An engrossing and definitive narrative account of history and myth that offers a new way of understanding one of the world's oldest major religions, The Hindus elucidates the relationship between recorded history and imaginary worlds. Hinduism does not lend itself easily to a strictly chronological account: many of its central texts cannot be reliably dated even within a century; its central tenets karma, dharma, to name just two arise at particular moments in Indian history and differ in each era, between genders, and 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, its earthiness, its vividness - lies precisely in many of those idiosyncratic qualities that continue to inspire debate today. Wendy Doniger is one of the foremost scholars of Hinduism in the world. With her inimitable insight and expertise Doniger illuminates those moments within the tradition that resist forces that would standardize or establish a canon.
Without reversing or misrepresenting the historical hierarchies, she reveals how Sanskrit and vernacular sources are rich in knowledge of and compassion toward women and lower castes; how they debate tensions surrounding religion, violence, and tolerance; and how animals are the key to important shifts in attitudes toward different social classes. The Hindus brings a fascinating multiplicity of actors and stories to the stage to show how brilliant and creative thinkers - many of them far removed from Brahmin authors of Sanskrit texts - have kept Hinduism alive in ways that other scholars have not fully explored. In this unique and authoritative account, debates about Hindu traditions become platforms from which to consider the ironies, and overlooked epiphanies, of history.
Preface: The Man or the Rabbit in the Moon ; 1. Introduction: Working with Available Light ; 2. Time and Space in India: 50 Million to 50,000 BCE ; 3. Civilization in the Indus Valley: 50,000 to 1500 BCE ; 4. Between the Ruins and the Text: 2000 to 1500 BCE ; 5. Humans, Animals, and Gods in the Rig Veda: 1500 to 1000 BCE ; 6. Sacrifice in the Brahmanas: 800 to 500 BCE ; 7. Renunciation in the Upanishads: 600 to 200 BCE ; 8. The Three (or Is It Four?) Aims of Life in the Hindu Imaginary ; 9. Women and Ogresses in the Ramayana: 400 BCE to 200 CE ; 10. Violence in the Mahabharata: 300 BCE to 300 CE ; 11. Dharma in the Mahabharata: 300 BCE to 300 CE ; 12. Escape Clauses in the Shastras: 100 BCE to 400 CE ; 13. Bhakti in South India: 100 BCE to 900 CE ; 14. Goddesses and Gods in the Early Puranas: 300 to 600 CE ; 15. Sects and Sex in Tantric Puranas and the Tantras: 600 to 900 CE ; 16. Fusion and Rivalry Under the Dehli Sultanate: 650 to 1500 CE ; 17. Avatar and Accidental Grace in the Later Puranas: 800 to 1500 CE ; 18. Philosophical Feuds in South INdia and Kashmir: 800 to 1300 CE ; 19. Dialogue and Tolerance Under the Mughals: 1500 to 1700 CE ; 20. Hinduism Under the Mughals: 1500 to 1700 CE ; 21. Caste, Class, and Conversion Under the British Raj: 1600 to 1900 CE ; 22. Suttee and Reform in the Twilight of the Raj: 1800 to 1947 CE ; 23. Hindus in America: 1900- ; 24. The Past in the Present: 1950- ; 25. Inconclusion, or, the Abuse of History ; Chronology ; Guide to Pronunciation and Spelling ; Glossary