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Panel slams distortion of Hinduism in school textbooks
June 28, 2014
Houston was witness to a first of its kind program to highlight inaccuracies in portrayals of Hinduism in High School textbooks.
The Indian History Awareness and Reseach group of Arsha Vidya Satsanga conducted an academic meeting and a panel discussion on Sati at India House on June 28.
The meeting was highlighted by the presentations from three students – Rachana Kataram, Spandana Akkaraju, and Srihari Ayyar.
Each of them talked movingly of their personal experiences in school and how they felt diminished as Hindus as they went through discussions on Hinduism in their history textbooks.
They were unequivocal in pointing out the lack of balance in presentation of Hinduism and Indian Civilization compared to other religions and civilizations.
Professor Chitra Divakaruni delivered the inaugural speech where she spoke of the need for developing emic narratives of history. Emic, in simple terms, means that the historian has to present a society and its traditions in terms of its own culture, time and value systems.
She viewed the presentation of the textbook on Sati as lacking in proportion, context, and proper attitude. Appreciating the quality of the program, Divakaruni suggested that the organizers can consider expanding the audience base to non-Hindus, and engaging with educators more deeply.
Dr. Bharat Srinivasan, Sanskrit Scholar, Technocrat and exemplar of classical Vedic living, delivered a lecture on the traditional view of Sati. He explained that the textbook not only ignored the Indic view but also discarded the cultural and philosophic perspectives of womanhood that the ancient Indian women upheld.
His systematic presentation clarified that Vedas did not enjoin Sati and that major Smritis did not have prominent expositions on Sati, an infrequent practice.
While Puranas did refer to incidents of Sati, these are descriptions of events, not moral positions.
Prof. Sarath Menon, Sociology Professor at the University of Houston, led the panel discussion.
Panelists appreciated the youth for sharing the negative impact that current narratives in the textbooks had on their classroom experiences and how those experiences caused the youth to feel publicly singled out and shamed.
Dr.Anjali Pinjala referred to the problem that the youth faced in retaining their ethnic identity.
Dr. Subroto Gangopadhyay, another panelist, spoke of the failure of the textbook to distinguish between atma ahuti (self-sacrifice) and atma hatya (suicide).
Dr. Aparna Subrmaniam, a panelist and an exponent of Bharatanatyam, emphasized the perspectives of women in ancient India.
Panelists observed that considering the rarity of this voluntary practice, its prominence in the textbook narrative was disproportionate.