Purvapaksha of Wendy Doniger edited 'Purana Perennis'

Chatsinn, a member of the Rajiv Malhotra discussion forum discovered when browsing through the MCLI website, the CV of Velchuru Narayana Rao who is part of the translation team for the 'Story of Manu' or Manucharitra in Telugu.

Velchuru was also one of the contributors of the book Purana Perennis, edited by Wendy Doniger. Chatssin says that a reading of the book throws up the same biases that are seen in Pollock's work. Apart from the biases, there are also very fundamental errors in the translation. He says there is a very casual attitude in the writing which discounts the sacred dimension of our texts. He also observes that the tool of political philology is predominantly used for the interpretation of the texts.

He says:

-When talking about the objective of the book below is her [Doniger] statement, tone was so demeaning and devoid of any shraddha. And the statement also shows colonial hegemony of projecting themselves as saviours who are reviving the puranas. But In India these are already widespread and well read by common man.

"If Vedic texts were Brahmins of Indology, the puranas were the untouchables. We all felt that study of these neglected traditions was long overdue as a kind of puranic affirmative action. The essays in this book represent a first step in that direction." (pg 59)

There is another chapter titled “Purana as Brahminic Ideology” by V Narayana Rao who looks like a sepoy of the Cabal. For him our civilization is a Brahminic civilization and he is looking even the scientific Hindu calendar from Marxist lens.

"India has three different ways of conceptualizing time and space, all of which are still at work in the lives of Indian people. The low-caste, nonliterate people have folk concept of time/space, uppercaste Sanskrit-educated Brahmins have a puranic concept of time/space, and the western educated Indians have a modern concept of time/space." (pg88)

But if you go deep into the further chapters it is not a dharmic study of puranas but a crass political study. She [Doniger] is referring to Skanda Purana as “Scrap Purana”.

"In this world of ever-shifting puranic sands, the Skanda Purana is surely the shiftiest, or perhaps the sandiest, of all. The longest and most sprawling of all the puranas, though it was usually grouped with the Maha -rather than the Upapuranas it was regarded even by the native Indian tradition as a scrap-bag; its name forms a pun to this effect in Tamil, where it is the “scrap” Purana (Kantal-Puranam)." (Pg 59)

I googled for Kantal Puranam did not got any results. But got for Kanthal (note the additional h) and means flower. Not sure if she is removing h and mentioning as Kantal. Tamil people in this forum can confirm this.

To the above research, Senthil added his comments:

What shoddy authorship!!!! And Wendy is supposedly an "authority" on Hinduism... Pathetic that such illiterates are occupying prestigious chairs in top US universities.

Kantha-Puranam in Tamil narrates the birth and story of Kantha. Kantha is another name for Muruga/Karthikeya, the son of Shiva and it's common meaning is "The Beautiful One". If I twist my brain like Wendy then I can infer that she's mixing "Kantha" with "Kanthal" a Tamil word meaning "Torn". Even then it is not same as "Scrap". A torn piece of cloth can be used as scrap cloth in kitchen, but that does not mean Torn = Scrap. And stretching it even further to say Kantha Puranam = Scrap bag is ridiculous.

Even with my basic knowledge on Skanda-Purana, I can tell that there are HUGE differences between Skanda-Purana(Sanskrit) and Kantha-Puranam(Tamil).
Skanda purana is massive and there are so many Khandas and Samhitas that comprise the Sanskrit body of the purana. Its subject matter is diverse.
Kantha puranam is a Tamil work that was inspired by a specific Khanda of a specific Samhita from the Sanskrit version. It is much smaller in size and has a more focused subject matter. All the more reason why it makes no sense why Tamils would call it a scrap bag.

Also, there are many other Tamil literary works like "Kanthar Alangaram", "Kanthar Anubhoothi", "Kantha Sasti kavacham", "Kantha Guru Kavacham" etc. Why would Tamils call all these works as scrap??

In fact the purana about Kantha-puranam, tells us about the rigorous intellectual debates that went behind, before it was accepted as a purana.
Here's the version:

Katchiappa Shivacharyar was born in Kanchipuram, Tamilnadu in the Kaumaram sect that worships Kantha(Murugan). Once he had a vision in which the Lord asked him to bring his sacred purana to the Tamil people, from the Sanskrit version. HE gave clear instructions on the source material: Shiva-Rahasya Khanda of Shankara Samhita of Skanda Purana. HE also gave the author, the first few Tamil words with which to start the purana (Thigada-sakkara...).

Every day the author would prepare 100 verses and keep it at the feet of Muruga's murthi at Kumarakottam temple at night. The next morning he would find it corrected for grammar and poetic usage of language.
Once he completed his work, Shivacharyar went to the learned assembly of scholars and submitted it for peer-review. To his disappointment, the very first words (incidentally given by Muruga) of the book were rejected by the scholars stating that it contradicted the rules-of-union of words as per Tamil grammar. He went back home dejected to re-work on his product.

The next day, an old scholar (Muruga Himself or someone blessed by Him) appeared in the assembly in defense of the choice of words of Shivacharyar. He provided citations from another Tamil work called Veera-Choliyam (Sandhi chapter, 15th verse) where such grammatical unions were used and were approved by the learned scholars. The assembly was satisfied at that point and the work became published for mass consumption as a purana.

Calling such a purana, a scrap-bag?


  1. I think the only reason I find for these people like Dongier and her Indian followers to ridicule everything that represents Hinduism or sanatan dharma is because in recent times may by 3 to 400 years the caste system in India has treated the caste in the last rung that is shudras very bad. If you take this as a reason for throwing everything of our great traditions into waste basket then there is african american slavery and apartheid i the West and by that yard stick we can say everything of the West is rotten. This is the narrow view that Wendy Doniger and the Pollock guys are practicing. Only Hindus can translate our texts for the non hindu to understand as they can do with their religious texts for us to understand. Ofcourse it should be genuine.

  2. For a cloth to be kanthal, is to be in tatters. :-)

  3. Read puranas in Sanskrit and another Indian language -prefer kannada, telugu, tamil, hindi etc. Most of the puranas are available by Gita press and there is also authentic local language translations. Most English translations are not up to point and author will introduce numerous bias. BTW Skanda puranas had numerous translations in Telugu, Kannada and Tamil. And also there are great many pravachan masters, shastry, pandits who have digested these texts over 30 yrs. Many such puranas can be directly heard from pandits and is available on you tube, mp3 etc. In Telugu Chaganti koteshware rao, Samavedha sanmukha sarma and padmakar vaddiparti and various others have give us excellent commentaries.

    ps: needless to say, ignore translations by western authors and desi authors with western masters. A lot of these people will have afflicted guru with rahu (or ketu) in their horoscopes and it will show up in the work they do. But be careful and reject them.

  4. Though very brief, it is an excellent purvapaksha of Wendy Doniger and Velchuru N.Rao. Thank you for publishing Sri Chatsinn's purvapaksha.
    As rightly pointed out by Chatsinn the following observation of Wendy is completely.
    If Vedic texts were Brahmins of Indology, the puranas were the untouchables. We all felt that study of these neglected traditions was long overdue as a kind of puranic affirmative action. The essays in this book represent a first step in that direction". There is hierarchy or order in the way that the components of Vidya in their authenticity. But we the saiva's believe that all the fourteen vidhyasthanam are equally authentic. When there is conflict the Vedas will get precedence over the Puranas. But we can understand Vedas mainly through Itihasas and puranas.

  5. Sad. The need of the hour is alternate translations more authentic and closer to original meanings. The translations should highlight the brilliance of the original devotion or poetry or literary achievement. It should encourage the people to get back to the original sources and learn the original language. Great Job to bring this notice - Rajiv

  6. good work sir....wendy and her orphans....cannot find a place to hide now....we will find you from under your rocks and expose your twisted mindsets....