Hindu organizations -- mainly The Vedic Foundation and Hindu Education Foundation -- and individual parents persuaded the California's Board of Education (CBE) to make changes in textbooks dealing with India and Hinduism.
Their suggestions were initially reviewed and approved by an 'Ad-Hoc Committee,' which included renowned Indologist Prof Shiva Bajpai. But a final decision will be taken next month only.
California mandates the study of world religions in its public schools and every six years, state textbooks come up for review, which includes public hearings.
The controversy started last year, when Jews, Hindus and Sikhs persuaded CBE to correct sixth-grade textbooks, which the groups felt contained "inaccurate" depiction of their religion and culture.
However, the "ad-hoc changes" came under fire from academics, who alleged that the "approved" corrections were designed to "hide the true history of India and present a sanitized and glorified view of Indian history and culture." One of the contentious revision is the deletion of "Aryan Invasion" requested by Hindu organisations saying that Aryans were not a race, but a term for persons of noble intellect. The academics urged that this statement not be removed.
At a special meeting held by the Board of Education this month, a compromise was reached to replace the word "invasion" by "migration".
Prof Michael Witzel, an American professor of Sanskrit at Harvard University, requested the Board of Education to reject the "Hindutva recommended" changes. Witzel wrote to the CBE President, "The proposed revisions are not of a scholarly but of a religious-political nature and are primarily promoted by Hindutva supporters and non-specialist academics writing about issues far outside their area of expertise." About 50 international scholars specializing in Indian history and culture, including Indian historian Romilla Thapar and D N Jha, endorsed the letter.
Among other changes recommended by the Vedic Foundation was the use of "statue" instead of "deity" for referring to the carved image of a God or Goddess, called "murthi" in Sanskrit.
Though Witzel, who was invited to the Board meeting opposed the move, the meeting decided to endorse the recommendation by Bajpai and changed "statue" to "deity".
Another decision reached was regarding Witzel's objection to suggested change that the current text "Men had many more rights than women," be replaced by "Men had different duties (dharma), as well as rights, than women." The two groups agreed to replace the sentence with "men had more property rights than women." Meanwhile, Hindu American Foundation (HAF), which also participated in the review process, said "Hindus throughout the United States are watching this process with concern since the results have broad implications for all Hindus.