When a people become uneducated about their own heritage, deracinated and unaware, it should not come as a surprise when perverts and impostors come to be regarded as authorities of that culture. Such is the case today with the elites of Hindu society and Sheldon Pollock, a man feted as the pre-eminent scholar of Sanskrit and our literary and intellectual tradition.
Intellect, integrity and knowledge are three different things, and Pollock has been exposed on the later two counts so often that his ‘academic’ work on Sanskrit texts can only be considered as an agenda driven exercise to bolster his political theories about ancient Bharat. In an interview to Tehelka in 2011, Pollock offers a fascinating glimpse into how his mind works. He says, “I wish it were the case that Saraswati had visited me in my dreams one night and invited me to be her lover.“
Sheldon Pollock, the lustful
If you ask any Hindu what comes into their mind when they think of Ma Saraswati, they will respond with vidya (knowledge), gyan (wisdom), veena (a musical instrument), purity, respect. But how does the ‘esteemed’ Sanskrit scholar Pollock visualize the Devi? As an object of sexual gratification, at best as someone who imparts knowledge through sexual union. And this man is the Chief Editor of the Murty Classical Library—a well-funded project to translate 500 volumes of classical Hindu texts into English.
If you see the video, even the interviewer from Tehelka (a known Hindu bashing media outlet) is taken aback by Pollock’s perverse comment about Ma Saraswati – she says, “Saraswati’s lover is a really strange image…its not something one would associate with her. That’s scandalous.” Of course, she lets Pollock off the hook soon after. Pollock’s arrogant body language during the interview is also revealing, and the arrogance becomes pronounced whenever he makes some provocative comment about Hindu texts and traditions.
Sheldon Pollock, the political
Pollock’s comments through the interview show that he considers himself as a political warrior in addition to an academic – he feels that he is politically obliged to prevent the ‘appropriation of Bharatiya culture’ by Hindu nationalists.
Here are three other gems by Pollock during this interview, followed by HinduPost commentary on what he is implying –
- “The Indian political imagination is a sedimentation of mythemes (mytheme is the essential kernel of a myth) along two lines – the Mahabharata mytheme and the Ramayana mytheme”
Implication: Mahabharata and Ramayana are myths and political texts. It is only ignorant, superstitious Hindus who think of them as historical texts imbued with deep spiritual meaning, life lessons and complex debates about Dharma (the cosmic order which sustains everything).
- “The Mahabharata is a really dangerous mythic formation where the political other is your brother. War becomes civil war. The Mahabharata is the most dangerous political story in the world because its a deep meditation on the fratricide of civil war.”
Implication:: The Mahabharata legitimizes war and is the most dangerous book ever written. Of course, the central lessons of Mahabharata that one’s actions generate good or bad karma (and not just being born in the same family), the umpteen attempts made by various actors to avoid war, the complex sub-plots which show the angst of various characters as they try to determine the right course of action…all this is irrelevant. The Mahabharata is the most dangerous war-mongering book ever written – I will just choose to ignore the real violence unleashed in the name of their religion by Abrahamics based on their ‘holy’ books.
- “The Ramayana is a story of othering. The struggle for the political is displaced on the other – the strange rakshasa people, who are inversions of us, who are outsiders. The Ramayana was a language of othering, which somehow we need to (I wouldnt say unmask) understand so that we can neutralize its power.”
Implication:: The Ramayana is just a political text which teaches us to hate the ‘other’. We should ignore the fact that rakshasa does not denote any physical attributes, but is a term used to describe normal people with bad qualities – excess of arrogance, lust for power etc. The chief antagonist of Ramayana, Ravana was a highly learned Brahmin and devotee of Bhagwan Shiva (that fact alone is enough to blow Pollock’s theory, of Ramayana being a text to politically target the ‘other’, out of the water. Why would those evil Brahmins concoct a story where the bad guy himself was a Brahmin?). So again, the central lesson of Ramayana that one has to constantly introspect, perform right actions, and sacrifice many things in the pursuit of Dharma, should be forgotten. The simple bhakti (devotion) that the name of Sri Rama evokes in hearts of millions of Hindus is just false consciousness.
Sheldon Pollock, the vengeful
Listen to the video below, where Dr. Koenraad Elst describes how Pollock blocked his access to the academic system (professorship etc), due to disagreements over the Ayodhya dispute. Elst stood by the scientific evidence which proved that a Hindu temple had been destroyed to build the Babri mosque at Ayodhya. Whereas Pollock started researching the Ramayana after the Ayodhya dispute with an aim to show that the Ramayana is ‘inherently oppressive’.
The high regard that people like Sheldon Pollock and Max Mueller still get in this country prove that Professor Makarand Paranjape of Jawaharlal Nehru University is right in saying “the battle to regain India’s civilisational poise, equilibrium, and self-confidence is far from over. In matters of culture, education, and thought, we are still largely colonised and subservient.”
It can be asserted that the sorry state of Sanskrit studies within Bharat is a post-Independence phenomenon – led by Nehru and the Marxists historians he put in charge of education, under the cloak of pursuing the much touted ‘scientific temper’, we turned our back on our Sanskrit classics, viewing them as a useless inheritance. And this is not about xenophobia (fear of the foreigner) – we have many respected scholars from abroad like Koenraad Elst, Dr. David Frawley, Stephen Knapp etc who have done yeoman service for Hindu civilization – the key requirement for genuine scholarship in Indology is an open, humble and empathetic mind, something which Pollock transparently lacks.
From Wendy to Pollock to Truschke, zero respect for the traditions, the sacredness of culture, the sanctity of beliefs or self-assertion.
— Neha Srivastava (@neha_aks) April 18, 2016