ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Work of Erudition and Sympathy

The Hindus: An Alternative History by Wendy Doniger; First published in 2009 by the Penguin Press, Indian edition by Penguin/Viking; pp 753 + index, Rs 999.

Way back in 1950 or thereabouts a leading commentator on the matters Hindu, a Savarkarite, Balshastri Hardas, published (in Marathi) a massive volume based on his lectures on the Mahabharata in Pune. It sought to look at the epic as a tome of Indian history. Before long in his torrential flow of words he left the myth aside and tried to turn the epic into a one great testament of (Savarkarite) Hindu nationalism. In keeping with the times he let some cold war rhetoric into it and attacked the communists and S A Dange in particular. The main thrust of the Hardas argument was that the communists do not know their history and therefore nationalism. But the halfbaked version of the post-Enlightenment nationalism did no better than what Hardas thought the communists and Dange did. He mythicised the “nationalist” history that had been so popular throughout the nationalist period.

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