Malayalam review of The Battle for Sanskrit by Acharya Shri. M.R Rajesh

The Battle for Sanskrit has been reviewed by Acharya Shri M.R. Rajesh of the Kasyapa Vedic Research Institute in Kozhikkode, Kerala.

Please see Malayalam article below.

Below is the English translation of the same article.

A Battle for Sanskrit and Sankriti 

William Jones, the son of Welsh mathematician Jones, reached Kolkata in 1783. He was in India in the capacity of a puisne judge on the Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William in Bengal, the office of the East India Company. Jones, who was an expert in their native language of Welsh, English as well as in the classical languages of Greek and Latin embarked upon learning Sanskrit with certain well thought motives in mind. Which native would volunteer to teach Sanskrit to a foreigner who spoke a (Mleccha bhasha) different dialect? As it would happen, a Brahmin who lived in utter penury took up the mantle of teaching Sanskrit to this English import. The teacher set up certain preconditions prior to taking up the challenge of imparting Sanskrit knowledge to Jones. The conditions were that Jones had to go to him (The Brahmin) in order to learn Sanskrit and that while going for the studies, he had to collect water from the river Ganga and sprinkle it at the location and after having finished his classes he had to purify the place where he sat with Ganga water. All of these strictures had to be carried out by Jones himself. Thus the simple Brahmin started teaching Sanskrit to Jones, the English Judge, by making him to sit outside the house on the floor smeared clean with cow dung and himself sitting at a distance.


A huge statue can be seen sculpted on the expansive walls of the chapel of the world famous Oxford University. It depicts Sir William Jones writing perched on a high chair. Seated below on the floor are depicted three Brahmins taking down some noting. Below the sculpture the following line can be seen etched – Sir William Jones, ‘He formed a digest of Hindu and Mohammedan Laws’. Could it ever be imagined that Sir William Jones, a person born into the higher echelons of western society had been trained in law by the natives of a country which they absolutely ruled over? This picture and its background provide a perspective to the intentions and viewpoints of the Indologists who took up Indic studies.

The reason for discussion on this subject is a book which goes by the name of “The Battle for Sanskrit” by eminent researcher, Rajiv Malhotra. A battle for Sanskrit as well as Sanskriti.

We can start by putting forth certain questions to historians who teach history in Universities, to the people who teach Indology and those who do research on the Vedas. Which are the Vedas and the commentaries on them that you have read or studied? There are very few who have read them. However, the name of Prof. Max Mueller is a very well known one amongst them. There are many who also dole out the names of Griffith and Morris Winternitz. Those who study under the Department of Sanskrit are familiar with the name of Sayanacharya. They have also heard the names of Uvvata and Mahidara. However, even they are dependent upon the translations of the Vedas made by Max Mueller. Why are the translations and works of Max Mueller so important even today? This is not even a question to ponder about in the academic world. It was in 1999 that S B Chandekar presented his research paper in the University of Pune. He was asked as to why did the research take such a long time when it had started many years ago? The topic of his research was “The Constitution of the Universe in Vedic literature". However, his guide showed displeasure about the fact that there were no references to the foreign commentators on the Vedas like Max Mueller in his research paper. Chandekar, who had drawn references aplenty from the various Indian commentators and was armed with ample proof, was forced to include the names of Max Mueller and others as references before publishing his thesis. This is not an isolated incident in Indian academic world. If that was the case, it may not be prudent to expect people to have heard the names of Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Aurobindo Ghosh as well as Damodar Satwalekar.

Today, in response to a question as to who is the greatest exponent of the Vedas in contemporary times, one can be sure of not getting an answer about the people in the Gurukulas of Kashi, Haridwar or the Sankara Mutts who lead lives based on the Vedic preaching but certainly of people like Prof. Michael Witzel of Harvard University who is a staunch votary of Christianity and ever on a warring path against Hinduism. They would even mention the names of Japanese researcher, Yasuke Ikari of Kyoto University and Prof. Cezary Galewicz of Krakow University in Poland. None of these people proscribe to the idea of the Vedas being of divine origin. They do not follow the Sandya Vandana and other Vedic procedures.

आचार हीनो न पुनन्ति वेदाः (Achara Hino Na Punanthi Vedah) says Manu. Even the Vedas can’t purify the one who does not follow the Vedic prescriptions. It is people who haven’t heard or understood this dictum from the verses of Manu and those who are self professed Indologists that drive the line of thought of the sold out Indian academic world. No one had taken up studies on the motives of these outsiders in order to expose these facts. This is where “The Battle for Sanskrit” by Rajiv Malhotra gains prominence.

He asks as to where and in which language is study being conducted on Chinese language and culture? The answer is such studies are conducted in Mandarin in China. Studies on Japanese culture are conducted in Japanese language in Japan. Studies on Russian culture are conducted in Russian language in Russia. Where are the studies on India conducted? It is conducted in English in faraway Harvard, Columbia and Oxford Universities!! Why is that so? The answer for this question will be given by the so called Indologists who are still mentally bound as the slaves of the colonial rule and yet to be free from their vice like grip in the form of weird arguments stating that it is a matter of pride for our culture if studies are being conducted by foreigners in foreign universities. This is the argument of the white man too. They say that they undertake Indic studies on a long term basis. Should you not take pride in this fact? When King George V was asked about the inappropriateness of his action of taking the Kohinoor diamond from India which graced his crown, he answered thus. The polity should be proud of the fact that their emperor is wearing the gem mined from their country on his crown!! Malhotra ridicules people who hold such viewpoints.

This research work has studied in great detail about a Sanskrit scholar, Prof. Sheldon Pollock, upon whom India had conferred the Padmashri award. Prof. Sheldon Pollock is The Professor of South Asian Studies in Columbia University. However, Rajiv Malhotra has not focused on any particular individual. He puts forth once again the concept of a detailed study of the Purvapaksha which was churned out over the ages from the simple and historic culture of India but sadly which the modern day historians have consigned to the dustbin.

What is this study of the Purvapaksha?

I will have an opinion and a viewpoint. There will also be an opposition to that. Now even if there is no opposition to one’s view, one should have a clear idea of the opposing viewpoints, whatever they may be. This appreciation is the study of the Purvapaksha. This study of the Purvapaksha is not for portraying holders of them in bad light but to understand the level at which they stand. To what extent can they go? What is their aim? What are their methods? What are their thought processes? This is a comprehensive and in depth study of Purvapaksha carried out by the Indian. This method can be seen amply in the works of Adi Shankaracharya. The Acharya includes the Sankhya philosophers, Nayyayikas, Buddhists and Charvaka philosophers in this category. When the Purvapaksha has been successfully presented, it is time to present the sidhantha paksha or uttarapaksha. This is the scientific temperament and culture of India.

Rajiv Malhotra in his foreword mentions the circumstances under which he writes the book.

“ In august 2014, I suddenly became aware of an unprecedented threat to the integrity of the Sringeri Sharada Peetham (started by Adi Shankara in the eighth century CE), one of the most sacred institutions for Hindus. There was a serious risk of a profound and systematic distortion of the teachings and mission of the peetham, as well as a distortion of sanatana dharma more broadly. I immediately stopped all my other work to investigate this and intervene. From that moment onwards, my energies have been channeled into dealing with this urgent matter.

A group of wealthy non-resident Indians (NRIs) in the New York area had teamed up with the top administrative leaders of Sringeri Peeetham in India and representatives of Sringeri Peetham in the USA to set up a university chair in the name of Adi Shankara. It was to be called the ‘SVBF Adi Shankara Chair in Hindu Religion and Philosophy’, (SVBF stands for Sringeri Vidya Bharati Foundation, which is the official institution representing the Sringeri Peetham in the US). They had already collected $4 million for the chair, which was to be created at Columbia University.

The plan was to set up three other chairs in various other universities in the US. Someone close to the group of the donors told me that as soon as this precedent with the Adi Shankara Chairs had been achieved, the door would be open to approach other Hindu lineages for establishing similar chairs across the US. These chairs would serve as official ambassadors of diverse Hindu movements. For instance, there could also be chairs in the name of Sri Ramanujacharya, another great exponent of Vedanta.

To appreciate why such chairs would undermine our tradition, the reader needs to understand the proposed terms of the Adi Shankara Chair at Columbia. Two committees were being formed to manage this chair. One was the Academic Committee, consisting of scholars from Columbia, to be headed by Sheldon Pollock. The second was the Donor and Advisor Committee, which would represent the various financiers and administrators of Sringeri Peetham. All the funding would come from the Donor and Advisor Committee. The selection of the scholar to occupy the chair would be made by the Academic Committee, which would have sole control over the selection, academic content and activities of the chair. The donors would have no veto right or say in the matter; they would merely be informed of the selection, after it had been made.

The professors associated with them would therefore be speaking to the world with the voice and authority of Sringeri. The whole objective of establishing the chairs would be to represent Shankara’s teachings to the modern world.

It would be the height of irresponsibility to give up control of the teachings and brand name of Sringeri to outside interests. This would be especially alarming if it were done without through investigation into the backgrounds and agendas of those being put in charge – equivalent to haphazardly giving away the intellectual property, trademark and custodianship of the peetham to some alien third party.

Upon learning this, I immediately approached the lead donor to offer my perspective on the risks. I explained the importance of carrying out a process that investors call ‘due diligence’ before any commitment is made. I explained my background in corporate due diligence and my subsequent experience over the past twenty years in analyzing how some prominent Western scholars represent ( or misrepresent) Hinduism today. However, the concerns I expressed and the suggestions I offered were not welcome. I was told that the Adi Shankara Chair at Columbia was, for all practical purposes, a ‘done deal’ and that it would be formally announced within six weeks, i.e., in October 2014.

Soon after having these discussions with the NRIs who were organizing the Columbia chair, I suddenly received an e- mail from Sheldon Pollock inviting me to meet with him. This was a surprise because our previous e-mail exchange had been five years earlier, and that exchange did not end positively. He had then refused my request to interact because he was concerned about my criticism of his ‘Death of Sanskrit’ paper. I accepted his invitation and we had a pleasant meeting at a local coffee shop in Princeton. He was charming and gave me a detailed biography of all his achievements as a pre-eminent Western scholar of Sanskrit today. After citing his impressive list of publications and awards, he turned to me and asked: ‘How could someone possibly hate Hinduism when I have spent my entire life studying the Sanskrit tradition? How could someone possibly hate the tradition that he has devoted his life to studying? ‘However, my response was different from what he might have anticipated. I told him he must have heard of certain American academicians who are considered Islamophobic , Islamophobic scholars spend their entire lives studying Islam. By Pollock’s logic, their long-term investment in Islamic studies ought to make them lovers of Islam. Nevertheless, they hate Islam and they study it diligently for that very reason. Their careers are made by studying a tradition with the intention of demolishing it and exposing its weaknesses.

I explained to Pollock, it was desirable that an important figure like him be evaluated based on the merits of this works and nothing else. This evaluation, I pointed out, should not be taken personally at all, but as something Indian scholars have done with each other for centuries. I explained that the tradition of Purva-paksha was central to Indian intellectual methods and that this tradition ought to be revived.

He said he had worked closely with traditional Indian scholars and listed several names. But when I asked him to name a single traditional Indian scholar who had written an extensive critique of his major works, he acknowledged this had not happened. He was quick to point out that this was not his fault because he had never stopped anyone from writing critiques.

I asked if he was a practitioner of sadhana based on Shankara’s teachings; he frankly admitted that his was strictly an objective study of the tradition as an outsider and not as a practitioner from within the tradition. We discussed the issue of potential conflict when the occupant of the chair takes positions that undermine the very tradition that has backed and funded the chair. Pollock said such conflicts are normal in the interest of academic freedom and that the donors cannot interfere with the autonomy of the scholars.

Meeting with Sringeri Shankaracharya

I decided I should visit the Shankaracharya of Sringeri personally and present my case. I visited Sringeri. The meeting with the Shankarachrya went well. The head administrator of the peetham had heard about my visit at the last minute and was already sitting in the room when I entered. Nevertheless, I was able to have an open-minded and direct conversation with the Shankaracharya. After listening to the examples I cited concerning academic biases, he said these Western scholars do not understand Vedic knowledge. My only request was that the decision regarding Columbia be put on hold, so that my written report could be made available for review by Sringeri Peetha,’s own scholars who could then make their independent, objective assessment. The Shankaracharya did not formally commit to this, but his response hinted a favorable posture. One of my main reasons for writing this book is to fulfill my promise to the Shankaracharya. ”

What do the foreign Indologists have to say about Sanskrit

Sanskrit is the language of power and subjugation. It does not have any legacy to proclaim itself as of divine origin. At the maximum, it may be the language of a country. Neither the Vedas nor the Upanishads are to be accorded any sort of divinity. In fact, the Europeans had even learnt of various lineages from the Vedas. Hitler had discovered Nazism from Sanskrit. That is why he had adopted symbols from Sanskrit. As per these Indologists, even the holocaust was the result of the Nazis learning Sanskrit. Epics like the Ramayana which were composed in later years were simply instruments of political weaponry. The kings of India had refurbished the Ramayana a thousand years back when the Turks had invaded India. In sort, stories such as the Ramayana when propagated by the King who is akin to God, motivated the natives to fight wars for him against the invaders. Therefore, it is not divinity but political expediency which is of primary importance with respect to epics like the Ramayana.

This is the same argument which the so called progressive thinkers had raised in the 1980s when the popular TV serial Ramayana was aired on Doordarshan directed by Ramanand Sagar. It was also opined that this was done for the revival of Hindutva ideology. These arguments did not find its origin within the minds of the Indian intellectuals. On the contrary, these ideas germinated from people like Sheldon Pollock who gloat over the so called death of the divine language, Sanskrit.

Sheldon Pollock, whom India honoured with a Padmashri, is a person who has made even funnier discoveries about Sanskrit. He says, ”Sanskrit is a language which had died decades ago. This language with its structure and grammar was the prime reason for the societal oppression prevalent in India”. He avers that there is no hand of the Muslims and British in the death of Sanskrit. In fact, it was the British and the Muslims who strived to save this language. It was the Hindu kings who were responsible for the death of the language. Their need for preserving and holding onto power led them to abandoning Sanskrit and adopting native languages. It was the inequality between the prescribed practices and the native structures that led to the lowering of the stature of the kings”. Such childish and boorish explanations which will leave us flabbergasted are the ones put forth by the Indologists regarding India. But, without realizing these, the way in which our spiritual leaders are handing over information passed onto them by or ancestors to the foreigners is a matter of grave concern and connivance of the lowest order.

In 1975, Universities of Harvard, Berkeley and Helsinki came together in collaboration and under their initiative conducted a Shrouthayagam called Athiratram over a period of 12 days at Panjaal in Kerala. An American researcher called Frits Staal was the organizer of the Yaga. He published two volumes under the name of ‘Agni’ following the Yaga which was conducted under the stewardship of Erkara Raman Namboodiri. He became a regular visitor in the Brahminical households ( Illams) of Kerala. Following Frits Staal, many foreign researchers started coming to Kerala to learn the Vedic practices. Seeing his devotion towards Vedic practices, the organisers of the Athiratra Yaga which was again conducted in Panjaal during 2011 made sure of his presence at that time with a special invitation. Staal who was considered as one who had embraced the Vedic practices was finally found to have embraced Buddhism in Thailand where he bid adieu to this world in 2012.

Whenever a foreign researcher lands in Kerala, the local print and television media make it huge news. No studies are ever conducted about such researchers. Which university and department do they represent? What is their topic of research? What are the studies which they had conducted before? What were their observations regarding Sanskrit and the Vedas during such studies, if any? What are the objectives and agenda of the sponsors of such studies? What are the main views of their study about India? Do they recognize the divine origins of Sanskrit and the Vedas? Opening up the plethora of ancient knowledge passed onto us by our ancients to people just because of their fair skin without carrying out such due diligence on our part is a cruelty inflicted upon the culture of India which will be questioned in due time by the future generations.

The submissiveness of Indian experts
There are about 15 Sanskrit universities in India. There are more than 100 departments in many universities devoted to Sanskrit. There are Sanskrit academies too. Even the official language of Uttarakhand is Sanskrit. These are activities carried out with Governmental funds. However, there are many Vedic gurukulas and study centres which function without any grants. There are many who function under the auspices of Ashrams and devote their lives for the study and sanctity of Sanskrit. But their views are not approved by the various academies if they are not in consonance with the foreign researcher’s views. How is the Indian academician bought out by the foreign universities? Very simple. 1. By arranging foreign trips. 2. By inviting their papers for presentation in foreign conferences. 3. By arranging for research and post doctoral studies. 4. Most importantly, getting sponsored on long term research by organisations like the Ford Foundation which put in a lot of money over long time. Whether the Sanskrit researchers who go to foreign universities really carry out research on the Vedic views held and passed on by the Rishis or the views espoused by the Indologists is something which nobody bothers to question. Our academic world has been sold out. For those who are not, the language of Sheldon Pollock is alien. They are not familiar with the communication tools of such Indologists. Hence, they are not able to reply to them too.

As to why personalities like Sheldon Pollock should be studied in detail is clear from an article written by eminent leftist Dr. RomilaThapar some years ago stating that Sanskrit was a language meant for subjugation. It was Sheldon Pollock’s idea which she had completely borrowed in that article. Guiding the thought process of Indian intellectuals who do not understand Sanskrit is a foreigner who is hell bent upon destroying the language. As to how much division studies of Indologists like Sheldon Pollock has created within Indian society is evident from the notice put up by All India Student’s Federation in Jawaharlal Nehru University in 2014 which has been in news off late for all the wrong reasons. It reads

Dear Sir,

The ‘great day of victory’ of so called Brahminical virtue over popular evils is round the corner and this progressive and secular campus, like ours will be hoping you to participate in the festivity of killings and humiliation of indigenous (Mulnivasi) people (i.e., Ravana, Mahisahsur, Shambuka, Bali, Ekalavya and others) of this land. But sir did you ever ponder about those who were killed at the hand of ‘virtuous lord’ and their progenies who are still being attacked and tormented. Do you ever consider that how deeply these symbols strike in the psychosis of socially deprived section of the campus and terrorize them of their ‘historical defeat’? … Let’s assume for a while that hero of Brahminical orders killed indigenous people then logically there must have been a resistance by hero of social emancipation and toiling masses. So why not we indigenous people should remember our heroes and struggle against tyranny of Brahminism

All India Bahujan Students' Parliament ( AIBSP),

All India Students Federation (AISF),

Concerned Students (CS),

The New Materialists (TNM)

As a consequence, investigate

Sheldon Pollock is a political symbol. A person who questions the authenticity and the divinity of the Vedas and who is actively involved in churning out modern day Charvakas has been endowed with the responsibility of editing and publishing the crown jewels of our knowledge by none less than the founder member of Infosys, Sri Narayana Murthy. Max Mueller had published over 50 books a hundred years ago. They were more popular in Europe and America. In India, they were confined to the Universities. Still, the grave issues and wounds that they created in our society are yet to be overcome by us. That is when Murthy’s library is set upon translating about 500 books and make them available at cheap costs all over India. These low cost translations which will make Sanskrit irrelevant and neglect the purity of the views expressed by the Rishis will be a source of terror for us in future much more so than the threat of the nuclear bomb in possession of neighboring Pakistan.

The Study of the opposing viewpoint

Rajiv Malhotra had conducted the Purvapaksha study which we had considered as having gone extinct from our society and culture. This is a matter of great pride for us because it was more than 80 years ago that a similar study was conducted by an Indian, Pandit Bhagavadatta - a disciple of Swami Dayananda Saraswati’s lineage, about the evil intentions behind the study of India by western researchers. ‘Western Indologists – A study in motive’, is a good example of the study of the Purvapaksha. Justice Gangaprasad, a person from the same lineage had written a book by the name, ‘Fountainhead of Religion'. Through this, we could learn about Islam, Christianity and Jewish religions. No further follow up on those studies have cost us dearly.

A modern day example of carrying out the study of the Purvapaksha in order to establish one’s religion in line with the Vedic injunctions is Swami DayanandaSaraswati, founder of Arya samaj. ‘Sarvadarshana Sangraha’ of Mahdava, a 14th century published work on All major philosophies covered emphatic studies on Indian philosophies whereas it did not attempt any study on the then prevalent Christianity and Islam. Swami Dayananda Saraswati was a legend who through his Satyartha Prakash carried out such a study of the Purvapaksha. It is a matter of heartfelt joy that such a professional study of the Purvapaksha has been carried out by Rajiv Malhotra similar to the ones conducted by Swami Dayananda Saraswati. Let this be the torchbearer to the Indian method of study of Purvapaksha.

1 comment:

  1. It's a pity that this is not reaching more and more Indians!