cover image On Hinduism

On Hinduism

Wendy Doniger. Oxford Univ., $39.95 (672p) ISBN 978-0-19-936007-9

Doniger (The Hindus: An Alternative History) covers vast ground in this compendium of a lifetime of scholarship on diverse aspects of this world religion. She examines: the question of whether Hinduism is monotheistic or polytheistic; transgendered gods; reasons for intolerance in a faith often portrayed as supporting all religions; the Dalit (untouchable) class; the status of women; and the seismic impact of Edward Said’s Orientalism—Doniger believes we can now move beyond damage the West has done to Asian studies to appreciate Western scholars’ contributions. A fascinating chapter—one of many—describes the complicated interplay between Hinduism and Western gymnastics movements in the late 19th century that led to the development of modern yoga—less an ancient Hindu practice than a hybridizing of East and West. Religion does not develop in a vacuum, Doniger insists. Hinduism, a faith identified with a particular place and people, has responded to incursions—Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, political-imperial—to become a complex, often self-contradictory, but still discernible whole. For anyone seeking a deeper and more nuanced understanding of Hinduism, this book is a must read. (Mar.)