Axel Michaels edited book "The Pandit"

Axel Michaels axel.michaels at URZ.UNI-HEIDELBERG.DE
Tue Oct 30 05:29:44 EST 2001

Dear Mr. Hart,

Thank you for the attention you gave to my e-mail, BUT:
1. Are nowadays "reviews" or comments on books acceptable before even
leafing through the book?
2. The book is not only on Sanskrit Pandits! The name Monika Horstmann
should have indicated that. She deals with a non-Sanskrit Pandit (H.P.
Dvivedi). Similarily Madhav Deshpande and Ashok Aklujkar discuss at
length Maharashtrian scholarship as I have partly in my article focussed
on the non-Sanskrit/Brahmin legal adviser of the king of Nepal. Moreover,
ustads and professors are also traditional scholars: both are discussed
in the book.
3. The book deals with traditional scholarship in India (and Nepal, by
the way: another severe case of hegemony?), but not with all traditional
scholarship. I can´t see why your impression that it is a book on all
traditional scholarship in India should be automatically implied by the
title. Titles are always cutting a long story short. A more precise title
could have been: "The Pandit: On traditional and modern Vedic, Sanskrit,
Hindi, Nepali, Kannarese, Marathi etc. scholarship in India, Nepal, North
America and some parts of Europe." But the times are over when publishers
accepted such titles as we are both aware. (Do you remember the full
title of Hobson-Jobson?: "A Glossary of colloquial anglo-indian words and
phrases, and of kindred terms, etymological, historical, geographical and
discursive").They wish to have an interesting, concise title which does
justice to the contents and is not too misleading. I think the current
title does exactly that.
4.Further, the book is a Festschrift for P.Aithal who is a renowned South
Indian not North Indian Scholar.
5. All who know me (or my publications) are aware that I am the last
person (by  German indological standards at least!) who stands for the
superiority of Brahmins or Sanskrit in terms of Indian literature and
religion. The South Asia Institute at Heidelberg University, with a focus
on modern South Asia and its languages (including Tamil) where I am
employed leaves no opportunity for such an attitude nor does my own firm
commitment to a field-work oriented research of several Indian religions
(plural!). My book on Hinduism (which is currently translated into
English by Princeton University Press) is further proof of this.
Given these facts, I find it astounding and hurtful to be accused of any
STEREOTYPING" and can only hope that you reconsider those comments after
a careful look at the book and in
the light of my comments. (I shall ask the editor to send you a
complimentary copy).

Best wishes,
Axel Michaels

p.s. I had hoped that this list would not get again into discussions on
moral or political topics. However, as an editor I  felt that I should
answer you in this open form in order to "protect" the contributors.

George Hart wrote:

> 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
> hope, George Hart, Prof. of Tamil, Berkeley.
> --

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