The Truschke episode is part of a systematic assault on Hindus sentiments by Western scholars driven by left-liberal opinions which are essentially Hindu-bashing.
Say the words, ‘National Herald’, and what springs instantly to mind is the financial irregularity allegedly committed by senior Congress leaders including Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, to grab the media organization’s considerable realty assets. Both these eminent persons are currently out on bail in connection with the case. Now, this Congress mouthpiece has added yet another dubious achievement to its discredit: Publication of an anti-Hindu article by Audrey Truschke, where she uses the term, ‘misogynist pig’, for Lord Ram. National Herald tweeted this article too.
The original Ramayan written in Sanskrit by Valmiki did not have those words, nor did Goldman’s version
What had made this publication to indulge in the stupidity? It called Truschke an “eminent historian and Sanskrit scholar”. Even if one readily accepts these credentials, should not National Herald have taken care to avoid hurting Hindu sentiments? But then the Congress has never been mindful of such matters. it had, it may be recalled, filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court, calling Lord Ram a fictional character. Faced with public wrath it quickly withdrew the statement. In the present case too, the party’s mouthpiece later deleted the article from its website and deleted the tweet too. But the damage to the party’s credentials had been done.
The ‘eminent historian’ had prefaced her comments on Lord Ram by claiming that she was “loosely” translating the original version of Ramayan by Professor Robert Goldman. In the first place, ‘loose’ translations are completely unacceptable from a scholar of any repute, more so when the translations relate to sacred texts. Besides, Professor Goldman himself took strong exception to the cavalier attitude and expressed shock and dismay over the needless liberty Truschke had taken with his work. He called her choice of words for the protagonist of the epic, “unbecoming”.
This should have sobered down any scholar worth his or her reputation, and at the very least elicited some form of apology. But Truschke has remained unapologetic. She has claimed that Sita, on being made to undergo the ‘trial by fire’ (Agni Pareeksha), had used words for Ram that, loosely translated into English as a ‘misogynist pig’. Truschke refused to back down, holding that she was “citing loosely and holistically”. The original Ramayan written in Sanskrit by Valmiki did not have those words, nor did Goldman’s version — but Truschke found it fit to indulge in the insult. Why?
The Truschke episode is not a mere case of wrong ‘translation’ or ‘transliteration’. It is part of a systematic assault on Hindus sentiments by Western scholars driven by left-liberal opinions which are essentially Hindu-bashing. When she wrote her book, Culture of Encounters: Sanskrit at the Mughal Court, she explained how Sanskrit had been patronized by Mughal kings, and Sanskrit scholars — Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain — were given the place of pride in society. But she had conceded that this spirit of accommodation had been severely hit during Aurangzeb’s time. In fact, she pointed out, it came to a virtual end.
Truschke is being talked of, written about, and is the toast of the Hindu-ridiculing group in the country and abroad.
But after this book, Truschke must have realized that she had strayed from the Left-liberal line by criticising Aurangzeb. More importantly, she would have ruffled feathers of the entrenched Sheldon Pollock/Wendy Doniger school of thought, without whose patronization most Western Indologists would find difficulty in establishing their base. Amends had to be made, and she did it promptly with her next book, Aurangzeb: The Man and the Myth, where she proceeded to inform us that this bigoted emperor had not been such a bad guy, after all. He had left many temples untouched (thanks be to him!), especially in south India. Did it not occur to the author that this was not an act of generosity, but that Aurangzeb could not cause much damage because that region was largely free from his tyrannical rule? She also wrote of the prominence that Aurangzeb gave to ‘Hindu bureaucrats’ in his reign. The book was a most unconvincing attempt to paint the Mughal king in shades of glory. Her demeaning terms for Lord Ram is only an extension of her prejudice at best and her hateful campaign at worst against the Hindu faith.
Professionally speaking, she has nothing to complain. Truschke is being talked of, written about, and is the toast of the Hindu-ridiculing group in the country and abroad. Before her, Doniger had made a fool of herself when one of her books, The Hindus: An Alternative History, was found to be replete with errors. Faced with court cases, the publisher decided to pulp the book in India. But of course, Doniger made capital out of this as well, with the publisher saying that “intolerant and restrictive” Indian laws had forced them into the act.
We are waiting for these liberal scholars to similarly analyze and interpret icons of other religions as well — unless it is their case that all that is ‘bad’ exists exclusively in Hinduism and the greatness of humanity rests outside the fold of the world’s oldest faith.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.