Over the millenniums, adi kavya Ramayana have been appreciated for the wealth of knowledge in it, which is in many layers, benefitting the brahmana, seeker of brahmajnana, kshatriya, in administering country upholding dharma and benefitting vyshya and sudra in living dharmically. The central characters Sri Rama and Sita are respected for their adherence to dharma. They have been role models for millions of people for millenniums.
 
 Maharshi Valmiki, a contemporary of Sri Rama, composed Ramayana. It is also called adi kavya because Valmiki was the first person to produce poetry; which came out as censure of a hunter he saw engaged in killing two love birds.

Ramayana and Sri Rama and Sita have provided inspiration to millions through millenniums in living dharmic lives.

Such being the case, when one Wendy Doniger, a self-claimed jew, without having achieved spiritual realisation or brahma-jnana nor intenting to seek it, attempts to give a widely varying ‘interpretation’, in fact one that goes entirely against Valmiki’s Ramayana, and peddles it through crass sensationalism as seen in this so-called ‘interview’ by Outlook magazine, it becomes apparent that the motivations are much less than honourable.

The introduction given by the interviewer, referring to an incident of egg-throwing six years ago in London, terming the thrower as an ‘enraged Hindu’, and the interviewee as having ‘continued to infuriate the ‘Hindutva brigade’,  is aimed at giving subtle subconscious suggestion to readers, to instigate those among them who identify themselves as ‘hindus’ to get enraged and infuriated, with the calculation that any resulting controversy will help sell more copies.

 Doniger’s pretension of being ignorant of the reasons for criticisms against her is absurd since Shri Rajiv Malhotra, Sankrant Sanu* and even her own fellow westerner Professor Michael Witzel among many others have exposed her dubious ‘scholarship’ very publicly during the past decade. Subsequent to Sankrant Sanu’s critique* of Wendy Doniger’s article on Hinduism, Microsoft Encarta removed it from their encyclopedia and replaced it with one by Professor Arvind Sharma.

 Yet the ‘interviewer’ here turns herself into a willing slave of Doniger and feeds questions calculated to produce sensation. Everything Doniger says is accepted without verification, such as the insinuation that ‘puritanism crept into Ramayana around 10th century’. The reason for this is charged on ‘bhakti Movement’. Any ordinary  aware indian would know that it is Sri Krishna, not Sri Rama who was central to this so-called bhakti movement and Sri Krishna leela are neither papered over nor bowdlerized anywhere to justify charge of ‘puritanism’. Indians have always been open about experiencing life. That is how texts such as kamasutra, many sensual dance forms and sculptures were produced in India. They realised different ways to understand oneself and to realise brahma. Some practices of tantra also includes exploring sexual act to achieve realisation. Sculpures in Khajuraho temples and elsewhere prove that indians expressed themselves creatively while pursuing spirituality.

Ramayana, the adi kavya written by Maharshi Valmiki is intact. Adaptations by others, like sant Tulasidas’ Ramcharitmanas , have been faithful to the original. If some others have produced different versions elsewhere, that is a local matter, considering the minimal popularity of such texts, if at all, they need to be given only so much importance instead of positioning them on par with Maharshi Valmiki’s. Fact being that all popular adaptations of Ramayana to local languages have preserved the spirit of Valmiki’s Ramayana.

Digressions from Valmiki’s Ramayana, if any, needs to be corrected or accepted on their merit rather than be popularised indiscriminately. As an analogy, if while adapting the biography of Wendy Doniger(supposing there is one) to Urdu language, many years after the death of its original author, if the new author says that Doniger’s parents were sex-addicts (as Doniger insinuates against Dasaratha), or that towards the end of her life senilty wrecked havoc in her mind driving her to be dependent on hallucinatory drugs which coloured her scholarship; rather than popularising it indiscriminately as another way of ‘telling the story, commensurate with the diverse traditions of india’, discerning people may prefer to verify truth first.

Here, however, effort has been made to dig up widely diverging texts from obscurity to give authenticity and popularise them. As if such material is not sufficient for the purpose envisaged, attempt has been made to misinterpret innocuous lines and fabricate unjustified extrapolations. This effort is similar to the way britishers dug up manusmriti and established it as eternal ‘hindu law’ during their brutish raj disregarding the fact that smritis are valid only for the period for which they were prepared,  not for ever.

Such actions are then given the fig-leaf justification of being as per traditions of india which ‘allowed people to have their own texts’. For the information of Doniger and such like her, indian traditions always upheld dharma. Twisting or tweaking a respected text and misinterpreting it to draw contrary meanings is adharma and that is never tolerated in indian traditions, whatever some westerners may like to fantasize or propagate. That is why such attempts are relegated to fringes of society. This effort by Doniger and her likes to dig up obscure texts and give them legitimacy is like somebody examining toilet and coming up with what they find there and calling it the main ‘contribution’ to world by the toilet-user and then going on to characterise the toilet-user as someone who has no hang ups about leaving such ‘contributions to world’ lying around, and patting him condescendingly. The statement “That’s why Hinduism is such a wonderful religion“, is such a pat.

Doniger alleges a quote by Sri Rama describing the king as ‘kama-atma’ in verse 2.47.8. However, search of the entire sarga 2 Ayodhya Kanda of Valmiki’s Ramayana failed to produce this word ‘kama-atma’. The version used by Doniger needs verification.
Also her translation of kama-atma as ‘consumed by kama’ and then equating it with ‘sex-addict’ is construction entirely different from the text and based on fanciful imagination by the author. Kama is not sex. A more appropriate meaning of kama is- ‘mental thoughts that seek to attach to objects or persons’. Moreover, there is no reason whatsoever to speculate that Dasaratha was ‘sex-addict’ . King Dasaratha asked Sri Rama to go to forest to honour the word he had given to Kaikeyi once. Yet he also advised Sri Rama to disobey his order, which Sri Rama did not, because that would be against dharma. And King Dasaratha wept to his death soon after Sri Rama left Ayodhya. If he was ‘sex-addict’ as the author insinuates, he should have been enjoying sex with many other women rather that crying to death. That he was attached to Sri Rama is more appropriate. He was childless with Kausalya for many years. Then he married Kaikeyi and then Sumitra seeking children, but was unsuccessful. Later he embarked on puja and yagna and it was then that he got children. Sri Rama being the first born after a long wait for children and being very dharmic and obedient, Dasaratha was naturally attached to him. Indeed, so were most of the people of Ayodhya as well as brothers Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrukhna. Even Kaikeyi originally had very good opinion of Sri Rama. It was Mandhara who insinuated wrong thoughts to Kaikeyi and instigated her to exile Sri Rama.
Something similar, it appears, is being attempted here. The present day Mandhara employing similar baseless insinuations to make indians exile their righteousness.

Repeatedly describing this person as ‘target of Hindu outrage’ throughout this so-called ‘interview’ seems to be an attempt to project an image, without basis and to rake up controversy, as no reason is given to justify this description. Has Outlook or the interviewer surveyed the so-called ‘hindus’ before making that statement ? Chances are, ninety percent of the so-called ‘hindu’  population in india do not even know about the existence of this person, let alone feel any outrage at her deplorable actions.

The suggestive speculation of Doniger that she may be ‘prevented from coming to India’, followed by the ‘revelation’ that she plans to visit India next year seems to be a subtle ploy to invite some ‘outraged hindu’ (if any) to create a situation that will actualize such a scenario and thereby provide free publicity and chance to portray herself as the injured party and in the process produce one more stick to beat the ‘hindus’ with.

The interviewer’s suggestion that Ramayana’s ‘evolution’ has been brought to a stop by the “internet brigade” of the Hindu Right’ is ridiculous in multiple ways. As if Valmiki’s Ramayana is an ‘evolving being’. This attempt at personification of a text, Ramayana, and objectification of people, the so-called ‘hindus’, begs the question- if westerners are accepted as having ‘evolved’ from apes, after they militarily and through deceit colonized advanced civilisations such as of India and plundered their philosophical and scientific wealth, would it be then correct to speculate that those indians who eschew their own culture and ape westerners unthinkingly are devolving into apes ?

Speculations such as- “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.” and  “Well, we don’t know who Valmiki was. It’s unlikely that one person wrote the whole Ramayana. Certainly unlikely that Vyasa wrote the Mahabharata“-  are malicious attempts to establish that indians did not have agency. De-personifying Maharshi Valmiki, turning him into a non-person, is part of a calculated plan to sever indians’ ties with their anscestors, to deracinate indians over time. Rootless people are easily enslaved, psychologically, as proven by the behaviour of certain intellectless indian ‘intellectuals’ .

Statements such as- “Until this (Hindutva) crowd got hold of the internet, people didn’t say you can’t tell the Ramayana that way. It wasn’t a Hindu idea“- reveal the working of cunning western mind. First pigeon-hole the people of india into so-called ‘hindus’ (and further into many ‘castes’). Then, when they do not behave the way the westerner wants them to, then tell them that they are no more behaving like a ‘hindu’. So the westerner decides how a ‘hindu’ should behave. And indians, having been labelled so, should conform to that decision.
If any impertinent indian disregards the westerner or question her, then, make another pigeon hole and call it ‘hindutva brigade’ or ‘hindu fundamentalist’ or ‘hindu right wing’ and slot such people there. Thus divide the people. Further divisions can follow to gradually destroy the integrity of society over time. This exercise has been continuing for three centuries now, uninterrupted.

British loved Hindu philosophy, so did Europeans“, “British loved the Gita“.  Doniger also doubtless ‘loves’ India and her traditions in the same way. Pity is that from the time Constantine adopted Christianity to further his imperialistic ambitions and started this ‘loving’ business, westerners have consistently misappropriated things that they ‘loved’ from their original owners. The so-called pagans of europe will testify to how their festivals were misappropriated to christianity while their culture was destroyed. Native americans will testify how their land was taken and their culture was destroyed by the invaders from europe. Africans will testify to how westerners ‘loved’ them to slavery. Yes. British loved many things about India. And they misappropriated them.
The greed that prompted such acts are driving this person and others like her; who too love India and her traditions, only to misappropriate them through deceit and avarice.

Thus, terming bhagavad gita as ‘book of war’ is calculated to make out that those who follow bhagavad gita are naturally violence-mongering, which, taken to its logical conclusion, means that people who read bhagavad gita should be locked away or killed. That justifies burning of trains in Gujarat charring people inside, killing of 84-year-old sadhus and destruction of indian culture in the name of progress. Doniger, who claims to be a jew, perhaps forgets that this was the same demonology that was used to precipitate holocaust over jews and gypsies by Nazis, the slavery over Africans and butchering of red-indians.
The path on which efforts by this author and those like her are leading up to are ominous for india.

Doniger claims to have translated ‘Rig Veda’ and ‘Laws of Manu’, texts that were translated in 18th century itself by others. Professor Michael Witzel of Harvard described her translations as ‘lacking common sense’, unreliable’, ‘idiosyncratic’ ,and “a stream of unconnected George-Bush-like anacoluths“.

Yet- ” I have publishers who will take what I write“.
Unfortunately. So do some ‘interviewers’.

There may have been a man named Rama, but Valmiki’s Ramayana is not his story. Ramayana is a story that an author made up. Whether there was a king or not, we don’t know. And if there was a king, we don’t know if he said the words that Valmiki put in the mouth of Rama. We don’t even know, …”. Should not a person who don’t know such basic things desist from writing alternative histories for other people ? And while on that, should not such a person use the more accurate term ‘I’ while describing her lack of knowledge instead of the suggestive term ‘we’ ?

Traditionally indians have realised brahma in every aspect of life. Through meditation, through physical exercises in the form of yoga, through contemplation, through action, through dance, through music, through art, through bhakti, even in the act of sex. Indeed, life was a spiritual experience for them. Such being the case, should not a person who endeavours to re-interpret their age-old texts at least qualify herself by achieving the spiritual experience of those who produced those texts ?

What of those who behave like apes in the presence of such modern day Mandharas ?
Is it time for such constantly ‘outlook’ing people to do some in-looking ?

The exchange published in the Outlook article cannot be termed an interview. What is on view is more an attempt to ‘inter’ indian culture and traditions by modern day mandharas who are willingly assisted by some indians behaving like apes, quite unlike in the Ramayana where the monkeys fought on the side of righteousness.

 

 

* Shri Sankrant Sanu’s article of September 24 2002, titled “Are Hinduism studies prejudiced? A look at Microsoft Encarta ” appears to have disappeared from its original location. The link given above is from another site that carries a copy of the article.  

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