Ancient text translation project at Harvard sparks outrage among Hindu right

Sheldon Pollock
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WALTHAM, MA–A group of Indian Sanskrit scholars are calling for an American professor working on a groundbreaking project on Indian classics at Harvard University to be removed because of his “deep antipathy” to Indian ideals and culture, according to a petition filed Saturday, Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

Sheldon Pollock
Sheldon Pollock (Photo: Columbia University)

Washington Post said that Columbia University Professor Sheldon Pollock, a respected Sanskrit scholar and the author of “The Language of Gods in the World of Men: Sanskrit, Culture, and Power in Premodern India,” is the editor of a $5 million project by Harvard University Press to publish dozens of Indian classical texts with English translations.

“More than 132 professors from some of India’s most prominent universities — some of them from the Hindu right — have signed the petition, which calls for Pollock’s removal as editor and “mentor” of the Murty Classical Library of India series; the project is funded by a Harvard graduate Rohan Murty, the son of Infosys co-founder Narayana Murty,” Washington Post said.

The prominent US newspaper reported that the petitioners argued that the work of translating the ancient texts should be done in India and “not outsourced wholesale to American Ivy Leagues.”

Rohan Murty told the Indian Express newspaper Wednesday that Pollock “has been critical to the success of the library, and Harvard and I look forward to having him on the board for many years to come.”


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