2002 Indic Colloquium
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Rajeshwari V. Pandharipande

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Professor of Religious Studies, linguistics, Sanskrit, and Comparative Literature
University of Iillinois
3010 FLB
707 South Matthews Ave
Urbana, IL-61801



(217) 333-0946



(217) 333-3466


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Background Information

Rajeshwari V. Pandharipande is Professor of Religious Studies, Linguistics, Sanskrit and Comparative literature at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, U.S.A. She received her first Ph.D. in Sanskrit Literature from Nagpur University, India and her second Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has published four books and over sixty research articles on Sociolinguistics, Syntax and Semantics of South Asian Languages, and Language of Religion, and Hinduism. Her two major books are: The Eternal Self and the cycle of Samsara: Introduction to Asian Mythology and Religion.1990. Ginn Press, Massachusetts, U.S.A.; and A Grammar of Marathi. 1997. London: Routledge. Professor Pandharipande received the title "University Scholar" for her research, and Harriet and Charles Luckman All Campus Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award, and William Prokasy Award for the excellence in undergraduate teaching at the University of Illinois.


Interpreting Hinduism: Issues of Perceptions and Parameters

The major goal of the paper is to raise some important issues related to the depiction of Hinduism in the contemporary texts and the media in the U.S. Two types of texts are under focus: (a) the texts on World Religions which contain a chapter on Hinduism, and thereby implicitly interpret Hinduism, (b) the texts which explicitly claim to interpret Hinduism. Additionally, the paper will comment on the interpretation of Hinduism in the current media in the U.S.

The major claims of the paper are the following : (a) the texts on world religions primarily adopt the categories of analysis of religious systems which leave out some of the categories which are crucial for understanding/ depicting Hinduism, (b) some of texts which claim to interpret Hinduism,take a particular theoretical framework (e.g. Jungian of Freudian) as universal and attempt to fit Hinduism into the mould of their pre-selected theory, (c) in contrast to the above two, representation of Hinduism in the media is guided by very different goals such as advertising or criticizing Hinduism in the context of the U.S.

The paper argues that in order to critically evaluate the depiction as well as interpretation of Hinduism in the texts and the media in the U.S., it is crucial to define Hinduism.