The first of the Swadeshi Indology Conference Series , was a first in many ways. Engaging critically with the edifice of more than two centuries of Western Indology is not easy. Taking cue from the book The Battle for Sanskrit by Rajiv Malhotra – the conference held at IIT Madras focussed on some key themes and theses posited by the western scholar Sheldon Pollock which also form the core of modern Western Indology, a veritable new genre of Orientalism – Neo Orientalism.
Four very important themes from Prof. Pollock’s body of work were engaged with by scholars : the thesis that the Ramayana was primarily a political device and that the sacredness was actually a device for its perpetration, the idea that Sanskrit as a language is dead and possibly very much irrelevant for the modern discourse , the rather strange thesis that the Nazi ideology which led to the holocaust was inspired by Sanskrit and a powerful thesis that shastras are the primary reason for the lack of modernity and development in India. This theory propagates that the Vedas as they are frozen in time are opposed to creativity and are the cause for lack of progress and for the existence of oppression.
Scholars from various backgrounds critically analysed these themes and this led to an eclectic and incisive engagement of high quality.It was possibly the first conference in modern India that presented a scholarly purva paksha of modern Western Indology.