The Hindus: An Alternative History

The Hindus: An Alternative History

Wendy Doniger






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Click here to read an excerpt from the book.

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(Paperback | ISBN 9789385288661 | 779 pages | October 2015)


Spanning over six millennia, this monumental and thoroughly engrossing narrative account of Indian history and myth offers a new way of understanding one of the world’s oldest and most fascinating religions.

Hinduism does not lend itself easily to a strictly chronological account: many of its texts cannot be reliably dated even within a century; its central tenets—karma and dharma, to name only two—arise at particular moments in Indian history and often differ in each era, between genders, and from region to region, caste to caste; and what is shared among Hindus is overwhelmingly outnumbered by the things that are unique to one group or another. Yet the greatness of Hinduism—its vitality, earthiness and vividness—lies precisely in many of these idiosyncratic qualities that continue to inspire debate and devotion today.

With immense skill Wendy Doniger illuminates those moments within the Hindu tradition that resist forces that would standardize or establish a canon. She brings a multiplicity of actors and stories to the stage to show how brilliant, creative—and often subversive—thinkers have kept Hinduism alive and dynamic through the ages. She reveals how Sanskrit and vernacular sources are rich in knowledge of and compassion toward women and the lower castes; how they debate tensions surrounding ritual, faith, violence and tolerance; and how animals are key to important shifts in attitudes toward different social classes.

A groundbreaking work by one of the world’s foremost scholars of Hinduism, already acclaimed for its extraordinary insight and analysis, The Hindus is destined to become a classic.


Click here to read an excerpt from the book.


“Doniger’s is an amazingly breathtaking book in its sweep. Indeed, before this, one would have thought such a book could never be written...She writes with sympathy and empathy and with humour and wit...[The Hindus] is a great book.”—Bibek Debroy, The Indian Express

“With her vast erudition, insight, and graceful writing laced with gentle wit, there is no one better than Wendy Doniger to convey the richness, depth and diversity of Hindu texts and traditions to international audiences. The Hindus is destined to become a classic that will be discussed and debated for many years to come.”—Sudhir Kakar

“This is history as great entertainment...Wendy Doniger’s double vision of Hinduism is about women, merchants, lower castes, animals, spirits and, of course, Dead Male Brahmins. This lively, earthy account explains why ancient India is the world’s richest storytelling culture.”—Gurcharan Das

“[Doniger’s] book is no ordinary trek through inscriptions and chronicles. It is more like a psychedelic pilgrimage to sites, ritual moments, and beloved texts scattered over three millennia.”—David Shulman, The New York Review of Books

“The narrative sweep is epic…Wendy Doniger, with exceptional brio, tells us how the story of Hinduism continues to multiply.”—S. Prasannarajan, India Today

“Anyone seriously concerned with Hinduism in the contemporary world will be well advised to read, enjoy, engage and even argue with [this] book.”—A.R. Venkatachalapathy, The Hindu

“[A] monumental work that is awe-inspiring and humbling in its scale.”—Devdutt Pattanaik, Mid-Day

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About the author

Wendy Doniger

Wendy Doniger is the author of several acclaimed and bestselling works, among them, The Hindus: An Alternative History; Hindu Myths; On Hinduism; Siva, the Erotic Ascetic; Dreams, Illusion and Other realities; and translations of the Rig Veda and the Kamasutra (with Sudhir Kakar). She is the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of […]

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