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Wendy Doniger on Hindu tolerance and misogyny

Wendy Doniger, the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions in the Divinity School; and also in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, the Committee on Social Thought, and the College, has an article in The Times of India about the history of Hindu tolerance and Hindu misogyny, a complex story that forms the backdrop for a Hindu rightwing group’s attack on girls in a pub in Mangalore last January. From the article:

The joyous depiction, in poetry and painting, of the love-play of Krishna with the gopis, the exuberant sexuality of the sculptures at Khajuraho and Konark, the voluptuous statues of goddesses, are evidence of the celebration of women both as mothers and as lovers, in art, and, sometimes, real life.

But we also find in the Upanishads the first seeds of a renunciant movement that rejects the desire to have children, wealth, and women, warning that sexuality must be controlled, primarily by controlling women. Some Hindu texts by male authors remove from men entirely the responsibility for the conflict between sexuality and chastity and project it onto women. […] The pluralism and tolerance of most Hindus allowed them to accept these tensions as part of a unified world.

Doniger’s book The Hindus, An Alternative History will be published in March 2009.

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