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Hindus, The [Hardcover]

Wendy Doniger
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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Book Description

30 July 2009
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.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 800 pages
  • Publisher: PENGUIN USA (30 July 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594202052
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594202056
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 16.2 x 23.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 760,241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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You will learn a huge amount about both the main thoroughfares and neglected byways of Hindu history. (Jonathan Wright, Sunday Herald)

It is one of the most profound and enlightening anatomisations of Hindu history I have ever read. (Jonathan Wright, Sunday Herald)

Scholarly, witty, and even-handed... one of the most profound and enlightening anatomisations of Hindu history I have ever read. (Jonathan Wright, Sunday Herald) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Wendy Dobniger is Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
83 of 93 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In defence of history writing 13 Feb 2014
By Anne
Wendy Doniger's book 'The Hindus' was withdrawn in February 2014 by Penguin in India after years of court cases and intimidation against the publishers by hardliners interested in orthodoxy rather than historical inquiry. There is also a smear campaign against the book on Amazon. If interested in reviews, this opinion peace in the Guardian is a good starting point: [...]. That said, it doesn't matter if it is a good or a bad book, or whether you agree with its findings or not. A good defence against such an assault on free speech and on the ability of historians to pursue their research freely and according to professional standards of research rather than dogma, would be to buy the book.
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40 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best seller! 13 Feb 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A excellent publication by a first class expositor. Real eye opener. I purchased the book after finding out that some right wing Hindu fanatics had been intimidating the publisher. Penguin India has recalled the book which will increase speculation and awareness of this text; no doubt adding to its value.
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45 of 56 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Hundus: An Alternative History 16 Feb 2011
The book is very long and full of information, in most respects well divided up and presented. Biggest criticism would be, not enough indication of where the author's views and arguments differ from established ones. This is particularly significant because most of the readers, like me, will know very little about this massive religion. Some more discussion too would have been useful about the Buddhist-Hindu split, and how Hindoism was able so successfully to bury Buddhism in the country of its origin.
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52 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Book 3 Jan 2011
After reading a lot of books about history, culture and religions of India I found not one of them as a kind of way out to reduce the complexity of it all. This book seems one of them to help me out. The book is not about history, but a book about the evolution of several important themes in the lives of Hindus influenced by historical changes. It is an alternative history in the sense that it also gives a voice to women and Pariahs in their contribution to Hinduism. It is a rich and accessible text, which means it gives very much fun to read. It will become a classic.
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Where Exactly Is India, Ms. Doniger? 13 April 2014
Banned in Bangalore, the New York Times op-ed said. Why ban a book, no matter how offensive, the literati fumed. No one can truly ban a book in the Internet age, friends pointed out. The book in question is a 690-page nonfiction account of Hinduism titled "The Hindus: An Alternative History," written by Ms. Wendy Doniger, a university professor with doctorates from Harvard and Oxford. Naturally, I bought a copy--and more to the point, read the book.

Before we proceed, let me say that I do not support banning any book (or even legally requiring a book to be withdrawn from circulation, as was the case with this book in India). But I do hold that every banned book isn't necessarily a well-written, scholarly work. Indeed, a ban of any kind instantly confers an aura of hyper-legitimacy on the banned work, regardless of its intrinsic merit, and I believe that's what happened with Ms. Doniger's book. I contend that her book is biased and sloppy, and that's what this op-ed piece is all about.

Let's start with the big picture. A well-written alternative history of anything, let alone Hinduism, generally has the effect of making the reader pause and think twice about what he may have held all along as the truth. From someone of Ms. Doniger's stature, I was hoping to hear a serious insight or two that would make me go, "Gosh, I've known that story all my life, but why didn't I look at things that way before"?

So, what major insights does the book offer? According to the author, the main aspects are diversity and pluralism in Hindu thought, treatment of women and lower castes, the erotic side of Hinduism, and the many tensions and conflicts within Hinduism.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reasons to buy this book 15 Feb 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have ordered this book to find another perspective to this subject. I detest people and organisations who cowardly consider themselves to be the arbitrators of what we can and cannot read for fear of offending religious sensibilities. Hinduism is being hijacked in the name of preserving cultural and religious thought in a country that is meant to be secular. All Indians must read this book to learn how to understand tolerance.
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Although a lenghty book, the author fails to substantiate her statements with any references or makes statements which does not reflect the original script in the epics. She has no understanding of the culture.She just earned one more doctarate by writing this book, this time in Ignorance
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29 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enemies of freedom of speech 14 Feb 2014
Those who are seeking to ban this book are enemies of freedom. As in Nazi Germany and Communist Russia they try to suppress freedom of speech in pursuit of a dirty power game.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
good quality and prompt delivery
Published 8 days ago by satheesh Gangadharan
5.0 out of 5 stars From Dr Khalid Khan
I have just received this as a birthday present and I need to share with you my friends review.
" Not as boring as I thought it would be"
Dr Khalid Khan. Read more
Published 1 month ago by manuella borguis
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book with lots of insights
In understanding the complexity of Hinduism and the problems that beset the socio-cultural make up of the country, this book does a wonderful job. Prof. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Prof Ashok Ranchhod
1.0 out of 5 stars Who needs facts when alternative history is so entertaining to readers...
(1) Christianity is mainly about the great teachings of Jesus Christ. (2) Christianity is mainly about the inquisition within the Roman Catholic Church. Read more
Published 3 months ago by sevencrystalballs
5.0 out of 5 stars Unnecessarily Banned in India
This book came to my attention because it was banned in India. There is nothing in here that should hurt anybody's sentiments. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Vipin Zamvar
1.0 out of 5 stars Interesting ideas, hopelessly unreadable writing style. A real...
Sadly, this book’s content is hopelessly obscured by Doniger’s writing style. She digresses, repeats, wanders and adds so many asides that I found it almost unreadable. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Jacobite
5.0 out of 5 stars The Hindus: an alternative history
I've just started to get into this. Reads well. It really is an attempt at an alternative history of Hinduism, emphasising the role and contributions of non-mainstream and excluded... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Wise fool
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting reviews!!!
To date I have not had the opportunity to actually read the book, it is hoped that it will meet the hype!
Published 4 months ago by Mr. Rajendra Kamat
4.0 out of 5 stars A literary reevaluation of Hinduism
Using her extensive knowledge of the original texts Wendy Doniger reevaluates Hindu culture in the light of their l impact
historically on the mainstream and other later... Read more
Published 5 months ago by fred
5.0 out of 5 stars Academic Intolerance
Simply superb. Honest take by a witty and learned author that needs welcoming, not a ban. But that intolerant India is where my country appears headed for now at least. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Ashutosh Mishra
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