[INDOLOGY] The Story of Sanskrit (for Women and Non-Brahmins)

Shrinivasa Varakhedi shrivara at gmail.com
Thu Apr 11 13:49:32 UTC 2019

Dear Mrs. Ananya Vajpeyi,

I appreciate you for responding to my mail on the other side of story of
Sanskrit. Due to hectic schedule for last two months, I could not get time
to write back to you. Hope, by now you might have watched the links that I
had shared with this list. I am sure that will certainly provide you
another picture of the same storyline.

Yes, I really get your point. You are right. There exists dichotomy in
every society. Bringing change in the mindset of the society takes time. We
need to think, argue, discuss, deliberate, write, criticise, teach ...and
to wait for “THAT” change you and me are aspiring for.

My urge is to leave the age old “purusha sukta” stories and work on the
current situations. Yes, we cannot deny the experiences of Mrs. Panwar. We
should not. But, beyond that there is something else also to see.
Generalisation in either side is a “danger”. It does not lead to any
conclusion. As you rightly said it requires “mutual respect” from both
sides. It is unfair to deny the “experiences” of Panwar ; it is equally
unfair to deny “experiences” of others with similar conditions. As you have
said society is full of dichotomies, we academicians can not take sides.
Our job is to be objective and guide the society on the right track. One
sided creations are objectionable. Any such push will lead to “Vancouver”
event. I believe the organisation of the Vancouver event was not properly
conceived due to one sided representation of the panel. Post Vancouver
discussions including your column in the Hindu again focused on the
reaction part of the event. However, in my opinion it missed the points
that need to be understood.

Here the point to be noted is : it is easier to discuss the discrimination
sitting in AC seminar halls. But, working on the grass root level to bring
changes with a positive mindset is not so easy. In our dialogue, we are
also missing the real heroes. Aren’t we ?

You are a wonderful researcher. It’s expected out of a sincere researcher
to do some objective research and also showcase  the change that is seen in
transformed India  along with work that is still needed to be done, that is
the transformation of rigid closed mindsets, which is still operating as we

On these lines, our effort was to go for some reality check. We did some
experiments in UDUPI conference. We placed the same here (event links). I
was dismayed for not getting a single response from the people in the list
who were earlier discussing a lot about the Vancouver event. Moreover truth
just does not lay with one Panwar, but many such Panwars are also not

I acknowledge your point on self examination and self criticism. The same
“rule” applies to all. The people without making any effort to gain
knowledge will shout and try to create a Dias for their stories. But, who
will stand for those, who create histories ?  See the links bellow :


You will find similar efforts in many places. Our humble request is to
provide space for them too, so that they can expand themselves in such a
way that no more chances for “panwar-feelings” continue in society. This
‘inclusiveness’ also deserves all ‘inclusive’ space.

While empathising for the experiences of Dr. Panwar, I dissent with her for
her half cooked interpretations of old passages without proper studies. I
urge her to stop telling stories. Instead, she may spend her valuable time
to study well and challenge the same society. Knowledge brings “respect”.
The strong response from the audience on that day was neither towards her
experiences ; nor towards her position. It was all about the management of
the event.

I personally do not want to take part in such debates. Unfortunately I was
a witness of the event where no “constructive take home message” was
delivered. The hunt for an answer prompted us to make these small efforts.

Let’s continue to work together to create atmosphere for fruitful dialogue.

Warm regard,

On Thu, 21 Feb 2019 at 5:50 PM, Ananya Vajpeyi via INDOLOGY <
indology at list.indology.info> wrote:

> Dear Shri Varakhedi,
> Thanks for your notice below. I haven't had a chance to watch the videos
> yet, but I would like to do so and to respond once I have seen and heard
> the women scholars you say spoke in Udupi at your function.
> You and your colleagues at the BVP deserve to be acknowledged for taking
> very seriously the discussion on caste and gender in Sanskrit Studies
> initiated in Vancouver last summer. It's heartening that you identified and
> invited women scholars, from different parts of India and belonging to
> diverse social backgrounds, to share their experiences and learning with a
> predominantly male field.
> I would urge you to go further and also acknowledge that not all women and
> not all people outside of the traditionally sanctioned Brahmin community
> have found Sanskrit institutions and discourse to be egalitarian and
> inclusive, even in today's context. I do hope you can find it possible,
> given the process of self-examination and self-criticism you must have
> undertaken, to go back and hear what Dr. Kaushal Panwar was narrating, and
> to understand the struggles that lie behind what she and so many others
> have gone through in the present and in the past.
> Eventually I would like to see a rapprochement between Dr. Panwar and the
> members of the audience who so rudely interrupted and attacked her (and the
> rest of us on the panel) at the WSC. I would expect a retraction of the use
> of terminology and nomenclature that is deemed offensive to the
> self-respect of social groups that have long faced discrimination,
> exclusion and violence in the arena of knowledge and education.
> This is the real goal of telling ALL the stories of Sanskrit that are
> circulating out there, every one of which has its reality and its
> relevance, even though they may be difficult to reconcile sometimes with
> one another, given the massive and deep contradictions in our society.
> Without mutual respect and the ability to empathise with one another's
> different experiences, we cannot live together.
> I look forward to a continuing dialogue.
> With good wishes,
> Ananya Vajpeyi.
> Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2019 23:25:11 +0530
> From: Shrinivasa Varakhedi <shrivara at gmail.com>
> To: Veeranarayana Pandurangi <veerankp at gmail.com>
> Cc: indology at list.indology.info
> Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] " Story of my Sanskrit" at BVP conference
> Message-ID: <DDEC7D19-55A1-4715-AD44-0900BE3D7E84 at gmail.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8"
> Dear Colleagues,
> This is the direct response to the "Open Forum" that has been staged in
> Vancouver last year. Thanks to the organisers for sharing the link of the
> event. It is an eye-opening sharing of personal experiences of young women
> studying/researching/teaching Sanskrit  in Indian Academia. The personal
> stories narrated by these women inform us the current trend of Sanskrit
> studies in India. Statistics suggests that more than 60% female students
> are studying and same no of women are enjoying faculty position in some
> states like Maharashtra, Kerala, and WestBengal. Two among these five women
> do not belong to so called upper cast (as they narrate). They are speaking
> in Sanskrit fluently. They are encouraged to study Veda, Shastras along
> with others. No discrimination is experienced. This is the REAL story of
> Sanskrit.
> https://youtu.be/jVq7OjL3Oz4 <https://youtu.be/jVq7OjL3Oz4>
> Interestingly NO response/feedback/discussion is initiated. Other part of
> the continued story is the Mahila Vakyartha Goshthi. The exposition of
> Shastrarthas by these young women was astonishing. You will really wonder
> to experience the quality of presentation of ideas without any error or
> confusion at any point. The clarity and exhibition of confidence are beyond
> words. These are ?unheard voices? in real sense.
> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaOuxiYbVpo <
> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaOuxiYbVpo>
> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMp9ngdvzSc <
> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMp9ngdvzSc>
> I appreciate the response from scholarly fraternity on these events.
> Warm regards,
> Shrinivasa Varakhedi
> --
> *Ananya Vajpeyi *
> *Fellow and Associate Professor*
> *Centre for the Study of Developing Societies*
> *29 Rajpur Road, Civil Lines
> <https://maps.google.com/?q=29+Rajpur+Road,+Civil+Lines+New+Delhi+110054&entry=gmail&source=g>*
> *New Delhi 110054
> <https://maps.google.com/?q=29+Rajpur+Road,+Civil+Lines+New+Delhi+110054&entry=gmail&source=g>*
> *e: vajpeyi at csds.in <vajpeyi at csds.in>*
> *ext: 229*
> *http://www.csds.in/faculty_ananya_vajpeyi.htm
> <http://www.csds.in/faculty_ananya_vajpeyi.htm>*
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warm regards,

Shrinivasa Varakhedi
Kavikulaguru Kalidas Sanskrit University
Ramtek, Nagpur, Maharatshtra

(Recipient of Presidents Award)
Professor in Shastra and Former Dean (Academics)
Karnataka Samskrita University,
Bengaluru - 560018

Mobile : +91-94853-01353
Ph Off :  +91-7722011353

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