Dogs as Dalits, and Dogs with Dalits, in the History of Hinduism

Open to the Public
Nador u. 9, Faculty Tower
Monday, June 14, 2010 - 5:00pm
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Monday, June 14, 2010 - 5:00pm to 6:00pm

How does one go about telling the story of the Hindus by including the maverick as well as the mainstream Hindus in the story? The ancient Sanskrit texts, usually dismissed as the work of Brahmin males, in fact reveal a great deal about the lower castes, the people now generally called Dalits, formerly called Untouchables. Texts sympathetic to the lowest castes are sometimes masked by narratives about dogs. Such texts, covertly critical of the caste system, reverse the usual negative symbolism of dogs and speak of breaking the rules for dogs, treating them as if they were not impure. Tracing these stories through the centuries, we can see how the attitudes to these marginalized groups constantly shifted.

Wendy Doniger [O'Flaherty] graduated from Radcliffe College, June 1962, summa cum laude, in Sanskrit and Indian Studies. She received her Ph. D. in Sanskrit and Indian Studies from Harvard University in June, 1968, and her D. Phil. in Oriental Studies from Oxford University in February 1973. She has been a full professor in the Divinity School at the University of Chicago since 1978 and, since 1986, the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions. She is the author of translations of Sanskrit texts, including the Rig Veda (1981), the Laws of Manu (1991), and the Kamasutra (2002), as well as books about Indian myths, including Siva: The Erotic Ascetic (1973), The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology (1976), and Splitting the Difference: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India (1998).