Hinduism New Essays In The History Of Religions

Indian democracy has long been limited by colonial-era laws that restrict speech in the name of protecting religion.Religious groups routinely exploit such statutes to limit the freedom of expression that generally characterizes public life in the world’s largest democracy.

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For instance, Doniger argues that the , a symbol of the Hindu deity Shiva that is found in temples, should be understood “unequivocally as an iconic representation of the male sexual organ in erection, in particular as the erect phallus” of Shiva. Similarly the Gopis double themselves, leaving shadow images of themselves in bed with their unsuspecting husbands." The SBAS’ claim to find such ideas offensive might have been easier to take seriously were it not coupled with overt misogyny: Doniger’s approach to her topic, the group’s legal complaint explained, revealed her to be “a woman hungry of sex.” Had the lawsuit against Penguin and Doniger proceeded, it is likely that a higher court would have ultimately upheld their rights to write, publish, and sell .

Similarly, Doniger notes that the , one of the two Sanskrit epics, portrays the deity Krishna as “a prince with many wives, sixteen thousand by some counts,” and points out that other Hindu texts "depict Krishna as a handsome young man who dances with the many Gopis, the wives of the cowherd men. But Penguin decided not to pursue that route and instead capitulated, agreeing to an out-of-court settlement with the SBAS that required Penguin to withdraw the book from the Indian market.

The SBAS alleged that Doniger’s work was riddled with factual inaccuracies and deliberate misrepresentations of Hindu deities and Scriptures that amounted to “heresies.” The group’s most vehement objections concerned Doniger’s interpretations of sex and sexuality in Hindu traditions.

In her five decades of scholarship, Doniger has sought to highlight and reclaim the earthy and even erotic elements of Hinduism that were suppressed during the colonial era by British authorities and missionaries -- and by some Indians who sought to “modernize” their country’s religious practices. he doubles himself again and again so that each Gopi thinks that Krishna is with her.

The Doniger affair represented a clear victory for the conservatives, who are riding higher now than at any moment in India’s postindependence history.

Indian liberals were dismayed by Penguin’s decision and by the possibility that Aleph might have followed suit.

He started his political career as a young cadre in the hard-line RSS and eventually rose to the top echelons of its leadership.

His victory represents the culmination of decades of Hindu nationalist ideological development and political activism -- and is a direct threat to Indian liberalism.

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Comments Hinduism New Essays In The History Of Religions

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