8 most controversial quotes from Wendy Doniger's The Hindus

The 2009-published book, that was banned in India, is making a comeback.

 |  4-minute read |   04-12-2015
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Wendy Doniger, a professor of history of religion at University of Chicago, is a prize-winning author of book, The Hindus: An Alternative History, which was published in 2009. The book features boisterous representations of Krishna, a horse whose body is made of beautiful naked forms, and a series of women portraits in the nude to name a few.

Doniger landed in trouble when Right-wing activist, Dinanath Batra expressed outrage against her book. Batra is the same man who opposed sex education from being taught in Indian schools. The book was also burned across the country for religious defamation. Its publisher, Penguin Books India was in line of fire to have allegedly violated Article 295a of the Indian law.

After multiple lawsuites, the publishing company announced to withdraw The Hindus from sale in India. But in 2015, Ravi Singh, head of Penguin Books India, launched a new company called Speaking Tiger and bought the Indian rights to sell the controversial book. Shiva has now replaced Krishna on the cover and Doniger's book can be found at the airport stores in Delhi and Mumbai, already.

Here are eight controversial quotes from the almost-tabooed book:

1. Rama, Sita and sex: "Rama thinks that sex is putting him in political danger (keeping his allegedly unchaste wife will make the people revolt), but in fact he has it backward: Politics is driving Rama to make a sexual and religious mistake; public concerns make him banish the wife he loves. Rama banishes Sita as Dasharatha has banished Rama. Significantly, the moment Rama kicks Sita out for the second time, comes directly after a long passage in which Rama makes love to Sita passionately, drinks wine with her, for many days on end; the banishment comes as a direct reaction against the sensual indulgence." (Page 153)

2. God rapes worshippers: "Abortion is, together with the killing of a Brahmin, the defining mortal sin in the dharma texts. Here, however, abortion is called for because the god has raped the worshiper, with overtones of the king’s power to possess sexually any woman in his realm. The mythological possibilities encapsulated in the last two lines — 'so, in your image,/ I’ll bear you a son' — are staggering; the whole mythology of gods fathering human sons (think of the divine lineages of the Mahabharata heroes!) is cast in a different light, for in the end the woman intends to bear the child, not to have an abortion after all." (Page 369)

3. King Dasharatha was a sex maniac: "Rama said, 'Sita had to enter the purifying fire in front of everyone, because she had lived so long in Ravana’s bedrooms. Had I not purified her, good people would have said of me, ‘That Rama, Dasharatha’s son, is certainly lustful and childish.’ But I knew that she was always true to me'. Then Rama was united with his beloved and experienced the happiness that he deserved. 'Dasharatha’s son is certainly lustful' is a key phrase. 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.' (Page 153)

4. Rape as a legitimate form of marriage: "… A form of rape that came to be regarded as a bad, but legitimate, form of marriage: having sex with a sleeping or drugged woman. It appears that a woman’s brother too is someone she might expect to find in her bed, though the Rig Veda severely condemns sibling incest; it is also possible that the brother in question is her husband’s brother, a person who, as we shall see, can have certain traditional, though anxiety-producing, connections with his brother’s wife." (Page 92)

5. Gandhi didn't exclaim "Hey Ram" while dying: "… Gandhi… was killed, apparently with those [Ram Rahim] on his lips*….” “* The words are inscribed on a plaque near the place in Delhi where he was shot. There is much dispute as to whether he said 'Ram Ram' or 'Ram Rahim' when he died." (page 446)

6. Sultan as an incarnation of Lord Krishna: "In Bengal, in 1418, a Hindu actually became sultan, Raja Ganesh. His son, converting to Islam, ruled under his father’s direction until 1431. He was succeeded by an Arab Muslim, Ala-ud-din Husain (r. 1493-1519), who revered the Vaishnava saint Chaitanya, in return for which the Hindus regarded the sultan as an incarnation of Lord Krishna." (Page 299)

7. Humans are animals and animals are violent: "The Hindu idea of non-violence (ahimsa), that emerged from debates about eating and/or sacrificing animals, was soon taken up in debates about warfare. The resulting arguments, which deeply color the narratives of the Mahabharata on all levels, moved simultaneously around the treatment of animals, the treatment of Pariahs symbolized by animals, and about human violence as an inevitable result of the fact that humans are animals and animals are violent." (Page 170)

8. Vedas accept violence: "… The Vedic reverence for violence flowered in the slaughters that followed Partition." (Page 627)

Also read: How Budur - the king - almost raped her husband Qamar

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Shadab Nazmi Shadab Nazmi @shadabnazmi

Senior sub-editor (Digital) at India Today, data miner.

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