The Hindus: An Alternative History

( 4 )

Overview

"Don't miss this equivalent of a brilliant graduate course froma feisty and exhilarating teacher."
-The Washington Post

An engrossing and definitive narrative account of history and myth, The Hindus offers a new way of understanding one of the world's oldest major religions. Hinduism does not lend itself easily to a strictly chronological account. Many of its central texts cannot be reliably dated within a century; its central tenets arise at ...

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The Hindus: An Alternative History

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Overview

"Don't miss this equivalent of a brilliant graduate course froma feisty and exhilarating teacher."
-The Washington Post

An engrossing and definitive narrative account of history and myth, The Hindus offers a new way of understanding one of the world's oldest major religions. Hinduism does not lend itself easily to a strictly chronological account. Many of its central texts cannot be reliably dated within a century; its central tenets arise at particular moments in Indian history and often differ according to gender or caste; and the differences between groups of Hindus far outnumber the commonalities. Yet the greatness of Hinduism lies precisely in many of these idiosyncratic qualities that continues to inspire debate today. This groundbreaking work elucidates the relationship between recorded history and imaginary worlds, the inner life and the social history of Hindus.

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Editorial Reviews

Michael Dirda
Wendy Doniger's erudite "alternative history" shouldn't be anyone's introduction to Hinduism. But once you've learned the basics about this most spiritual of cultures, don't miss this equivalent of a brilliant graduate course from a feisty and exhilarating teacher.
—The Washington Post
Pankaj Mishra
…staggeringly comprehensive…it is impossible not to admire a book that strides so intrepidly into a polemical arena almost as treacherous as Israel-Arab relations…This book will no doubt further expose [Doniger] to the fury of the modern-day Indian heirs of the British imperialists who invented "Hinduism." Happily, it will also serve as a salutary antidote to the fanatics who perceive—correctly—the fluid existential identities and commodious metaphysic of practiced Indian religions as a threat to their project of a culturally homogenous and militant nation-state.
—The New York Times
Library Journal

Doniger's "alternative history" of Hinduism takes a closer look at how outsiders contributed to its evolution. The term outsiders is used very broadly here. Some have been the marginalized people within mainstream Hinduism itself, such as tribal people and Dalits(Untouchables) or women (within a strongly patriarchal society). Others have been believers in other religions-notably Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and Sikhism-or alien conquerors and rulers, such as the Greeks, Moghals, and British. All these and more have influenced Hindu faith and practice and have in their turn been influenced by the Hindus. As shown here, outsiders and mainstream Hindus have dealt with one another at times violently and at times peacefully. A respected historian and a translator of several important Sanskrit works (e.g., Hindu Myths), Doniger (history of religions, Univ. of Chicago) takes particular pains to show the outsider influences in Hindu literature, a tall order at which she mostly succeeds. There are times when the reader may feel overwhelmed by the wealth of information, so this sizable text is not for the casual reader. Recommended for academic and public libraries with strong religion collections.
—James F. DeRoche

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143116691
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/30/2010
  • Pages: 800
  • Sales rank: 117,242
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Wendy Doniger holds two doctorates in Sanskrit and Indian studies from Harvard and Oxford. She is the author of several translations of Sanskrit texts and many books about Hinduism and has taught at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London and at the University of California at Berkeley. She is currently the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago.

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Table of Contents

India's Major Geographical Features xi

India from 2500 BCE to 600 CE xii

India from 600 CE to 1600 CE xiii

India from 1600 CE to the Present xiv

List of Illustrations xv

Preface: The Man or the Rabbit in the Moon 1

1 Introduction: Working with Available Light 17

2 Time and Space in India: 50 Million to 50,000 BCE 50

3 Civilization in the Indus Valley: 50,000 to 1500 BCE 65

4 Between the Ruins and the Text: 2000 to 1500 BCE 85

5 Humans, Animals, and Gods in the Rig Veda: 1500 to 1000 BCE 103

6 Sacrifice in the Brahmanas: 800 to 500 BCE 135

7 Renunciation in the Upanishads: 600 to 200 BCE 164

8 The Three (or Is It Four?) Aims of Life in the Hindu Imaginary 199

9 Women and Ogresses in the Ramayana: 400 BCE to 200 CE 212

10 Violence in the Mahabharata: 300 BCE to 300 CE 252

11 Dharma in the Mahabharata: 300 BCE to 300 CE 277

12 Escape Clauses in the Shastras: 100 BCE to 400 CE 304

13 Bhakti in South India: 100 BCE to 900 CE 338

14 Goddesses and Gods in the Early Puranas: 300 to 600 CE 370

15 Sects and Sex in the Tantric Puranas and the Tantras: 600 to 900 CE 406

16 Fusion and Rivalry Under the Delhi Sultanate: 650 to 1500 CE 445

17 Avatar and Accidental Grace in the Later Puranas: 800 to 1500 CE 473

18 Philosophical Feuds in South India and Kashmir: 800 to 1300 CE 503

19 Dialogue and Tolerance Under the Mughals: 1500 to 1700 CE 527

20 Hinduism Under the Mughals: 1500 to 1700 CE 551

21 Caste, Class, and Conversion Under the British Raj: 1600 to 1900 CE 574

22 Suttee and Reform in the Twilight of the Raj: 1800 to 1947 CE 610

23 Hindus in America: 1900- 636

24 The Past in the Present: 1950- 654

25 Inconclusion, or, the Abuse of History 687

Acknowledgments 691

Chronology 693

Guide to Pronunciation and Spelling of Words in Sanskrit and Other Indian Languages 695

Abbreviations 696

Glossary of Terms in Indian Languages and Names of Key Figures 697

Notes 704

Bibliography: Works Cited and Consulted 729

Photo Credits 754

Index 755

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 12, 2014

    Wendy Doniger is one of the foremost scholars of Hinduism, and h

    Wendy Doniger is one of the foremost scholars of Hinduism, and her failure to defer to a minority of fanatical practitioners has led to her books being burned or withdrawn in the Indian market. Tunku Varadarajan in the WSJ wrote that Doniger in "The Hindus" was "concentrat[ing] her prodigious learning on making modern sense of the texts and tales of Hindu society, as well as of the rituals and symbols of the Hindu people." Worth a look for anyone curious and open-minded.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2014

    Extremely poorly written with a biased view by a supposedly a sc

    Extremely poorly written with a biased view by a supposedly a scholar on the subject. Please save money by reading one from a library and before buying.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted March 20, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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