The debate is so intense that one prominent scholar, Jeffrey Kripal, whose books include Kali’s Child, walked away from Hindu scholarship. And in 2014, after a lawsuit, publishers withdrew from circulation in India Wendy Doniger’s book, The Hindus: An Alternative History.
In California, the debate over what to teach about Hinduism includes efforts to remove any mention of the caste system and to refer to India as South Asia.
Hindu advocates believe that western scholars mischaracterize Hinduism. According to The Caravan, the Journal of Culture and Politics, they want to correct what they call a “culturally insensitive portrayal of Hinduism.”
These advocates also charge scholars with colonialism and orientalism, according to University of Chicago professor, Martha Nussbaum. “For about 20 years at least,” she tells Inside Higher Ed, “members of the Hindu community in the U.S. have been carrying on a well-funded campaign to substitute an ideological Hindu-right version of Indian history for serious historical scholarship.”
The most prominent critic of western Hindu scholarship and religion curriculum in K-12 is Rajiv Malhotra, a philanthropist. He founded the Infinity Foundation in New Jersey and, according to Inside Higher Ed, “became one of Hindu studies’ most visible — and vehement — critics.”
The California school system must decide in May what revisions to include about religion. The Caravan writes that the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), the Hindu Education Foundation (HEF), and the Uberoi Foundation all want to rewrite a sentence in the framework that describes the caste system as a “particularly unbending social structure.”
Will calls to change the California curriculum move to other states?