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The Nay Science : A History of German Indology, Hardback Book


Vishwa Adluri and Joydeep Bagchee undertake a careful and rigorous hermeneutical approach to nearly two centuries of German philological scholarship on the Mahabharata and the Bhagavad Gita.

Analyzing the intellectual contexts of this scholarship, beginning with theological debates that centered on Martin Luther's solefidian doctrine and proceeding to scientific positivism via analyses of disenchantment (Entzauberung), German Romanticism,pantheism (Pantheismusstreit), and historicism, they show how each of these movements progressively shaped German philology's encounter with the Indian epic.

They demonstrate that, from the mid-nineteenth century on, this scholarship contributed to the construction of a supposed "Indo-Germanic" past, which Germans sharedracially with the Mahabharata's warriors.

Building on nationalist yearnings and ongoing Counter-Reformation anxieties, scholars developed the premise of Aryan continuity and supported it by a "Brahmanical hypothesis," according to which supposedly later strata of the text represented the corrupting work of scheming Brahmin priests.

Adluri and Bagchee focus on the work of four Mahabharata scholars and eight scholars of the Bhagavad Gita, all of whom were invested in the idea that the text-critical task of philology as a scientific method was to identify a text's strata and interpolations so that, by displaying what had accumulated over time, one could recover what remained of an original or authentic core. The authors show that the construction of pseudo-histories for the stages through which theMahabharata had supposedly passed provided German scholars with models for two things: 1) a convenient pseudo-history of Hinduism and Indian religions more generally; and 2) a platform from which to say whatever they wanted to about the origins, development, and corruption of the Mahabharata text.

The book thus challengescontemporary scholars to recognize that the ''Brahmanic hypothesis'' (the thesis that Brahmanic religion corrupted an original, pure and heroic Aryan ethical and epical worldview), an unacknowledged tenet of much Western scholarship to this day, was not and probably no longer can be an innocuous thesis.

The ''corrupting'' impact of Brahmanical ''priestcraft,'' the authors show, served German Indology as a cover under which to disparage Catholics, Jews, and other ''Semites.''


  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Hindu sacred texts
  • ISBN: 9780199931347



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