Why religion got it wrong? – and the need for dialogues. Tip-toeing in a minefield.

deadline for submissions: 
December 31, 2016
full name / name of organization: 
Tapati Bharadwaj/ Lies and Big Feet.
contact email: 

Why religion got it wrong? – and the need for dialogues. Tip-toeing in a minefield.


When religious institutions in India teach religion and Indian philosophy in the public domain and subsequently publish and disseminate these teachings, are they not cognizant and self-reflexive enough to recognise that these texts are 1) flawed as they are often and mostly collated and made up from hearsay and 2) flagrantly misogynous and embarrassingly so? We are coerced to wonder about the intellectual sanity of those who run these hallowed religious institutions in India for by allowing such acts – they violate one of the Fundamental Rights that has been granted in India, namely, Article15 of the Constitution of India and is the Right to Equality, and aims towards undoing all discriminatory practises. Why exactly does the government of India allow religious institutions to participate in anti-national activities?

Let me clarify as to what exactly I mean by this: let us assume that a religious body teaches Sańkhya Philosophy and has published books on this subject; the dichotomy between Puruşa and Prakŗiti is the central motif of this philosophical system; and these characteristics are imbued with certain socially ascribed gendered attributes which are horrifyingly misogynous; such rhetoric should absolutely be banned in the public domain. There is obviously nothing ontological to Puruşa being masculine and Prakŗiti being feminine. I quote from The Sȧmhya Káriká of Iśvara Kŗșṇa with The Tattva Kaumudĩ of Sŕī Vácaspasti Mīsŕa:


Verse 59: Just as a dancing girl ceases to dance after having exhibited herself to the spectators, so also, the Prakŗiti ceases to operate after having exhibited herself to Puruşa.

Modesty here means extreme delicacy and acute sensibility of a maiden who cannot bear exposure of the prying glance of a stranger, [a “purusa”]. Similarly, the Prakŗiti, even more modest than a lady of noble birth, having once been seen by the Puruşa through discrimination, will in no case expose herself again.


It is obvious that these religio-philosophical texts have to be rewritten and the heightened sense of misogyny erased. Purists can throw their hands up in the air – appalled at such blasphemy – but the fact is that all these religious texts, that we read as containing infallible truths, have been collated as they have been handed down over the centuries; religious theologians and philosophers – due to their ignorance and myopia - refuse to see the obvious.

Many of these religious texts were translated by the East India Company sponsored Orientalists in the 19th century; and all these texts have lengthy introductory comments which document the processes that were involved. I cite a few relevant extracts from the “Introductions” to elucidate my point: (I quote from The Sánkhya Aphorisms of Kapila, with illustrative extracts from the commentaries, translated by James R. Ballantyne, London, Trübner & Co, 1885).



The Sánkhya Aphorisms, in all the known commentaries on them, are exhibited word for word. The variants, now given, of the Aphorisms, afforded by accessible productions of that character, have been drawn from the works, of which only one has yet been printed, about to be specified:

I. The Sánkhya-pravachana-bháshya, by Vijnána Bhikshu. Revelant particulars I have given elsewhere. My oldest MS. of it was transcribed in 1654.

II. The Kápila-sánkhya-pravachana-sútra-vitti, by Aniruddha. Of this I have consulted, besides a MS. copied in 1818, formerly the property of Dr. Ballantyne, one which I procured to be copied, in 1855, from an old MS. without date.

III. The Laghhu-sánkhya-sútra-vitti, by Nagesa. Of this I have two MSS., both undated. One of them is entire; but the other is defective by the three first Books.

IV. The Sánkhya-pravachana-sútra-vitti-sára, by Vedánti Mahádeva. Here, again, only one of two MSS. which I possess is complete. The other, which breaks off in the midst of the comment on Book II., Aph. 15, is, in places, freely interpolated from No. I. Neither of them has a date.

The title of the abridged form runs: "The Sánkhya Aphorisms of Kapila, with Extracts from Vijnána Bhiks[h]u's Commentary," &c. But this is a misrepresentation, as regards Book I., which takes up 63 pages out of the total of 175. The expository matter in that Book is derived, very largely, from other commentators than Vijnána. Vedánti Mahádeva mainly supplies it at the outset, and, towards the end, well nigh exclusively, Aniruddha. Some share of it, however, will not be traced; it having been furnished by one of Dr. Ballantyne's pandits, whom I have repeatedly seen in the very act, as by his own acknowledgment, of preparing his elucidations.


During the process of translating these religious texts in the 19th century, the Orientalist scholars referred to numerous manuscripts which often had varied connotations and these texts were collated to arrive at a final version. But we need to look carefully at the manuscripts that were referred to? – were these manuscripts that were written by the pandits and used as primary texts by the East India Company scholars – accurate? As we learn from the above extracts, “one of Dr. Ballantyne’s pandits” “repeatedly” prepared his “elucidation” in an ad-hoc manner. The pandits could have made up anything and passed it off as “revealed knowledge” and no one would have been the wiser.


This is a collection of essays that aims to look at ways to interrogate how manuscripts were used by the East India Company Orientalists in the 19th century and the role of pandits in creating “revealed knowledge”; how exactly can we gauge the nature of what is “revealed knowledge” and what are add-ons that have taken place over the centuries as they were handed down from one generation to the next. Most importantly, we need to be willing to take legal action against all religious institutions in India as they seem to refuse to change and listen to any forms of dialogues.


This is a collaboration of Open Windows, an independent feminist research center (www.aresourcecenter.wordpress.com); the collection will be published by Lies and Big Feet, an indie publishing house in Bangalore (www.liesandbigfeet.wordpress.com). For more information, please write to: Tapati Bharadwaj at: tbharadwaj@yahoo.com.