Axel Michaels edited book "The Pandit"

George Hart ghart at SOCRATES.BERKELEY.EDU
Mon Oct 29 11:41:28 EST 2001


Might I humbly suggest that when Mr. Michaels entitles the book he
edits "Traditional Scholarship in India," he perpetuates an extremely
wrong and unfortunate stereotype: that in traditional India, only the
Brahmins were learned.  The fact is, most of Tamil literature is by
non-Brahmins, and it is quite as extensive as Sanskrit.  And, in
Sanskrit and the Prakrits, an enormous amount of literature was
produced by various non-Brahmins (e.g. Jains and Buddhists) who were
not Brahmins and Pundits (which, incidentally, is a Dravidian word).
Even low castes have their own literary traditions in South India --
are we to suppose they are somehow inferior as human beings and their
rich traditions are not worthy to be placed beside that of people who
happen to be Brahmins?  WE MUST GET BEYOND RACIAL AND CASTE
STEREOTYPING WHEN WE DESCRIBE PREMODERN INDIA.  With respect and
hope, George Hart, Prof. of Tamil, Berkeley.
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