Rajiv Malhotra's preliminary response to Shatavadhani Ganesh

Shatavadhani Ganesh reviewed The Battle for Sanskrit here.

Rajiv Malhotra's preliminary response to the review is as below. A more detailed response is to follow soon.

I just read Shri R. Ganesh's critique of my book closely. I am going to develop a detailed point by point response. But meanwhile, I wanted to say a few things for now:

I wish to start by thanking him for showing so much interest in my work. It is a very useful criticism for various reasons. For one thing, all such responses, regardless of their substance or reliability, serve to wake up the traditional scholars and compel them to pay attention to the prevailing intellectual battlefield. Furthermore, such criticisms also give me a chance to take my book’s debates deeper. His criticism is well-intended, and he seems to want to “outsmart” my purva-paksha of Pollock. That is most helpful and welcome.

However, there are numerous serious errors, misunderstanding and contradictions, both in substance and in the logic used by him.

For one thing, he does not seem to have read much (if anything) of Pollock directly, and uses my work as secondary access to the subject matter. (Ironically, he criticizes me for relying upon secondary works on Sanskrit texts.) This deprives him of the full context of Pollock's writings that I am evaluating. He also lacks an adequate understanding of the broader Western idiom and theories in which Pollock's work is couched. It is misleading (though a common bad habit) to surgically pluck out a sentence here and there and comment on it. Pollock's work has to be understood holistically first, and it becomes clear that Ganesh has not taken the time to do that. My detailed response will show this shortcoming of Ganesh in specific cases.

Nor does he seem to have understood my book correctly. He also cites one of my prior books, but misunderstands it on important issues. For instance, he asserts that I am against the diversity of Indian traditions. Nobody who has followed my work would say such a thing. In fact, my earlier book, Being Different, which he cites, says the exact opposite: it contrasts Indian diversity with the Western normative quality and Abrahamic emphasis upon "one truth".

Actually, a central highlight of Being Different is that it goes beyond the common platitudes we read about our diversity, and proposes a comprehensive theory on why this is so. The contrast between what I call history-centrism and adhyatma-vidya are key building blocks I have introduced to explain not just the diversity in our traditions, but more importantly why this diversity exists. This insight as to the underlying causes of diversity in one civilization and monoculture in the other civilization is worked out in considerable detail in my work. I doubt that Ganesh has understood the depth of this theory.

Later on, in my subsequent book, Indra's Net, I develop this thesis further into what I call the open architecture of dharma systems. Not only is there immense diversity, but at the same time there is profound underlying unity - hence there is no fear of chaos as in the case of the Abrahamic systems. There is no control-obsession in our culture to the extent of the West. I explain why this is not, whereas most writers have been content merely stating that this is so, without adequately asking why.

Given that this theory of our diversity has been one of my important areas of work, I find it disappointing that Ganesh not only remains ignorant of it, but that he misrepresents me in exactly the opposite direction.

Besides his inadequate understanding of both Pollock’s and my writings, Ganesh is also making some illogical statements. Ironically, these are made with the stated purpose of exposing "Malhotra's pseudo-logic". I will explain this in my detailed article.

I will also argue against Ganesh's understanding of our tradition in specific instances, the area where he should be much more qualified than I am. No doubt he has immense memory and citation expertise. I admire him greatly for these accomplishments. But just as an ipod machine can recite millions of things without always understanding them, I will show where he lacks proper understanding of our traditional worldview on the very topics he discusses very explicitly in this article.

Finally, I will address the issue he starts out with: whether I am qualified to do such a project. Our tradition has encouraged and even valorized innovative thinkers who seemed to lack formal training, but who successfully challenged those with eminent “credentials”. This is an instance of his arrogance, and I shall dwell upon the merits of a given individual’s background. I will explain what exactly the project here is about (which he does not seem to grasp properly), and my relevant experience and expertise in doing it; I will let the reader decide for himself.

In fact, I will question whether Ganesh has the required intellectual training in specific areas of competence that are necessary for this kind of work that I have undertaken. I doubt he has much real-world experience in the global intellectual kurukshetra, which is not to be confused with meetings of “like-minded people” sitting in India. For the global battlefield, what would be the relevant experience equivalent to his 1,000 avadhanas? I submit it is the experience of going into the line of enemy fire, surrounded by a hundred opponents or even more, and being able to hold one’s ground, and come out wiser for the next encounter. I have had these (well over 1,000) live experiences in audiences where I have been the only Indian or Hindu, where there is blatant intimidation and mockery, where every attempt has been made to belittle such attempts, and where I had nothing personal to gain and all my reputation and social credibility to lose.

These are two entirely different types of yajnas Ganesh and I have done. In my case, it entailed a sacrifice of my thriving professional life in order to dedicate myself for 25 years to do this with full intensity. I will explain what I have learned that is critical for the present undertaking, and how the lack of this capability is a handicap Ganesh is blissfully oblivious of. While I am aware of my shortcomings and explain in my book the necessity for qualified insiders like Ganesh to join as team players, he seems to lack the self-reflection required to appreciate his own limitations in this battle. So the appreciation and respect is one-way, unfortunately: I appreciate his value as an intellectual warrior.

I am preparing a more detailed response to some of the glaring errors in Ganesh's article. I shall do this in the same spirit as the article by Ganesh – i.e. in keeping with the Indian tradition to debate opponents with mutual respect. We must set aside issues of personality, who is who in credentials or public image. Let us focus only on facts and arguments.

I will be back in a few days.




  1. Brilliant Respectful Reply, needs to read by everyone.

  2. Very good analysis. Waiting to read more.

  3. Really honorable reply.... It shows how much Rajivji on hold on his grounds.. Waiting for detailed reply..

  4. Accurate reply...looking forward for the detailed one...

  5. Who is in charge of what is not important. What is important is the presentation of the truth, The absolute truth, as per original scriptures, without imposing one's own opinion , prejudices, inferences , and that which upholds the benefits and welfare of the majority of the society is what counts. If more controversies are likely to arise, and more friction is the likely result, then it is better for all these authors to shut up and keep quiet and no translation of the Sanskrit work by such authors is needed.

  6. I am always admire Rajiv Ji for his passion for our tradition and fearlessly fighting the intellectual kurushethra. Thank you Rajiv Ji for your direction you are providing for a true Hindu who wants to understands the social consequence of not understanding the battle field which we are in and not even aware of it. Thank you for awakening me in 2005 or 2006 time frame and ever since you have been training me an IK. Thanks, Bhagwan.

  7. A very good reply. I am looking forward to the detailed one.

    Though I am a nobody when it comes to Sanskrit, as a neutral spectator who is watching all this, I think Shatavadhani Ganesh's comments are very important, as Malhotra admits. But, equally important is to understand the work(s) completely before commenting, and to respect the other person's strength while admitting your weakness in that area. From the criticism, I feel it is too much lopsided towards the weaknesses of Malhotra.

    After all, we are all fighting the same battle. Of what good are these internal fights? I request the authors and critics to have these debates privately among themselves before publishing the book, or before publishing the critique, rather than have a public debate like this, which makes me think we are not united, though we say so.

  8. Nice response. Don't know who Ganesh is, but Mr. Pollack and his followers must be appreciative of him, indirectly supporting their descretion of Lord Rama, Devi and others.

    1. I think that is a wrong conclusion to arrive at. If you read Dr. Ganesh's critique, he emphasizes in many places that he is with RM on the overall theme of the battle for Sanskrit and he is equally critical of Pollock and his misinterpretations. In one appendix, he also provides additional points that could be used to counter Pollock over and above what RM has employed. I think a couple of key points that Dr. Ganesh makes is that (a) it shouldn't be construed that RM's work is the first one to critique the works of Western Indologists including Pollock, several scholars in the past have authored comprehensive works in this respect (which all of us should be relieved and happy to know), and (b) there are, in his view, errors and a lack of adequate depth in some sections of RM's work. And this kind of constructive criticism should be welcomed, and I am sure RM will do so too. RM's passion and tireless zeal has brought about an awakening amongst the "laymen" Hindus and many traditional scholars in a way that hasn't happened in the past; of course, his adroit use of the Internet and its enabling technologies is a big part of this. While traditional scholars are welcome to critique his work in a constructive manner, it is important for all of us to be together as far as the major theme of the battle is concerned, and not get bogged down by the technicalities.

    2. With all due respect to Dr.Ganesh, I wish Dr.Ganesh spent the same energy in knowing and questioning the authority and scholarship of Pollock instead of Sri. Malhotra. Mr.Malhotra never claimed to be a scholar in Sanskrit. He is willingly acting as a facilitator, at his personal cost and risk to help his countrymen in preserving their heritage and tradition. Dr.Ganesh himself has commented on the christianism of Sanskrit in one of his speeches-how they are now teaching Indians to chant 'Om kristaya namaH' etc. What Mr.Malhotra is bringing to the table is his experience of having lived and worked in the west, especially in the academia. That should be appreciated and accepted by Indian scholars and work to protect our heritage should be done in a war footing. Just because we -people like Malhotra or myself, are laymen, not pundits who know the 'dukrun karane', should not mean that we have no voice in this debate or we have no right to protect our heritage.


  9. Hello World,

    Shri Ganesh, misses few basic tenants of arguments and typesetting errors.

    I wish I were his typist and article to be structured as
    Introductions; Appendix D : additional method to counter pollock incorporating and extending the weaker arguments of the RM. and Enriching the RM arguments with adding diversity and non sanskrit texts (i.e. Appendices B&C) and Appendix A is a personal letter / email to RM. Since RM's book is red herring attempt to alert the indian intellectuals, sermonising with Appendix E is a utter waste of time on a public forum.
    Coming back to the whole article, The whole Shri Ganesh's team idea is confusing and entangled with logical flows like who they are supporting or opposing. Author, fails to set a major premise on the outset. There are two options
    A: if you are agreeing with RM idea that Sanskrit / Sanskriti is at risk, then the critique and enriching arguments should be supporting RM and not picky about the shortcomings of RM's scholarship in Sanskrit. Hang On, that is admitted by RM himself, his appeal being the Traditionalist to take up battle.
    B: If you are supporting Mr. Pollock, please feel free to do so. Appendix D & E should not be in the essay at all.
    Authors fails to establish that the list of intellectuals who has fought this battle made little or no impact on the raise of Pollock or establishment of Pollock and other like minded intellectuals. This further exposes themselves to the facts, the battle is on for more than two centuries, and we had significant number of martyrdoms and still continuing.
    On the grounds missing premise and unclear steering of the reader throughout the essay and anti climax of Appendices, any prudent person would sympathise the unfruitful effort of Shri Ganesh's team.

  10. Look forward to Rajiv's detailed response. Also look forward to a healthy debate. Rajiv for one never runs away from it. I don't know about Ganesh. Perhaps, a few ground rules for this debate could be established.

  11. Powerful response.The last two paras are not the sum and substance of this article but very essential to know where Rajiv is coming from, which must have been the top two. I've read indologists' sly in their writing - What has Rajiv got to lose, a non-academic wealthy man just publishing his personal biases, which doesn't deserve our "academic standard" responses. The condescends are not new or different. When you question somebody's credentials for their intellectual work, you've arrived at your last resort and lost the argument.
    I know Shatavadhani Ganesh right from my schooling. He used to stay next to my school and a frequent chief guest in many programs. I have grown up with massive respect for him. His brilliance in literature and sastras is unparalleled. A polymath who can keeps his audience glued to him for several hours, with spontaneous wit & poetry. However when it comes to rationalizing philosophies or art, music, language, I've known several scholars locking horns in debates. I'm sure he's not averse to disagreements, however I agree on silos being the reason for inadequate exposure to global kurukshetra and always in association with cheering crowd than confronters.

    Hope there is an objective scholarly argumentation between the Rajiv & Ganesh whom I consider as equals. There is no space for questioning any body's credentials. Sadly, there is 132 character dismissal of Rajiv's work on Twitter by Ganesh's fans, who don't seem to know the might of RM's scholarship over the years. Never there was a new school of thought of change that didn't attract massive rejection from the old order. The battle is not between Rajiv & Ganesh, but only reinterpretations from insiders. Each bring their exclusive scholarship to the table. The world outside needs a team of defenders who can set records straight. The two of them aren't bad together to scare the other side with their might.

  12. Quite a balanced reply with analysis. It's true to an extent that Ganeshji had always an advantage of polishing his intellectual tools & skills amidst like minded people interested in seeking entertainment+quench their thirst of knowledge. It's very critical to be battle hard facing serious critics which isn't like soft polishing gold.I strongly believe Indian traditional studies demand both battle hard swords for reinforcement as well as the hands of a Goldsmith to refine. As I have read+listened a lot of Ganeshji as well, I believe his reinforcement to Malhotraji will only enrich our future of Indian studies... not the otherwise.

  13. Most here are ignorant who Dr Ganesh and what his scholarship are.I am amazed RM knows very little or no samskrutam has the audacity to question Dr Ganesh as having done superficial reading.RM better take Dr Ganesh advice seriously that you are not qualified in lot respect to comment on deeper aspects which needs first hand samskrutam knowledge which you lack obviously.

  14. If Ganesh is such an authority, why have we not heard from him so far? If he is not actively in the battle (which he concedes is real), why not? What have the works of the other stalwarts he mentions done so far to prevent the wholesale theft and perversion of our heritage? Is it wise to dismiss obviously inimical forces as "outsiders" when the damage they have done and the ill will they bear is so clear? Why could he have not approached Rajiv and offered to help him? This is a prime example of the weaknesses that have brought India down. On the one hand we have a local prince handing the keys to the armory to the enemy for a little ego-boosting respect and another providing the ammunition for no good reason other than to steal thunder it seems.

  15. Very respectful and factual response.. looking forward to detailed response...

  16. It looks the reply is made in a hurry. If RM is going to make a detailed reply, why did he publish this half cooked response?
    RM has too much of arrogance in his reply. I was thinking that he was a scholar and had high regards for him. A good scholar understands and appreciates another scholar. RM has failed to notice that Ganesh is an equally talented scholar (I would rate him above RM) and is making passing comments without any justification. The review by Ganesh had references, justifications for the interested to go deep and analyse. What is there in RM's reply? just few sentences telling that Ganesh is ignorant not read fully etc.?.
    And response to this RM's reply by some readers is equally amusing. They don't know who is Ganesh and writing to show that they are supporting RM. It would have been wonderful, if the two had met , discussed and did some good work to help the great language sanskrit.
    How many of those who have commented on this have read and understood the reply given by Ganesh? Dear friends, this is not a political debate. Be serious and respond.

  17. I feel the ego, arrogance has taken over the scholarly behaviour.
    People who do not know Ganesh behave that way.
    Why did RM write this preliminary if he was to give a final answer later? Is it to gain cheap publicity?
    It is sad that people have not grown above their personal pride.
    I did have great respect for RM, but after seeing his comments on Dr. ganesh, it has vanished.
    I wish the two intelligent people keep aside the personal pride and work together that that the rich language sanskrit gets its prominence once again.

    1. Sorry. I disagree. I do not see any ego on Mr. RM's side. Sadly, same is not true with Dr.Ganesh's statement. I have immense respect for Dr.Ganesh and have watched his shatavadhana with a lot of zeal! He is aware of the problem. He knows something has to be done but he is not happy that someone like Mr.RM is on the forefront? That is not fair.

    2. Most of the readers happen to take this as a fight between RM and Ganesh.
      Unfortunately they don't know both.
      I don't like the concept of preliminary response by RM...
      Can I assume that he has not fully understood the comments by Ganesh and so, has issued preliminary response just criticising Ganesh without any substance? Is it to incite his followers to attack Ganesh?
      RM may be an expert in his field. The vast knowledge that Ganesh has cannot be doubted. One has to listen to him to know who he is.
      Ganesh will not speak or write without references / proof. He has given adequate references in his comments. I don't know whether anyone has even gone through the whole comment and understood what he wanted to convey.
      Just because, they like RM and don't know Ganesh, people just condemn Ganesh.
      This attitude is very bad and dangerous...

    3. Very well said Mr Thyagaraja

  18. S Ganesh understanding of Shastra is more like a parrot recitation

    1. So, you know more about Ganesh? wonderful...
      Do you even know who he is, his achievments?
      Don't know what to call you...

  19. This is a classic case of Indian Intellectuals sabotaging their own against a foreign attack.....I am not surprised...as history suggests the reason for Indias slavery under foreign rule is a result of such undercutting of our own people due to ego or personal rivalry...if Mr.Ganesh is a scholar as his followers suggest has to pick a side....take a call where he stands on the Murthy issue...but what I see is the intention to create a third front which can jump either ways based on personal intention..Mr. Ganesh loses credibility of intent when he takes the argument to make a personal attack on credibility and background of RM (which might very well be the actual intention) rather than making his stand clear in this battle (these type of intellectuals who act as trojans are more harmful than the Sepoys)...I wont be surprised if they are being funded by the opposing side to weaken the strong insider lobby which is growing by leaps and bounds...you just have to see our history to know how outsiders have been using these faultlines in our system to their advantage

  20. THIS brings to my mind the debate between Adi Jagdguru Shri Shankaracharya & That Pundit in KarmaKand Mandan Mishra !!! May the Energy and Strength be with You, Rajivji, to succesfully take on the Counter-Theorists of Vedic Sanatan Dharma !!!

  21. Dr. Ganesh has written very balanced review of Rajiv ji's work. I feel it must be taken in right spirit. there is no need to argue like child on who knows how much.

    Review and Response to the review should have objective focus on the topic and not on individuals or their abilities.

  22. A Scholarly, Comprehensive, Balanced, Respectful, Positive, Unifying response to Dr.Ganesh by Aditi Banerjee.


  23. History repeating itself - S Ganesh's smug & snobbish attitude towards both Rajiv & outsiders like Pollock is an impediment to our ability to counter the clear & present danger to Sanatana Dharma. What is needed is not internal bickering or ego-driven critiques from pompous experts, the need is to cooperate and launch a combined defense against the snakes like Pollock, Murty and their stooges.

  24. Here is a take by a Kannadiga:

    1. There are way too many errors and material unrelated to 'Battle for Sanskrit' in this blog. But one of the errors is interesting:

      The *only* place i could find where Rajiv Malhotra even mentions 'grammar of dravidian race' is in his book 'Breaking India' when he cites the title of Robert Caldwell's book as 'Comparative grammar of dravidian race'.

      It is the same Caldwell who came up with the fictitious Dravidian RACE theory and propagated its language-race linkage for which he is a hero of separatist Dravidianist politicians in TN. Clearly, the accusation that RM believes 'grammar of a race' is unsubstantiated. The actual culprit here is the Catholic Bishop, Robert Caldwell, who solidly believed in this.

    2. The 'Kannadiga take' eerily resembles a Breaking India take.The author seems to be fanatical about Kannada wanting to delink it entirely from Sanskrit probably not realizing that he is on a slippery slope to fragmenting India on linguistic lines. Such a movement exists in the author's neighbouring state of tamil Nadu contributing much to that state's harm. Disappointed to see that Karnataka also has elements like that. The whole of the south seems toxic and India needs to be really wary of the south and its separtist tendencies.

      By all means let us enrich the regional languages but why does Sanskrit have to be burdened with unnecessary guilt to achieve that?

  25. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies

  26. Sunday, March 27, 2016
    An exchange with a Scholar...


    March 26, 2016
    by Druvid


  28. Great reply, patiently waiting for complete response.

    Sanskrit Compulsory in some British schools


  29. Important debate between Rajiv Malhotra and Dr Ganesh unfolding. This is the first response from Rajiv Malhotra, divided into two parts.
    part a - explains the challenges of analyzing Pollock
    part b - explains why even a great Sanskrit scholar like Dr. Ganesh has failed to understand Pollock's writings.

    Rajiv Malhotra mentions above that he will have a subsequent response that addresses all the specific issues.