quick responses to your questions.

In the initial meetings of the PHISPC, the question you raise, roughly "What is India?" given its extreme diversity, was extensively discussed and debated over weeks and months spreading into the first two years. In the end, the decision was to be pluralistic and allow each volume editor (or author, in my case) to decide. Thus, the PHISPC had Irfan Habib on the one hand and G. C. Pande on the other (and the two used to wrangle a lot, though neither came out with very good volumes). This differentiated the project from the Needham effort for China, but sorry to say that the scholarship was not consistently of the highest order.

Secondly, as regards dalits, it is a myth that only Brahmins were involved in Indian intellectual development. It is also contrary to commonsense during the long centuries of Buddhist and Islamic dominance. Indeed, we find explicit accounts of the pathetic situation to which Brahmins were reduced from the time of the Buddha down to the various Shankar Digvijaya-s particularly of Madhava. I am of the view that casteism in its virulent form is a product of colonialism. The virulent version was not found until the time of Aurangazeb and Shivaji, and in still later pre-British times as Dharampal has told us. Obviously, it is the British with their idea of law who elevated Manu Smriti as Hindu law, which Ambedkar and Kosambi both call a forged document from the 6th c. (probably later). Their attempt to reproduce British feudalism, as in their (French!) aristocracy, was also very harmful.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, while the already cited article on "Scientific temper in ancient India" lists the Lokayata critique of Hinduism, this one on "Celebrating dalit achievements" makes the point that dalits contributed immensely. While the point about dalit religious contributions since Valmiki has been repeatedly made, the new point is about dalit scientific contributions. In particular, Aryabhata I the originator of the calculus was a dalit, though credit is wrongly given to the Brahmins of the "Kerala school". More details in an extended article (now due to be republished in a Sage book). The subtle point being made is that Aryabhata comes up with very radical innovations (e.g. his strongly contested view that the earth rotates and not the celestial sphere) which is only possible if he was socially secure. The other subtle point is that the philosophy of zeroism (pp.4604–4610 in Encyclopedia of Non-Western Science, Technology and Medicine, Springer, 2014, 2016) that was used in Indian mathematics (and which I have used in my pedagogical experiments to teach calculus without limits) is closely related to sunyavada (correctly understood).




Celebrating Dalit Achievements: C. K. Raju

Guest post by C.K. RAJU It was B. R. Ambedkar who first publicised the 22 Mahar names inscribed on the pillar co...




C. K. Raju, PhD (ISI), TGA Laureate


Honorary Professor, Indian Institute of Education

Tagore Fellow, Indian Institute of Advanced Study


Book previews
Time: Towards a Consistent Theory
The Eleven Pictures of Time
Cultural Foundations of Mathematics
Euclid and Jesus
Is Science Western in Origin?


From: Veerapandian

Sent: Friday, February 14, 2020 7:10 PM


Cc: JerusalemBenares

Subject: Re: [Indo-Greek] FW: “Śāstram: Form, Power, and Translation in Indic Scholasticism” (UC, Feb 7-8, 2020) - Brahmin, oppressor or benefactor?

[With respect to] “‘brahmin’ identity (and authority) was a contested one in the Tamil Kaveri delta and may have always been so at all times and places” [Sunthar], I like to share my following observation.

1. Archeological excavations identified ‘cankam’ period (ancient Tamil) sites were found in non-Kaveri delta region, mostly south Tamilnadu; also proving written Tamil was earlier in origin when compared to Sanskrit.

2. The present group of castes identified as ‘Brahmins’ in Tamilnadu seems to be a postcolonial development. {'The Invention of Caste: Civil Society in Colonial India, Nicholas B. Dirks (1988) & 'British law and caste identity manipulation in colonial India: the Punjab Alienation of Land Act.' by Guilhem Cassan (2009)}. The Tamil words ‘

Unlike the present derogatory meaning of the Tamil word ‘parppAn’ (' பார்ப்பான் '), the original meaning in ‘cankam’ texts was highly respectable one. Also the Tamil words ‘ ஐயர் , ஆரியர் , அந்தணர் ’ could not be equated with the currently grouped Brahmin castes.

3. The original meaning of the Tamil word ‘cAthi – சாதி ’ , during the colony period- had undergone a semantic distortion of inserting the meaning of the ‘English word "caste" derived from the Spanish and Portuguese casta’.

4. I have not come across any reference in the ancient Tamil texts for anti-Sanskrit or anti-Brahmin domination.

5. My applying ‘Physics of Music’ to the ancient Tamil texts had revealed that Tamil & Sanskrit played a complimentary role, especially in Tamil Music. (‘Why anti-Sanskrit is harmful to the Tamil development?’; Also many inscriptions in Tamilnadu had both Tamil & Sanskrit texts; probably the language selection were dependent on the nature of the content.. Ancient Tamil Grammar treatise ‘tholkAppiam’ had well defined rules to import the words from northern languages like pAli, Sanskrit, etc, and also rules for employing them in Tamil poetry.

6. Pro-Sanskrit chauvinists tend to deny the due share of the diversity of its content to the respective languages in the regions( example, contribution of Tamil ‘pulavars’ in Sanskrit language), and in turn, the respective pro-language chauvinists tend to portray Sanskrit as the language of domination threatening the individual identity of their languages (Example, Tamil chauvinists till now ‘successfully’ projecting Sanskrit as the enemy to Tamil). In my observation, both kinds of chauvinism were post-colonial development to serve the goal of divide and rule.

7. Hence ““‘brahmin’ identity (and authority) was a contested one” may be a postcolonial development in South India, especially Tamil region.


[End of Part III]