James Laine

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James W. Laine is an American academic and writer notable for his controversial book on the 17th-century Indian king Shivaji, Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India.[1]


James Laine is the Arnold H. Lowe Professor of Religious Studies at Macalester College in Minnesota, United States.[2] He holds a BA (1974) from Texas Tech University, an MTS (1977), and a doctorate in Theology (1984) from Harvard University.[1]

Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India[edit]

Laine's book, Shivaji Maharaj: Hindu King in Islamic India, contained an offhand comment quoting an anecdote concerning Shivaji's parentage, as part of Laine's discussion of the mysteries of Shivaji's unclear relationship with his father.[3] After publication, four Maratha scholars publicly denounced the book. A hardline Maratha group attacked the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune, India, accusing its high-caste Brahmin scholars as assisting in Laine's so-called slander of Shivaji.[4] In view of the attacks and the public unrest, the book was banned in the state of Maharashtra in January 2004. Filing a petition in the Bombay High Court, James Laine apologized for an offending paragraph on page 93 of the book. Regardless, a warrant was filed for his arrest, and India attempted to have him extradited from the United States.[3][5]

The publisher Oxford Printing Press[a] promised to delete the paragraph from all future editions of the book,[6] following which the court lifted the ban in 2007. In July 2010, the Supreme Court of India upheld the lifting of the ban,[7][8] which was followed by public demonstrations against the author and the decision.[9][10]

Laine offered a longer analysis of the dispute in 2011. He deplored the attacks on Indian scholars and scholarly institutions which he said had no influence over his choice of tone, but acknowledged that his invocation of a joke was insensitive to Indian caste politics and ought not to be defended as freedom of speech.[11]

Selected works[edit]

  • (with S. S. Bahulkar) The Epic of Shivaji: A Translation and Study of Kavindra. Hyderabad: Orient Longman. 2001. ISBN 9788125020462.
  • Shivaji: Hindu king in Islamic India. New York: Oxford University Press. 2003. ISBN 9780195141269.
  • Meta-religion: Religion and Power in World History. University of California Press. 2014. ISBN 9780520281370.


  1. ^ The then Indian subsidiary of Oxford University Press, the original publisher of the book.


  1. ^ a b James W. Laine: Faculty page at Macalester College: Religious Studies Department
  2. ^ "James W. Laine - Macalester College". Retrieved 2023-04-02.
  3. ^ a b Novetzke, Christian Lee (2004). "The Laine Controversy and the Study of Hinduism". International Journal of Hindu Studies. 8 (1/3): 183–201. ISSN 1022-4556.
  4. ^ 'Maratha' activists vandalise Bhandarkar Institute The Times of India
  5. ^ "India seeks to arrest US scholar", BBC News, 23 March 2004
  6. ^ "James Laine tenders apology for remarks on Shivaji", Outlook, 27 April 2014, archived from the original on 28 August 2021
  7. ^ Supreme Court lifts ban on James Laine's book on Shivaji The Times of India
  8. ^ Supreme Court upholds lifting of ban on Shivaji book DNA
  9. ^ Protests over James Laine's book across Mumbai webindia123.com
  10. ^ Hard-liners slam state, Supreme Court decision on Laine's Shivaji book DNA
  11. ^ Laine, James W. (2011). "Resisting My Attackers; Resisting My Defenders". In Schmalz, Matthew N.; Gottschalk, Peter (eds.). Engaging South Asian Religions: Boundaries, Appropriations, and Resistances. Albany: SUNY Press. pp. 153–172. ISBN 978-1-4384-3323-3. Retrieved 27 September 2012.

External links[edit]