SI-2 Call For Papers

Update – September 1st 2016

It gives me pleasure to make a second announcement about the Second Edition the Swadeshi Indology Conference (SI-2) to be held in the first week of February  2017 at New Delhi.More details will follow soon).There are three pieces of information to be added.

  1. The last date for the submission of Abstracts is extended to 10th September.
  2. Inquiries/requests from numerous participants have made us turn more swadeshi as it were. So we are allowing Sanskrit and Hindi as the media for the papers. So there will be two separate sessions – one in Hindi and one in Sanskrit.
  3. Even though the Proceedings of SI-1 (held at Chennai, July 2016) are yet to be published by us, there has been an avalanche of goodwill and support for the SI-Conference Series from various quarters. Envisioning the salutary impact of the Conference Series on our citizenry in general, and Indologists and Sanskrit scholars in particular, voluntary offers for various awards have been made by certain benefactors and patrons of our heritage and its values :
  • Every paper selected for presentation will receive a stipend of Rs. 20,000/=.
  • Ten Best Paper Awards of Rs. 70,000/=  each have also been announced in addition.

The excellent papers may thus garner Rs. 90,000/=

Please note that all the selected papers in SI-1 also received the stipend. The Best Paper Awards are the new addition for SI-2.There will however be a strict double-blind referral system, as it was done in SI-1.I request all serious Indic scholars to pay attention, and produce quality papers of international standards, and help impart a new and  sober direction to Indological research.

In order to provide easy digests (for such scholars who may find it difficult to fathom what Pollock is ultimately driving at through his devious logic and  tortuous language) some Position Papers have been developed this time – for SI-2. Some of these papers also indicate specific and well-defined topics that can be taken up for critical evaluation.The Position Papers make transparent the peculiar profanations of Pollock, so that examining his logic on merits becomes less arduous.Scholars young and old alike may find these particularly helpful in pitching upon apt and apposite original sources for specific issues, and thereby attempt some sound and sensible analyses  of the assertions and asseverations of Pollock that need assessment and appraisal

We request the greatest participation from all of you.

Prof. KS Kannan
Convener and Editor,
SI Conference Series



Call For Papers – August 8th 2016

The Call for papers for the SI-2 Conference is as below. The PDF version is available here.

 

 

 

logo50-3-SI

 

CALL FOR PAPERS 

SI-2

January 2017

 

The Swadeshi Indology Conferences  

 

The Swadeshi Indology Conference series has been envisioned to counter the 250-year-old narrative of Western Indology, the genre of Orientalism that focuses on India. As is well known, Western Indology helped formulate and legitimise the British colonial policies and played a very crucial role in the successful colonisation and oppression of the Indian peoples; it very nearly destroyed the Sanātana Saṁskṛti.

The aforesaid hegemonic discourse continued under various guises via the various schools of European Orientalism. Mirroring the rise of USA as a world superpower, it has evolved in the last half century into what we have labelled American Orientalism. This has been exported beyond USA and we may as well refer to it, therefore, as Neo-Orientalism. It is intellectually powered by a very important group of scholars whose base is in the USA, and who pursue Indian and Sanskrit studies through a distorted lens.

This lens presses into service the social sciences and the postmodernist thought and philology, and largely excludes the sacred dimension. This group filters out certain features of Saṁskṛta and saṁskṛti, while selectively exaggerating certain others. The fundamental assumptions and theories shaping this lens are axiomatic for its proponents, and yet, its implications to India as a nation and Asia as a region have not been examined adequately.

This Neo-Orientalist school is the most important left-wing, post-Marxist, post-modernist school today that influences almost all discourse about India on most media channels (print/ TV/cinema/internet) both in India and around the world. The immense body of work of this school produced by its main proponent viz. Prof. Sheldon Pollock, and the visibly large number of international and Indian scholars who use his theories, has not been analyzed or critiqued sufficiently in any systematic or effective way.

Meanwhile, this large body of influential work (created over the past 30 years) that this school of thought is continually churning out has indeed been exerting a deep influence (mostly negative) on Indian society and the contemporary public discourse.

What need to be called out are its deeply subversive motives – causing deliberate divisions in society (communalism in general on the one hand, and bheda, on the other hand, between various dharmic sects), the slow erosion of saṁskṛti and the systematic break up of dharmic civilization as we know it.   

The proposed Swadeshi Indology Conference Series and publications intend to analyze and respond to the well-orchestrated, systematic attack on:

  • the foundational elements (the Veda-s, Upaniṣad-s, Itihāsa-s, and Purāṇa-s),
  • the living principles (the puruṣārtha-s and the varṇāśrama system),
  • the cultural manifestations (śāstra-s, kāvya-s, and  kalā-s) and
  • the sacredness of the still living articulations (art, temples, kumbha-mela, festivals, family and social-structures) – that embody sanātana dharma.

On the notion of PūrvaPakṣa

The spirit of investigation and the rigor of the Swadeshi Indology Conferences derive from the traditional Indian method of investigating one’s intellectual opponents – the PūrvaPakṣaUttaraPakṣa tradition. A prior requisite for an unbiased and unemotional intellectual investigation is a deep understanding of the views and theories of the opponents from their own perspectives and frameworks; it is this which finds expression as the formal PūrvaPakṣa.

The first two conferences in this Series (SI-1 and SI-2, i.e. Swadeshi Indology -1 and Swadeshi Indology-2) have been designed to critique the Neo-Orientalist school of Indology, and subsequent conferences will address other topics.

In addition to the four (4) topics (appended at the end ) considered in SI-1 that was held at IIT Madras in July, 2016, six (6) new topics (5-10) are being added for SI-2 to be held in Delhi in January/February, 2017.

These ten topics constitute our immediate focus. Apart from the ten listed, other innovative and important submissions to the critique of Neo-Orientalism will also be considered in areas that are related and relevant to the overall theme.

Swadeshi Indology Conference – 2

The SI-2 conference proposes the following topics related to the Neo-Orientalism school of Indology. The rationale for the selection of each topic is described in brief, followed by the actual statement of the topic.

Topics 1-4, same as those of SI-1 Conference.

The bibliography at the end lists some of the important writings of the Neo-Orientalist camp; many of these are available publicly, and can also be supplied to scholars wishing to pursue specific topics for their papers.

Scholars are invited to take part in the workshop, where their travel expenses etc. will be taken care of. We wish to hear back from those scholars who wish to seriously participate. The undersigned and a committee will select the final participants among those that write to us.

Please send a brief email quickly if you are interested. Include a short biodata and a short abstract on the particular topic out of the ten topics discussed below. You may also propose a different topic than the ones listed below, which shall be considered on merit. Please contact the undersigned no later than August 31, 2016 with your abstract.

Contact details:

Prof. K.S. Kannan : ks.kannan.2000@gmail.com

Cc to Ms. Shalini Puthiyedam : swadeshindology@gmail.com

 

Prof. K S Kannan,

Convener,

SI Conference Series

A. Topics for Swadeshi Indology Conference 

Critiques of the Neo-Orientalist thesis on each of the following topics (5-10):

5.  Rasa
6.  Philology
7.  Chronology of Sanskrit texts
8.  Mīmāṁsā
9.  Buddhism and its relationship with Vedic traditions
10. Desacralization of Sanskrit

B. Additional Topics from Swadeshi Indology Conference – 1 (1-4)

  1. Śāstra
  2. Sanskrit and Nazi ideology
  3. “Death” of Sanskrit
  4. Rāmāyaṇa as a political device

 

(A) Overview for Themes 5-10

5. Pollock’s Thesis on Rasa

Rationale

As the leading representative of the Neo-Orientalist school, Sheldon Pollock opened up one more front for the hegemonic discourse on Indian culture in his recent (2016) book on the notion of rasa. By undermining the very idea of rasa, labelling it as primitive and by characterising it as irrelevant to modern living, he laid the foundations for secularising, desacralizing and westernising the very theory of Indian art, art-performance, and art- appreciation.

Statement

In his work titled The Rasa Reader, Pollock does a detailed examination of several texts which deal with rasa, such as the Nāṭya-śāstra, Dhvanyāloka and Kāvya-prakāśa, and comes up with several conclusions which need to be debated. His claims are as follows:

  • The various arts (kāvya, nāṭya, saṅgīta etc) were disparate domains with nothing common to their theories. It is he (Pollock) who has systematically brought about the synthesis – of art, artists, artwork, and art-evaluation.
  • Rasa, which is different from the Western “aesthetics,” is primarily dependent on the notions of social propriety which, after all, reflect automatically the inherent biases of the society of the time.
  • Indian theorists were only interested in the emotional aspects of art, and not in the creative/innovative part of it, since they were not interested in properly understanding how creativity functions.
  • Being merely a historical development, rasa is by no means relevant to the contemporary idiom, and if it needs to become one, it has to be “adapted” for a modern context; and this can happen only through the modern concept of aesthetics which originated in the West.
  • By putting it in the context of modern thought, it is he who has helped complete the discourse on rasa. Though extensively discussed by Indian scholars, rasa has never been comprehensively elaborated by them.

The implications of this thesis –that the notion of rasa is irrelevant in the modern context; that it is illogical and poorly developed; and that it has no unity (to mention but a few points of contention) – all require a detailed critique. In fact, the long and unbroken tradition of the very homeland of the profound concept holds the opposite view.

Study Material

Pollock :

2016  Rasa Reader

2012  “Vyakti and the History of Rasa

2012  “Rasa Seen to Rasa Heard”

6. Neo-Orientalist Thesis on Philology

Rationale

Subjecting Indian texts (whether in Sanskrit or other Indian languages) to such subversive practices – of interpreting with deep agendas – has been camouflaged under an objective-sounding method called “Philology”. The various proponents of the Neo-Orientalist school use this technique to postulate theories and phenomena in history (based on the “historical contexts” of the texts). Current events and Western ideologies are projected backwards, and used to reinterpret history, the goal being manipulation and interference with contemporary society and politics. The insidious nature of this is the core foundational “technique” in the arsenal of Western Indology.  

Statement

Pollock positions himself as a philologist and theorizes about “making sense of texts” by bringing in three dimensions: (a) historical (b) traditional and (c) personal/subjective. He explains that the three meanings – viz.

(1) that of the original author,

(2) that of the Indian tradition, and

(3) that of the modern scholar’s own

– can be radically different from each other.

Applying this approach to the Rāmāyaṇa as an example, he assigns the work a post-Ashokan date, seeing in it “an Ashokan quasi-Buddhist political theology, where power takes on a marked and unprecedented spiritualized dimension” – essentially implying that the epic brims with politics. This is the first dimension, i.e. insinuating a political motive on the part of Vālmīki.

The second dimension is his examination focusing on the time around 1000 CE when, he claims, the Hindu public at large saw it for the first time as a scripture that called upon them to fight against the invading Turks. In other words, the Rāmāyaṇa had politics embedded within it, meant to be used against enemies of the Hindu kings; and while on the first occasion of being composed by Valmiki, the opponents were Buddhists, a thousand years later the same mythic story came to get applied against Muslims! In fact, Pollock repeatedly claims that the Rāmāyaṇa has always had the seeds of hating “others”!

The third, and subjective, dimension is applied to see the role of the ancient text in our own times: he claims that the Rāmāyaṇa lent itself now nicely – to be used as an anti-Muslim tract by Hindu fundamentalist politicians. It is this, he says, which “led in 1992 to the destruction of a mosque in Ayodhya, Rama’s putative birthplace…”!

Hence his approach is to uncover the “malleability” and “availability” of the text for such reinterpretations, also making an assertion that all the three dimensions of meanings are true. What remains consistent throughout the life of the Rāmāyaṇa is, he contends, that it has served political purposes at the hands of Hindu elites.

It is important to study his three dimensions by asking:

  • Has Vālmīki’s vision been faithfully represented in his interpretation?
  • Is his analysis of the Rāmāyaṇa around 1000 CE consistent with the contemporaneous interpretations offered by the native tradition?
  • Is Pollock fair in thrusting his ideologies in the third dimension (where he ingeniously introduces a context, or rather superciliously superimposes it) on the themes he takes up?

In all these dimensions, one needs to be wary of, and see through, such Western influences on his work as those of Vico and Gramsci. One must critique their validity with particular reference to the Indian context.

Though the above example is specific to the Rāmāyaṇa, Pollock’s method of philology gets applied and extrapolated widely and wildly, and the entire range of his ideas are within the scope of this topic at the conference.

Study Material

Pollock:

2014  “Philology in Three Dimensions”

2014  Talk on Liberation Philology

2009  “Future Philology? The Fate of a Soft Science in a Hard World”

7. Neo-Orientalist Usage of Chronology

Rationale

The “creative use of chronology of texts” adds to the theorising power of the Neo-Orientalist discourse. Manipulating and concocting dates of origin, dates of commentaries, and dates of summaries give a veneer of scientific credibility to the postulated claims. Causality of events is willfully manufactured, and incredible theories are propounded and propagated. A few such theories were examined in SI-1 (exposed in papers on “Death of Sanskrit”, ”Sanskrit influencing Nazi ideology” and “Usage of Ramayana as a political device” – topics 2, 3, and 4).

Statement

There are many works whose dates as assumed/suggested by Pollock and his fellow Neo-Orientalists, find no agreement with the generally agreed upon dates, or even possible ranges for the dates. It needs to be probed as to whether there are manipulations involved in the new chronologies he proffers– in his bid to substantiate his thesis of historical causation – of what events lead to what consequences.

For instance, in order to establish his pet notion that innovation in Hindu texts was a result of Buddhist intervention directed against the Veda-s (on the supposed grounds – that brahmin monopoly and oral tradition had thwarted all innovation whatsoever), he would place Nirukta at 400 BCE, the Rāmāyaṇa at around 150 BCE, and Jaimini’s Mīmāṁsāsūtra-s to a post-Buddhist era (to offer but three examples). Needless to say, this goes contrary to the traditionally assigned dates, which are all pre-Buddhist!

Pollock very explicitly asserts that his philology approach is “historical”- by which he means that he must look at what he calls the historical pressure points in literary culture: these are – when Sanskrit literature begins, when it undergoes changes caused by politics, and when it ends. His focus is to entangle culture with power, and conjure causal relationships between them.

Discussing why it takes an outsider like himself to “organise” Indian texts, he says that there are various tensions playing out:

  • between the need to understand how the insiders (the readers and writers) thought of their literary culture, on the one hand, and on the other, how contemporary theory sees that any text can be literature, depending on what one wants to do with it;
  • between the views from inside and outside – of what Sanskrit writers did and did not understand, about their existence in literary time, and so on.

His contention is that the indigenous tradition provides no clear conception of literary change, and betrays no way of describing what became of Sanskrit literary culture over time. The fact that a literary community perceived nothing of its own development may tell us some important truth, Pollock says, insinuating that it cannot very well be the entire truth. Inevitably, therefore, we sometimes need to step outside a tradition to see what cannot be seen from within. There is no tradition of history in India, he says, in an objective sense; there is also no sense of categories of text, either. This, in essence, is why it takes an outsider to do this work; for, insiders have these blind spots.

All this is little else than the latest version of the hackneyed argument of the “civilizing mission” and the “white man’s burden” – that in order to “help the natives get out of their own blindness”, it is the divine dispensation of the Western Indologist to intervene.

Study Material

Pollock :

2006 The Language of the Gods in the World of Men (2006)

2003 Literary cultures in History – Reconstructions from South Asia (2003) – pp 39-130 for Sanskrit

Malhotra:

2016 The Battle for Sanskrit

8. Pollock’s Thesis on Mīmāṁsā

Rationale

The interpretive and discursive methods of mīmāṁsā (which underlie almost all the theories of understanding and interpretations of Indian knowledge systems) are critiqued by Sheldon Pollock and other western Indologists in several of their works. That mīmāṁsā is a cornerstone’ of dharmic knowledge systems is fairly well-known. A concerted attack on mīmāṁsā is wrought by imputing to it the ignominy of being “the cause of all ills” in Indian society.

Statement

Pollock identifies the “problem” of India being “ahistorical,” with the mīmāṁsā system of thought which essentially “suppressed history”. The Mīmāṁsaka-s postulated that the Veda-s are apauruṣeya or beginningless, and further that they are anonymous – this being done in order to establish the transcendental quality of Dharma (which cannot be known through anything other than transcendent); and that all cognitions must be accepted as true until they are falsified by other cognitions. Pollock finds these methods wholly unconvincing, and so argues: if the Veda-s are eternal, they cannot talk about non-eternal things; and if they are non-eternal, they do not have any absolute authority to do so.

In his view, mīmāṁsā was the intellectual mechanism that rigidly upheld the caste-system, denying many people thereby their partaking of dharma. He argues, for instance, that though the Veda-s do not explicitly urge the exclusion of the śūdra-s from setting up the ritual fires, it is through the Mīmāṁsaka-s that this has been enforced. Hence, this is a demonstration of the Brahminical “hegemony”over mīmāṁsā – one of restricting the right to access the Vedic texts, and thereby to the ethical realm of dharma.

It is also his claim that since Mīmāṁsaka-s perceived a natural connection between words and meanings, Sanskrit was used only in connection with the Vedic rituals. The very notion of Sanskrit being eternal and uncreated was conjured up to defend the Veda-s from the Buddhist critique, and in effect to establish the Vedic corpus as beginningless and error-free, and hence immune from all such attack. This, according to him, led to the language being limited to ritualistic purposes, away from day-to-day activities; and a rigorous grammar was evolved too, in order to restrict its usage and purposes.

The assumptions and the logic for arriving at each of the conclusions he has drawn, must be subjected to scrutiny, and critiqued comprehensively if we are to rectify the egregious viewpoints that emerge out of such a stance.

Study Material

Pollock:

2007 “Pretextures of Time”

2005 Axial Civilisations and World History – Section 4 on Sanskrit grammar

2004 Gonda Lecture – “Mīmāṃsā – cause for regression”

1989  “Mimamsa and the Problem of History in Traditional India”

9. Neo-Orientalist Thesis on Buddhism

Rationale

Critical to the divisive discourse of the Neo-Orientalists is the creation of dissension between dharmic systems (especially between the Vedic and the Buddhist), and then using this wedge to create discord, to secularise Sanskrit, and leading thereby to a profanation of saṁskṛti. The geopolitical nature of the thesis on Buddhism also highlights its inherently subversive motives.

Statement

Pollock tries to bring out “deep foundational differences” between Hinduism and Buddhism. He argues, amongst other things, that the critique of Buddhist scholars was against brahmanism, and that early brahmanism and some of its important theses were actually a reaction to this new thinking of the Buddhists. For instance, the very fact that the Mīmāṁsaka-s, in their later arguments, defend the ‘ahistorical’ notion of apauruṣeyatva of Veda-s – prove that they had been challenged.

Pollock claims that the deep influence of Buddhism from axial theory perspectives on various thought systems across the globe, and particularly India, has not been traced – until his own work did, synthesizing them. Buddhism is, in his opinion, at heart spiritualistic, whereas Veda-s are ritualistic (and by extension, mīmāṁsā too is ritualistic and irrational). By making an argument for an evangelical core of Buddhism, and declaring the Buddha to be the first evangelist, he necessarily implies that conversion was nothing new to India.

This apart, he puts forth theories about how Buddhism exposed and challenged the “regressive” nature of the Vedic society which posited dangerous “social categories” owing to the control exerted by mīmāṁsā. By citing the “obsession with the apauruṣeyatva” of the Veda-s, which, he says, keeps them out of any spatio-temporal framework, he labels Vedic literature as escapist, while lauding the historical nature of Buddhism, and its concrete message.

The main question is, of course, whether Buddhism is really deeply and fundamentally, different from Hinduism as he makes it out to be. It is necessary to examine the claims that are made in the thesis, and also to analyse the cause of such claims (its effects on historical and modern geopolitics), as also to their effects in the modern context – of secularism, rise of neo-Buddhism etc.

Study Material

Pollock:

2006 Language of the Gods in the World of Men  – Section 1.2

2005 Axial Civilisations and World History – Page 400-411

Others:

2016 The Battle for Sanskrit – “Buddhism as a wedge against Vedic tradition” (pp125-29) & “Pollock’s Theory of Buddhist Undermining of the Vedas – Appendix A” (pp381-391)

10. The Desacralization of Sanskrit

Rationale

The investigative techniques, data-collection exercises, and the relentless propounding of theories by the Neo-Orientalism school targets Sanātana Dharma at its core – its very sacredness. This obsession with the desacralization (Pollock’s term for removing the sacred dimension) of saṁskṛti is based on the desacralization of Sanskrit. Its contemporary effects can be seen in the efforts to “secularise” Indian performing arts and festivals (like the kumbhamela), and other cultural living articulations of Sanātana Dharma.

Statement

Pollock conceives that Sanskrit literature can be divided into two realms viz. the pāramārthika and the vyāvahārika. He staunchly advocates the need to bifurcate the two, firmly rejecting the pāramārthika, and dwelling only on the vyāvahārika.

The focus on transcendence in the former is seen as representative of its primitiveness, and as a camouflage for the oppression spelled by its caste structure. Yajña-s are seen as rituals that impede creativity and progress. Applying elements of the social theory of Vico (17th century thinker of Europe) to Indian culture, Pollock arrives at the notion that the Vedic stage is primitive (which is tantamount to saying that the Veda-s are not philosophical or rational).  

He makes clear that the oral tradition (preeminently, the Vedic lore) is to be completely ignored as constituting a part of Sanskrit history, because the lore is invariably linked to the sacred, and hence comes under the realm of the pāramārthika, which is only fit to be ignored. The śāstra-s are to be ignored too, as they do little else than extrapolate what is said in the Veda-s – making themselves regressive thereby, and thwarting or nullifying all creativity, consequently. Grammar, a śāstra par excellence, is seen as a dangerous device which has embedded in itself structures that conduce to social hierarchy.

Kāvya-s constitute, therefore, the only productions that are exempt from this ‘taint’, and it is for this reason that he turns his gaze on them, but then, again, through a political lens.

By equating kāvya with literature and śāstra with science, the latter is constrained to deliver only ‘facts,’ while the former imparts what is merely imagined, and so, that which cannot be verified. The reason for an exclusive focus on the kāvya-s is the possibility of measuring new imagination, and the power to communicate the same –which constitute a measure, in other words, of social energy. The equation is simple: if kāvya is static (or is shown to be so), the imagination level and social energy are low (and in Pollock’s view, if it is Vedic in any manner, it can be termed static).

Such absolute and fabricated dichotomies are an anathema to the traditional point of view. Tradition sees the sacred and the mundane as being a part of a single whole, and the study of Sanskrit has, in one way or the other, been towards an understanding of this ultimate unity. What Pollock effectively advocates through this separation is desacralization – in effect, a de-Hinduisation of Sanskrit, practically speaking.

It is only through a detailed critique of the above thesis that a strong UttaraPakṣa can be made – as to how they ought not to be, and in fact, cannot be, segregated without jeopardy to the essential spirit of our hoary tradition.

Study Material

Pollock:

2006 Language of the Gods in the World of Men

Malhotra:

2016  The Battle for Sanskrit – Chapter 3

(B) Overview for Themes 1-4

The four issues that were the focus in SI Conference-1 are as follows. These are also available for SI-2 participants to propose papers on:

1. Pollock on Śāstra

Statement

The relationship between śāstra and prayoga (theory and practical activity) is one which is diametrically opposed to what it is in the West. In the West there is progress because new experience and practical considerations inform the thinkers who can change and develop new thought based on such empirical evidence. On the other hand, the Veda-s are deemed as śāstra par excellence, and as already containing all the knowledge. The Veda-s are thus opposed to all progress. Śāstra-s are frozen in time; hence they hinder creativity, and are inherently regressive. Added to this, śāstra-s engender authoritarianism and inspire social oppression. In contrast, Western civilisation is based on freedom. As a result, śāstra-s are to be seen as a major cause – of Indian lack of creativity and freedom, and for the existence of oppression.   

Study Material

Pollock:

2006  The Language of the Gods in the World of Men

2004  Gonda Lecture

1985  “The practice of theory and the theory of practice in the Indian intellectual tradition”

2. On the notion that Sanskrit influenced Nazi ideology leading to the holocaust

Statement

Early India had a pre-form of racism, evidenced in the tension it provided between the Aryan and the non-Aryan. This became adopted by Europeans and was projected in the West as White v/s non-White. Nazi Indologists took recourse to Sanskrit texts to model their racist agenda. The Purva-Mīmāṁsā school championed a high brahminism, and this contributed to the legitimisation of genocide, which found its culmination in the holocaust of Jews by Nazis. Kumārila may hence be styled as a deep Nazi, and by the same token, Hitler may be labelled a deep Mīmāṁsaka.

Study Material

Pollock :

1993 “Deep Orientalism?”

Grünendahl:

2012 “History in the Making: On Sheldon Pollock’s “NS Indology” and Vishwa            Adluri’s “Pride and Prejudice” ”

3. On the notion of the “Death of Sanskrit”

Statement

Sanskrit began its career about two millennia after the Indus Valley Civilisation. Right from Vedic times, Sanskrit grammar and literature were a serious cause of social oppression, because Sanskrit was monopolised by Brahmins. Sanskrit was killed by Hindu kings around a thousand years ago; the Muslim kings cannot, after all,  get any blame for this. The rise of vernaculars too contributed to the killing of Sanskrit, as it had domineered over them for a millennium. Sanskrit ought to be secularized because the ritual uses to which it is put are veritable props of superstition and social exploitation. Sanskrit is after all dead, and recent attempts to revive it go to serve a political agenda, and nothing more.

Study Material

Pollock:

2001 “The Death of Sanskrit”

Hanneder:

2002  “A response to death of Sanskrit”

4. Pollock’s thesis on the Rāmāyaṇa as a political device

Statement

The sacredness of the Rāmāyaṇa is only a smokescreen to cover its essential role as a political instrument of rulers. Inspired to a large extent by a Buddhist Jātaka tale, it has principally been a tool of safeguarding the exploitative means of social stratification. The major characters of the epic utterly lack free will, and the epic thus inspires fatalism, so detrimental to the future of the nation. Patently oppressing women and marginalising the lower classes, the Rāmāyaṇa theme is little different from a literature of atrocity. The performance of yajña-s was a way of divinising the kings, who returned the favour to the brahmins who conducted this, by ensuring full and high security to them. The Rāja Dharma section of the Mahābhārata, twin epic of the Rāmāyaṇa, issues a stern warning that whosoever turns against the king would soon meet his ruin. The rules of dharma-śāstra-s were wantonly violated by kings, while at the same time were imposed on the citizens. In recent centuries, it has turned out to be the means of inflicting violence against Muslims who have been demonised.

Study Material

Pollock:

2005 The Ramayana of Valmiki, volume 2

1993 “Ramayana and political imagination in India”

1984 “The divine king in the Indian epic”

—————————————————

Prof. K S Kannan

Convener,

SI Conference Series

ks.kannan.2000@gmail.com

 

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