Sunday, July 10, 2016

Fwd: Book Review – The Battle for Sanskrit by Rajiv Malhotra

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Capt.(Dr.) S G Naravane
Vats Sanjeev @Vatsanjeev
Indology | 09-07-2016
Can Sanskrit be used to undermine Sanskriti ? If we believe Rajiv Malhotra, it may already be underway. In his recent book, The Battle For Sanskrit , Malhotra raises questions that are critical for Sanskrit , the ancient Indian language and
Sanskriti , the core Indian civilizational values that found expression through this language and over the last few millennia, has inspired every other field of human thought and activity in the Indian subcontinent and beyond. The book should interest not only those, who live within the Indian value space anywhere in the world, but also those, who may be even remotely interested in India and the history of this language, which is now being linked to the widespread social disparity in India. Besides, the book also touches upon the highly contested Western Universalism .
Malhotra explores the issue by focusing on a prominent American scholar Sheldon Pollock, a Harvard graduate and currently a professor at the Columbia University, celebrated globally for his authority on Sanskrit language. The author examines Pollock's scholarly works produced over the years in the area of Sanskrit studies, his views on India, his political activism and the larger implications of his proliferating army of highly articulate fellow-scholars taking his views across the world. For the past few decades, Pollock has been interpreting India's Sanskrit and Sanskriti and exporting it back to the Indians, by infusing new meanings to the old Sanskrit texts. Malhotra's central argument is that this interpretation aims at systematically removing from Sanskrit, something that has been at the core of this language and the culture, from the very beginning, i.e. the aspects concerning Dharma and
Besides highlighting some major gaps in the understanding of these scholars, Malhotra also points fingers at something sinister in this post-colonial, post-cold war wave of renewed interest in India's Sanskrit and Sanskriti . Unlike the colonial Indologists, argues Malhotra, the US led global team of activist-scholars are driven by their motivation to change India by "secularising" Sanskrit . These scholars are now starting to proclaim the secularized version of Sanskrit, purged of its core Dharma and
Paramarthika aspects, as the only one worthy of scholarly attention. However, the traditional Sanskrit scholars and those, who subscribe to the Sanskrit-based Indian value space are either unaware of this enterprise or lack competence and necessary resources to put up a scholarly defense. Therefore, the author provides "a 'red flag' list of issues that ought to wake up serious Hindu intellectuals". The book is essentially an alert.
The opening chapter, Introduction: The Story Behind the Book , not only lays out author's motivations, but also deals with the key characters and institutions in the story, such as Sheldon Pollock, US-based NRI interest groups, Columbia University in the US and
Sringreri Sharada Peetham (SSP) in India to bring out
what is at stake in an exceptionally concise, crisp and pointed manner that is generally a mark of professional management and communication Gurus. After introducing the larger cross currents through some of the recent developments regarding setting up a chair in Sanskrit studies in Columbia university under the name of SSP and some related critical points, Malhotra raises the central question: "Who will control our (Hindu) traditions?" and calls for an open intellectual debate between "outsiders" and "insiders".
In the first chapter, The hijacking of Sanskrit and Sanskriti , Malhotra elaborates on the definition of
Insiders and Outsiders and lays out in detail the disputes and disagreements between the two loosely marked camps, where the distinction is not based on nationality, race or even religious identity. Essentially, anyone who is living or interested in or just sympathetic to Sanskrit and the Sanskrit-based
Paramarthika or Dharmik value space and Indian culture belongs to the "insider" camp, also referred as the Sacred Camp . On the other hand, those, who may be interested in the language and the culture it inspired, but who reject India's Paramarthika or Dharmik tradition as irrelevant and treat it as an obstruction in the progressive development of India and hence needs to be removed, belong to the "outsider" camp, also referred as the Secular Camp. They are driven by the desire to change in India by secularizing Sanskrit and the associated tradition.
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