Wendy Doniger
The World of Wendy Doniger’s Translations

“Aldous Huxley once said that an intellectual was someone who had found something more interesting…

“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  http://sacred-texts.com/hin/sbr/sbe44/index.htm. 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.

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]

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

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

    The author makes many interesting points, and he is not the only one to have focused on Donigers’ poor and questionable translations or use of translations. However, one point should be added to get a fuller understanding of Donigers’ views. She applies a Freudian interpretation of texts. Thus, her constant use of sexual motivation for various players in the Ram. Doniger trained in the fifties when Freud was having a renewed moment on US campuses. This method has a few questionable areas though. First, is Freud really applicable in non-Western societies. Aren’t their at the least valuable differences between the sexual make-up of sex shaming Semetic culture and more sex positive Indic culture? Second, many consider Freudianism, a psuedo-science, superceded by modern psychology, nuerosciences, and psychiatry. Further, Doniger takes a few outlets in Indian culture for sexual expression and exaggerates their place in the scheme of things. Of course, certain aspects of Indian culture express aspects of sexual being, however, not every custom even among the tribal is a fertility ritual.
    Wendy is no direct agent of the vatican or any such nonsense. She is a Jew, and probably a slightly repressed and hysterical one at that. It’s how she carries herself and attempts to bully those who disagree with her. Personally, I have attended Donigers’ lectures and she is genuinely fond of Hindu culture. Although, her views of it seem like a foreign fantasist’s view of Indic culture. Her obsession with finding a sexual angle to everything gets tedious. Though it might spice up some of the more boring texts on grammar. Wendy Donigers presents The Sexy Panini, OH the Comma Stop. Finally, Western Classicists would laugh a totally Freudian view of Greek and Roman Culture out of the room. (Personal view is that the methods of Western Classicists will yield more fruitful discussion than the academic gutter western Indology studies have become with their faddishness and back scratching. This tendency to completely disregard Indian historical interpretations and posit an up on high academics perspective upon Indian texts has been a part of the Colonial mentality since the times of Max Muellar. An entire book could be written upon major Indologists make-believe reinterpretations of texts. Wendy isn’t much different.

  • Rangaesh Gadasalli

    Dear Sir,
    You have written a beautiful all revealing article and have exposed the dirty
    rotten anti Hindu, Vatican agent Wendy Doniguer. If someone is challenging you
    with a gun, you don’t take a knife to challenge him. You will be dead before you
    take your knife out.

    Good news is
    many overseas, philanthropic Indians have given millions to various
    universities in USA and have established chairs to study Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism
    and Sikhism. This has helped to educate the people about Hinduism. Now it is up
    to Hindu organizations and well known Gurus like Ravi ShankarJi, Ammayi, Baba
    Ramdeb Swami Pramukh Swami maharaj of
    swami Narayan sanshta to support and guide Hindu scholars to educate the world
    about the religion called sanathan-most ancient religion known to mankind that is
    our own HINUISM.

    I was with
    Rajiv Malhotra and some others who spoke on how our religion has been getting attacked
    by the church backed forces. Now the attendance in churches in USA has gone
    down to 35%. Why is this? The Catholic Church has lost millions of followers
    because of the sexual abuse of children by church for centuries. More than 1.5 billion
    dollars have been paid by the churches and thousands of churches have declared
    bankruptcy. These are legal documents available for us to expose the dirty
    activities of the church. Publish them in millions. Get the history of the
    Vatican and their nexus with Hitler in killing millions of Jews. All records
    available and people can see for themselves. Invite people who have left Christianity
    and make them speak in India at various places. YOGA is very popular in USA and
    millions have practiced it and have benefited from it and they know Yoga does
    not speak for Hindu religious conversions. But the Vatican lobby is changing
    the name to christian Yoga exercise and is trying to minimize the impact, but
    it has not succeeded. Now people in India should take the help of Indian govt
    to start Hindu religious studies and India related studies in various
    universities and give the true history and truth behind this great religion. Let
    us ask some smat kids to rewrite the Satanic history of the church and Islam in
    Europe and Africa and let the people know how bad they were and are now. Since
    Sonia who was supporting Vatican 110% is out of power and the honey moon for
    head hunting for church has stopped, we may hear more attacks on Vatican
    supporting groups, media and newspapers. Offense is the best answer with double

  • Wendy should be considered as a comedian/jester with malevolent motives.
    Buddhist and Jains also use to write their take on Hindu Epics during Bronze Age/Iron Age.

    Folklores associated with a particular God in South are based on mostly Buddhist versions.

    • Anfauglir

      “Folklores associated with a particular God in South are based on mostly Buddhist versions.”

      Which God in the south?

    • Anfauglir

      My question is an important one, so I repeat it and continue to look forward to your answer:

      “Folklores associated with a particular God in South are based on mostly Buddhist versions.”
      Which God in the south does this statement refer to?

  • Calvin

    What Wendy’s sexual slant indicates is that Wendy is sexually dysfunctional. You wouldn’t have to be Freud to figure that out. The deeper we go into Wendy’s truth, you might find stories of sexual abuse in her childhood – perhaps incest? – sexual dysfunction in her marital life, perhaps her (ex) partner finding sexual gratification elsewhere. Perhaps she has been repeatedly sexually spurned in her adult life. For someone to be so obsessed with sex, there has to be a personal story.

    So let us just forgive her and pray for her healing.

  • Hari Tadepalli

    Good article and excellent observations. Unfortunately, one wishes the discourse about Hindu religion were more pedantic dealing with interesting questions from from believers, non-believers, casual intellectuals and serious academicians, instead of critiquing some well funded intellectual pornographers’ discourse on what ‘Hinduism ought to be’, in serious contradiction of ‘what it is’. But such are the occasion and times we are living in.

    The system of mutual admiration cartels runs very strong in these academic citadels. Any comparable work in objective sciences like physics, engineering or computer science would have thrown the professor out of her job. This cabal of academic eminences are a serious blot on the institutions that otherwise hosted some towering thought leaders in other disciplines – the Chandrasekhars, Neumanans, Samuelsons, Courants, John Nashes and the Chomskys. It is a shame that these universities support these individuals with dubious distinctions. Compare this with how research on Ancient Egypt is done – they have gone to the extent of deciphering language and script that lived and died at least 4000 years ago. And to pass oneself as an authority on Indian history and Hindu religion, one does not have to learn Sanskrit. Translation, tertiary and quaternary interpretations and re-interpretations are more authoritarian than the original sources. Even the casual news anchor consults an expert from the local university when some level of detail and depth are sought on running news stories. None such with these Indology gurus in US universities – they are their own authority.

    Incidentally, add to the list of these academic thieves the name of Jeffrey Kripal – who won a PhD for writing pschosexual babble about Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. This bloke went all the way to the RK Math in Calcutta, interviewed the monks there for his lack of Bengali and completely falsified the interpretations and notes given by them. There has been a long rejoinder from RK Math on how Kripal did not review his dissertation material with them while attributing their authority on the subject and how they were taken by surprise by this act of deception. Rajiv Malhotra has described in his writings how this works. These blokes approach some very unsuspecting elderly scholars on Hindu religion with the appeal and approach of genuine student of Hinduism with a jignyasa. The scholars are too happy to share their knowledge with these so called ‘students’ without any hint of their motives. When the student returns and writes his or her paper, (s)he does not attribute where they learnt that material, distort it beyond all recognition while claiming the authority of a native scholar. In this sense, these US Indologists are one step above their Indian Marxist caricatures, who do not bother to inform themselves before doing hit jobs on Hindu religion. These blokes bring the external appeal and authenticity of a university title and established research methodologies (like citations, methodologies, ‘problematic’ themes), while churning piles of excreta.

    Some liberal illuminati, in the wake of the book pulping fiasco, claimed that Hindu religion is so open and liberal that it will admit any ‘alternative’ interpretation. What they are missing is that all those historical alternatives (down the ages with differences among the great saints like Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhava and countless others in between) centrally hinge on the pursuit of Moksha and the deliverance from rebirth cycles. Every known sacred text, either of rituals, of philosophical treatises, or of the more popular epics, are interpreted and reinterpreted in this light. Even then any reasonable reinterpretation seeks to understand known contradictions and new questions from a contemporary standpoint while taking the authenticity and normative interpretation of the original work for granted. If one must radically reinterpret a work that is 2000 years old and one that had a living interpretation through 2000 years, one needs strong factual, logical and rhetorical foundations for such reinterpretation. Void of these, it is unfit to be called even a reinterpretation of the said work – for all one could care, it could be an interpretation of the playboy or the evening tabloid.

    At this point, I am convinced that these people are not acting out of their individual agency as academicians, nor are these any braindead people (even as they appear so), but they are either financially or ideologically motivated by a much larger shadow ideology at work – at the behest of either the well resourced Evangelical orders, or other political forces in the west with a strong interest in destabilizing India. The tactic runs parallel to what McCaulay wanted and began accomplishing some 130 years ago.

    The thought patterns of Indian Marxists are more amorphous than an Amoeba. When it suits their line of thinking, the Hindu epics are treated as archived photographs. When it does not, they are either fictional works or fantasies of some lunatics with a literary facility. When there is some credibility that matches modern sensibilities, they are either accidents or interpolations of clever writers.

    Incidentally, the entertaining picture of sexual innuendos on the cover of Wendy’s “Hindus” book resembles cloth paintings that are typical of some historical artifacts from the 15th to the 18th centuries from Rajasthan, Bihar and UP regions. But, beware it is none such. It is a recent painting from a contemporary artist – that may be purchased from some art gallery in New Delhi. Such is the ‘authenticity’ of even the cover of the book.

    Somewhat tangential – the beautiful picture of Sitarama Kalyanam attached in this essay is the work of a famous Telugu artist and movie director, whose pen name is ‘Bapu’ and real name is Sattiraju Lakshminarayana. Bapu, who passed away very recently, is a cultural icon in the minds of all Telugu people.

    • Jishnu

      “The thought patterns of Indian Marxists are more amorphous than an Amoeba.”

      Not quite – their methods and motives are both too well known. Their commitment is consistent and against H interests. To expect any consistency on anything other than their main commitment, such as some ideal they espouse, would be unwise of Hindus.

      • Krispy K

        The likes of Romila Thapar are career ideologists who know exactly what they are doing and what their objectives are. But I would venture that many of their brainwashed followers are just plain stupid and unable to see alternatives. Every criminal mastermind needs a bunch of hollow-skulled drones to do their bidding.

      • Hari Tadepalli

        When I said ‘amorphous’, I was referring to the consistency in their internal logic. It can contradict itself ad-infinitum, yet will be stated tirelessly from all platforms. True, they have an unwavering consistency about attacking Hindu religion. Again, how they side with the Muslim and evangelical stand points in the Indian context, despite Marx proclaiming all religions a bane on humanity is yet another example of their universe of twisted logic.

        • Krispy K

          I think it’s just pragmatism. Their idea is perhaps to focus on destroying whom they consider the easiest target first, before turning on the others. Why not array your enemies against each other before finishing them off? Divide and rule.

        • Jishnu

          Point is you cannot expect consistency in logic unless one’s goal is to be logically consistent. They can subordinate logic to “ideal” and “ideal” has only “ideal” for defense. So where does consistency or logic or loyalty to truth become relevant for leftists?

  • IndiannotAmused

    We need to initiate Indology in India [ Duh…….] and then project it outwards.In this age if we do not tell our story someone else will……….a Wendy today,a Pollock tomorrow, some Wenock the day after that……..defense is well and good but offense is what should be aimed at.India is BEST EXPLAINED by Indians………..Western Liberal [?] views are Colonialism in another packaging.Good article whatsoever………we need many more like this.

    • Krispy K

      Westerners genuinely think they are qualified to teach us about our own culture and history, and accuse us of being “arrogant” or “chauvinistic” when we suggest that actually Indians are best equipped to talk about India! They seem completely oblivious to the irony of this. I have direct experience of this.

      The problem is that white people have become so used to their self-sustaining propaganda that they are some kind of “master race” whose directives on history, society, economy, war, human values etc. can never be questioned, that they can’t compute the possibility that they might be completely wrong. India needs to wrest back her rightful status as Number One so we can spare the future generations of these people from their delusions.

      • VLR

        How many recognize that this is a psychological warfare?

        Wendy is only one small tool of the huge machine (operated by behind the curtain funds) that is waging this psychological war with the explicit aim of
        – diluting Hs’ faith by clinically planned distortions
        – to damage self-respect of Hs and
        – to create *psychological barriers* for newer generations of Indians in happily pursuing progress along with their faith and cultures.

        It’s good to have these kinds of competent authors who contribute voluntarily. But like our opponents’ huge mind-invasion machine, I wish we have a similar and bigger network that operates the counter machine to raise funds, device strategies, hire competent opinion leaders, create viral content to set ablaze all the popular social media etc. to relentlessly demolish every single psychological invasion attempt and to in fact spread the real benefits of the good values of India and Hinduism also to other people on earth NOT for a sense of pride but for the noble cause of benefiting the humanity.

        The fittest don’t just survive but *thrive*.

        • Krispy K

          At the top (cultural and geopolitical level) it is psychological warfare, but this is built upon a self-sustaining domestic narrative that permeates the whole of Western societies. The consequence is that the mango Westerner is brought up with a deep-rooted sense of racial and cultural superiority, albeit in this day and age veiled behind this facade of political correctness. So this arrogance filters down at a subconscious level to white people in general, who may be completely clueless about the overarching agenda. It becomes more acutely obvious to those at the receiving end of this arrogance, i.e. Indians in Western countries.

          Once we defeat the top-level agenda to turn India completely into another material and cultural sidekick of the West (something they couldn’t quite manage to do even after two centuries of direct colonial rule) that phenomenon will dissipate.

          I agree that we need our own counterbalance, for the sake of humanity as a whole. I have long said that fixing education and the domestic narrative at home, as well as re-establishing the number one position in the world both economically and militarily, would provide us with the platform to do this. Modi seemed like the best chance to get us on that long road – I hope he will not let us down.


    Well written. Wish Indiafacts would have more such sober , well researched articles instead of rabid opinion cloaked as facts.

    • Krispy K

      LOL. Chairman Narayan Mao, the self-declared champion of etiquette in “debate”, hath spake. Moron.

  • Barbaric Opinion

    Good article.

  • This wife-beating Hindoo author is just jealous because a woman has written books (real ones in secular English, not some communal Hindi). Let him write some books in a secular language, like Arabic or Urdu or Mandarin, and let his wife out of her cage now and again, and then maybe his opinion will hold some weight.

  • Francis Bacon

    great article. thankyou sir.

  • Samir

    One right logical essay is enough to bring down building made up of thousands of pages. Darkness can’t withstand the light of knowledge. This article is of such quality. Indebted to you Mr Shakar Saran for such nice piece. Thanks a lot

  • suru

    Not sure if Wendy has mastery over Sanskrit. If she has read Valmiki Ramayan or atleast its translations )if she dosen’t know Sanskrit), her life and soul would have been one with God. But she chose to remain as a pervert and such minds are called “Asura’s mind”. Some times some Asuras were good but Wendy chose the other way. Compare her with Dr.David Frawley who has attained the heights of spirituality. .

  • Rajiv Sharma

    Wendy is sexually dysfunctional and it is common for such people to imagine things. She needs psychiatric care.

    • Krispy K

      By “psychiatric care” surely you mean “launching into orbit without a spacesuit”.

  • Amak4u

    Yes. It all starts and ends with sex. Maybe what Ms Doniger’s been missing is a good fcuk.

    • Krispy K

      It’s hardly surprising, just look at her. Didn’t Christine Fair comment about her obsession with dildos? That’s the best she’s ever gonna get.

  • Jishnu

    “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.”

    Doniger is right. Indology is quackery, it is not intellectual or discipline of scholarship. Why does one need to be an intellectual for indology? One can be a Doniger and make do.