Wendy Doniger is Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago and the author of The Hindus: An Alternative History, On Hinduism, and, most recently, the volume on Hinduism in The Norton Anthology of World Religions.
How did Indian tradition transform the Bhagavad Gita into a bible for pacifism, when it began life as an epic argument persuading a warrior to engage in a battle, indeed, a particularly brutal, lawless, internecine war?
In February of this year, after a long career of relative obscurity in the ivory tower, I suddenly became notorious. In 2010, Penguin India had published a book of mine, The Hindus: An Alternative History, which won two awards in India. But within months of its publication in India, a retired headmaster named Dina Nath Batra had brought the first of a series of civil and criminal actions against the book, arguing that it violated Article 295a of the Indian Penal Code, which forbids “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class” of citizens.
If hatred were affected by logic, I dolatry would put an end to holy wars. (But then, if hatred were amenable to logic, perhaps there never would have been any holy wars.) The concept of idolatry has been used as a weapon in these wars by the Western monotheistic religions …