The Hindus: An Alternative History by Wendy Doniger
Spanning over six millennia, this monumental and thoroughly engrossing narrative account of Indian history and myth offers a new way of understanding one of the world’s oldest and most fascinating religions. Hinduism does not lend itself easily to a strictly chronological account: many of its texts cannot be reliably dated even within a century; its central tenets—karma and dharma, to name only two—arise at particular moments in Indian history and often differ in each era, between genders, and from region to region, caste to caste; and what is shared among Hindus is overwhelmingly outnumbered by the things that are unique to one group or another. Yet the greatness of Hinduism—its vitality, earthiness and vividness—lies precisely in many of these idiosyncratic qualities that continue to inspire debate and devotion today. With immense skill Wendy Doniger illuminates those moments within the Hindu tradition that resist forces that would standardize or establish a canon. She brings a multiplicity of actors and stories to the stage to show how brilliant, creative—and often subversive—thinkers have kept Hinduism alive and dynamic through the ages. She reveals how Sanskrit and vernacular sources are rich in knowledge of and compassion toward women and the lower castes; how they debate tensions surrounding ritual, faith, violence and tolerance; and how animals are key to important shifts in attitudes toward different social classes. A groundbreaking work by one of the world’s foremost scholars of Hinduism, already acclaimed for its extraordinary insight and analysis, <em>The Hindus</em> is destined to become a classic.
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