My narrative is alternative both to the histories promulgated by some contemporary Hindus on the political right in India and to those presented in most surveys in English–imperialist histories, all about the kings, ignoring ordinary people. But the texts tell us not just who was the ruler but who got enough to eat and who did not. And so my narrative is alternative in its inclusion of alternative people. How does one include the marginal as well as the mainstream Hindus in the story? The ancient texts, usually dismissed as the work of Brahmin males, in fact reveal a great deal about the lower castes, often very sympathetic to them and sometimes coded as narratives about dogs, standing for the people now generally called Dalits, formerly called Untouchables. The argument, for instance, that Dalits should be allowed to enter temples, an argument still violently disputed in parts of India today, can already be found, masked, in ancient stories about faithful dogs who should be allowed to enter heaven. So too, though Feminists often argue that Hindu women were entirely silenced, women’s voices–their ideas and attitudes and, above all, their stories–were often heard and recorded by the men who wrote down the texts. – Wendy Doniger, The Battle over Hindu History*.
A few months ago, Wendy Doniger read a small selection to us at Chicago. The photo above was taken at that occasion. It was, as usual, a riveting narrative filled with imaginative connections. I have not purchased the book yet but I am looking forward to reading it soon. As always, she is a guiding light.
* The comments at WaPo, as usual, range from crazy to batshit crazy. As the book gets reviewed, this will only increase. Wendy has been on the receiving end of such Hindutva misogyny and hate for a long while and I have always marveled at her unflagging courage and persistence in facing the hate-machine.