Misrepresentations Contra Misrepresentation

Also in Against the Current, Purnima Bose on the fight over representations of Hinduism in California textbooks.

Two organizations with ties to militant Hindu nationalist groups in India, the Hindu Educational Foundation (HEF) and the Vedic Foundation (VF), complained vociferously that the textbooks’ representations of Hinduism and ancient Indian history were demeaning and stereotypical…

Were the parent organizations of the HEF and VF not downright scary, their understanding of history and Hinduism might be comical.  The first entry under “resources” on the HEF’s website, for instance, leads to a page called, “A Tribute to Hinduism.”  Quoting everyone from Carl Sagan to Frijtof Capra and Robert Oppenheimer, the site asserts that ancient India had everything from supersonic airplanes to electric trains to nuclear weapons.

This site also boasts that while the Aryans made it to the moon, ancient India could claim the distinction of being the only destination in the world for UFOs.  Scientific-minded readers can be assured that “Vedic technology does not resemble our world of nuts and bolts, or even microchips.  Mystic power, especially manifest as sonic vibration plays a major role.  The right sound—vibrated as a mantra, can launch terrible weapons, directly kill, summon beings from other realms, or even create exotic aircraft.”

Equally wacky is the VF’s chronology of Indian history and Hinduism.  According to this group, the “Hindu religion was first revealed 111.52 trillion years ago” (before the Big Bang, apparently).  Hinduism appears prior to Indian history which is dated as “1972 million years ago” (roughly 1.7 billion years before the dinosaurs).