Finally! I have been hoping for a few years now for Rajiv Malhotra to expose Devdutt Pattanaik (DP). I had become suspicious of DP when he called Wendy Doniger his mentor because I knew the reality of Wendy Doniger from RM’s book Academic Hinduphobia.
The video is a conversation between RM and a Sanskrit scholar named Nityanand Misra who has studied DP’s work minutely, but from a Dharmic perspective. It is a rigorous hour-long critique. This is enough evidence for me to conclude that Devdutt Pattanaik is a quack.
This post is primarily addressed to parents who are using DP to introduce Hinduism to their kids.
Ok, so one more quack. What is the big deal? The big deal is that this quack is considered an authority on Hinduism by many, including some in my family and friends. One thing that stood out for me in this video was that most of the errors and distortions by DP are not that sophisticated. I was stunned by the अ vs आ error and the insidious definition of आस्तिक. One does not have to be a big pandit to pick these out. So more than exposing DP, this video exposes the ignorance of the people reading DP. The high popularity of DP shows how widespread this condition (of ignorance and confusion!) is.
Ok, let’s say DP is toxic. But I don’t see any good alternative to DP. I have actually heard that from a friend whom I told that DP might be toxic. First, this is a ridiculous argument. Would you take poison if you are hungry and food is not readily available? Second, this is a lazy excuse. There is plenty of good material out there. You just have to seek it out. Lastly, you can’t preach something that you don’t practice. So before you try to teach hinduism to your kids, you should first learn. And I will be honest — for someone who has been preconditioned by the popular hinduphobic (pseudo) secular narrative, Hinduism is easy to appreciate. First you would do some serious unlearning. And then put in some serious time into reading authentic material and reflecting upon it.
Alright then, forget it. I will drop DP … and hinduism! Neither do I, nor my kids have the time for this. The fact is that you are not dropping anything. You have ideas and opinions on everything, not only Hinduism but also every other religion. In fact, given how the world is changing you better know not only Hinduism, but also every other religion. For kids, this education is far more important than math and coding. I am not interested in converting anyone to anything. But if you are going to form opinions on Hinduism, do so based on authentic sources, not quacks like DP.
That is too big an ask. Still, let’s say I try educate my kids accordingly, can I tell if I am getting it right? There is actually a simple answer to this. While in school, as long as your kids don’t get the impression that all religions are the same, you might be fine. And by the time they are out of school, they should be absolutely clear as to why the Dharmic religions are fundamentally different from the Abrahamic religions. Note that I said different, not that any one is superior.