Did Devdutt Pattanaik Commit Plagiarism? : The Complete Discussion


Thanks to Jitendra who found this (September 2012) youtube video of Mr. Pattanaik and forwarded it to the egroup after noting: "...The ideas he is talking about are striking similar to Rajiv Malhotra's ideas in 'Being Different' (BD)'s chapter #4 Order and Chaos...".

Jitendra subsequently wrote a blog that summarizes his findings and his communication with Mr. Pattanaik here. We summarize the discussion in the e-Group of Mr. Pattanaik's disappointing approach. His conflicting responses to Jitendra are pointed out by contributors here. In his 2009 video on a related topic, there's zero mention of  'Order & Chaos'.  Unconvincing claims of having/not-having read BD despite being sent a copy, but then later hiding under the umbrella of  'this is all well known prior work'.

Read Chapter 4 of Rajiv Malhotra's book 'Being Different'.  BD's Table of Contents is listed here. You can search "Order and Chaos" by keyword in this site here. Here is a blogpost from early 2012 that discusses BD's chapter 4. Mr. Pattanaik previously featured in a February 2012 egroup discussion that is summarized hereA YT video of the BD book discussion in 2011 around this topic is embedded below:

Rajiv's response:
"Mr. Pattanaik knows my work and was send BD as a gift by Ganesh[] in Mumbai. Mr. Pattanaik was invited for the book launch function to speak but did not accept.
I have since then become familiar with his work, and criticized it as facilitating digestion because he fails to emphasize differences that would cause him difference anxiety. I am glad [Jitendra] took the step he did in this thread. If you send out a tweet and include me, I shall retweet it for wider awareness. This needs to become more widely known."

Jitendra comments:
"I got following response [see his blog post] from Mr. Devdutt Pattanaik. It appears to me that he is avoiding to answer by saying "Sanatan does not have one source; western doctrines do". I replied back with question with Yes/No answer, lets see whether he is open to acknowledge "Order and Chaos" as Rajivji's work?.....

..... Received reply from Devdutt Pattanaik, He plainly rejected to give credit to Rajivji, citing he never read the book Being Different. It is shameful that he accepts that he was invited to BD launch, which implies he was aware of book BD and Rajiv Malhotra. After being shown that his speech has exactly same ideas that are present in Being Different book, he still refuse to acknowledge BD [Mr Pattanaik's response:

I have never read his book . So cannot credit him . Good he thinks like me and many other scholars who existed before both of us."

 Karthik asks:
""Never read his book" eh?
Then how come in his earlier email Pattanaik criticizes Jitendra ji for not understanding "what Rajiv has been trying to explain so hard"? How does Pattanaik know what Rajiv ji has been trying to explain without ever having read his book? that Rajiv ji has been trying to explain without ever having read his book?.."

Priyadarshi asks:
" Isn't copyright violation/plagiarism itself very western (thus assimilated/digested) accusation? In Indian view it means 'popularizing' the idea. There is an anecdote that when Urdu poet Ghalib was passing by a brothel he heard his Nazm being sung by a Rakkassa (mistress). He went their and met her. She did not know Ghalib- or ever heard about him. But Ghalib was happy and later said that songs that reach such places will never perish..."

Rajiv responds:
"The comment posted [] is a common moronic position of many Indians. According to the same logic, getting digested is OK because resisting would be a "Western" idea of identity, ownership, etc. Any defense of identity is seen as a bad idea (a common postmodern moronic position that BD addresses explicitly in anticipation of this comment) thereby offering oneself as easy target.

Such ideas of dharma are nonsense.

You must know that a major dharmic principle explained in BD is CONTEXT. Dharma depends on what the context is.

If the context is that certain rules control the playing field, but these are not being applied equitably, then I must fight under those rules to get equal treatment. So dont mix up context...

It is moronic to say that:

- Kauravs and Pandavs need not fight because there is no "ownership" concept of kingdom, etc. in dharma. (Similarly, many morons used to argue against Indian freedom movement saying that according to dharma British were the same as us...)

- world is mithya so why bother...

- everything belongs to God so dont defend against any thief. Nothing is mine anyway.

- we are not supposed to see anyone as "other" because he is Brahman.

As illustrated below, urdu poetry and other intoxicants can be cited to make any point under the sun one wants to. That is never a way to argue logically. I can cite some poem to claim that [Priyadarshi] below does not own her house, car, degree, or anything else, and ought to hand these over to me. Right? That some poet somewhere in some context said something --is hardly proof that it is valid.

It is also incorrect and selective quoting to say that Indians always produced knowledge anonymously. This is untrue: Gaurapada, Shankara, Ramanuja, Madhava, Bhaskar, Patanjali, Panini, Bharthrahari, dharmakirti, chandrakirti, Haribhadra, etc. - and a few hundred other great thinkers - are well identified. This has enabled scholars to give concreteness to specific siddhantas linked to specific thinkers, and argue for/against them using the specific sources. Only a person unread in Indian thought can make the silly statement [] about indifference to authenticity of sources and disinterest in accuracy of presenting a given position. The tradition has emphasized rigor in citing one's sources (e.g. every Vedanta school cites brahmasutras and various commentaries on it very explicitly, NOT some mumbojumbo "generic" source.)

.... First [Priyadarshi] should donate everything [] owns to the general public before advocating the role model of sanyasa to others. Second,  [Priyadarshi] must convince Mr. Pattnaik to delete all copyright statements from all his own publications in the name of what [] considers to be "dharmic ethos"....

(BTW, Yesterday's IIT Mumbai event was fantastic like all my other events in Mumbai. The highlight was a debate with a woman from social sciences in the audience, preaching this kind of nonsense - all in the name of dalits, Kancha Ilaiah, etc. The students thoroughly enjoyed the thrashing she got in a long fight that she persisted in continuing, and things went from bad to worse for her. I hope they got this fully on the video, because it makes a great case of how we must inspire our youth by fighting such folks.) " 
Surya responds to Priyadarshi's position:
"Priyadarshi [] wrote:
'Rich has become richer, poorer has become poorer'- do we ever acknowledge Poet P B Shelley for turning this phrase (while writing a pamphlet on behalf of his Anarchist father-in-law William Godwin).

This is just a statement of Shelley, not a fundamental concept.  Contrast this to giving names of Newton, Kepler, Einstein, Boyle, Bose and Higgins etc.,

Point is not self glory but to ensure that the specific concepts introduced by these individuals do not morph over time as others influence these concepts.  Others can influence and modify them but they have to identify the original concept with the original author and the modified concept with the modified author.  This ensures that things do not get muddled.

The issue here is that digesti on works precisely by violating this - by removing the context and authorship and "secularizing" the idea and later morphing its original intent.

Proper identification of concepts is an issue of careful categorization and logic - Dharmic thought pays ample importance to them."

Jayant adds:
"....Its true that in India knowledge was free but any founder of knowledge has his name attached with it. Even if we look at Vedas we find each mantra has a rishis name attached to it who is the founder. Even other knowledge books like book on surgery as Sushruta samhita or ayurvedic book like charak samhita are named after their founders. So Rajivji  also has full authority to thesis he wrote. Whoever using his thesis should mentioned him whatsoever.  "

Ashok posts:
"...I suspect Mr Pattanaik would have felt privileged to acknowledge his source had it led to him quoting some well known 'western' thinker/philosopher, thus gaining by projecting that he is 'well read'. Shame on the [] Pattanaiks of this world for not acknowledging or propagating ideas of not needing to acknowlede their sources of information and ideas. It might surprise them about how much more effective it might be, in this particular regard, if they quote someone who their listener/reader might not have come across..."

Akshay remarks:
" Every now and then at least one intellectual Sepoy turns up to sermon (not preach ), ... So please post this [YT] link as response. Rajiv Malhotra talks about the Need for Hindu Identity"

Saket concurs with Rajiv's views on copyright:
"1. There is tradition among Indian authors to acknowledge orginal works and give due credt to the authors. For eg in Kautilya Arthashatrs Kautilys himself quotes many earlier Arthashatrs by Brahaspati, Manu, Kaunabdanta etc but adds his views not by demolishing them but but augmenting them. Same trend is seen in Panchatra where author recognizes older Niti Maters.

2. On names of Temple architects, my view is with newer findings it is now increasingly clear that Hindu history as we know today is a sham. We dont know why these names are not made available in public. I also came to know the Govt of India does not permit research in Hindu related topics in National Archives. Present notion that Hindus have writers/engineers have not left their signature is not acceptable. " 

Sayvari posts:
"I had another question regarding Devdutt's book on "Shiva To Shankara  - Decoding the Phallic symbaol" wherein the Bibliography contains amongst severeal
other authors references to O'Flaherty,Wendy Doniger trans, Hindu Myths...

Considering the tainted reputation of Wendy Doniger and now that of Devdutt should this book and others be considered a good read at all. Thanks.

Rajiv comment: Yes, he does mainly cut and paste and lacks deep embodied knowing. A charlatan with good PR and sponsorship from "mainstream" Hindus who
tend to be confused and "secularized"."

Rajiv next comments on the plethora of serious problems that come with plagiarism:

  • Loss of authenticity because the source position gets erased and cannot serve as a foundation. We have pointed out how Pattnaik is digesting Hinduism into "generic spirituality" in many instances. He is especially reluctant to show differences that make the Abrahamic religions seem peculiar and deficient by comparison. This dilution/digestion is destructive. He seems like a good-cop.  We know where that leads.
  • Leads to scattering rather than consolidation of a new, strong siddhanta like I am trying to build. Major thought systems - be they Marxism or Shankara's Advaita - have retained a core corpus or original works that are cited. Future thinkers may well disagree or try adaptations and extensions. But they always reference the original source to understand the overall system.
  • Pattanaik clearly does not know the whole system. Citing isolated parts here and there is going to take us to a synthetic unity. He must understand that dharma's comfort with chaos is linked to integral unity and to adhyatma vidya. On the other hand,  the West's obsession with order is linked to synthetic unity and history-centrism. These are well explained in BD. So he cannot take one idea in isolation and claim to understand it. Its a whole system.
  • Plagiarism is based on tamas. It encourages laziness as substitute for purushartha. Thats a bad example to set. We need to inspire more people to work hard in understanding our traditions, producing more original works.
Mulay shares more information:
"Plagiarism some how has embedded itself within the psyche of current generation Indians. I am sorry for this blanket statement however at a deeper level its true.

....Rajiv Malhotras work of course is an example of original research, we can very obviously see the resistance from sepoys and white supremacist. Similarly the work of Shrikant Talageri's RgVed Mitani research has been demonised by a well known American professor because they currently have the power to control the discourse and grand narrative.

Rajivjis work is the continued struggle to break ourselves free from this hegemony. Patanaiks plagiarism not only is lazy but I suspect a more sinister agenda here.

The people quoted in the references and the aforementioned professor who I wont name perhaps is trying to put Rajivjis seminal work as non innovation. They want to claim its not original this not worthy of the attention he deserves. Perhaps AAR was the moment where it clicked for those collective bone heads that- we cannot co opt Rajiv into our fold, we cant copy him either so why not prove him to be a heretic...

Pattanaik has to be challenged either person or in court because our Hindu Identity rests on us trying to defend what is rightfully ours. We cannot let someone like Pattanaik create these divergence.

Here is a video i found about mr pattanaik at TEDtalks 2009. As alluded to by [Jitendra], mr Pattanaik does not talk about order and chaos at all.


[YT link]

He seems to be more impressed by Greek mythology than Indian Itihaas. All in all he surely looks like a sepoy to me.

I really hope there will be some harsh criticism for plagiarism..."

Rajiv Malhotra comments: 
Lets preempt more plagiarism by taking my ideas to the masses directly fast:

A major publisher in very interested in doing small books with me, each on a specific theme of mine. For instance, Order & Chaos could be the first title.

Each title will be 100 pages roughly. It will be light, easy. Lots of graphics/cartoons etc. This makes it east to follow. Some jokes added. A youthful flavor added in the "dialogues" between persons in some places.

Can someone refer me to graphic artists who do this? I worked with a graphic artist to develop the comics in Invading the Sacred which were very appreciated. But I lost track of him. I know how to direct this kind of effort and what I need is a solid graphic artist. 

Jayasimha posts:
For those wondering about the reference to Ms. O'Flaherty's (Wendy Doniger) book, here is an interview Mr. Pattanaik has done with her.

Rajiv responds:
"Amazing how Mr. Pattnaik promotes Doniger with such adoration, thereby paving the way for the advancement in India of her recent books on Hinduism.

Also, he is like a student learning from her about Indian "myths", how to interpret them, what Linga means, who is Ram, etc.

In my UTurn Theory, Stage-4 is distortion by Westerners. Stage-5 is when this distorted version gets re-exported back to India, where an eager group of Indian "good cops" are waiting to become franchise operators and do the distribution."

Balbir adds:
"I call this the 'theory of 'idea cycle' just like the' theory of
product cycle' in economics. ... 'idea cycle' hits the
head and could destroy the culture. There will always be individuals like that and we need to stay focused on bringing out the truth."

Rohit shares Devdutt Pattanaik's profile.



  1. Dear Rajivji,
    For the illustrations of new books you can contact
    Sanjay Patel. He is an ex Pixa r guy (although very young) and already published 3 books filled with beautiful illustrations.

    You can find his books on Amazon or find more work on www.gheehappy.com

    1. thanks for the pointer. i checked out amazon and forwarded the info.