Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty (born November 20, 1940)
is an American Indologist whose professional career has spanned five decades. A scholar of Sanskrit and Indian textual traditions, her major works include, Asceticism and Eroticism in the Mythology of Siva;Hindu Myths: A Sourcebook; The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology; Women, Androgynes, and Other Mythical Beasts; and The Rig Veda: An Anthology, 108 Hymns Translated from the Sanskrit.
Doniger is the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of History of Religions at the University of Chicago, and has taught there since 1978.
Doniger was born in New York City to immigrant non-observant Jewish parents, and raised in Great Neck New York, where her father, Lester L Doniger (1909–1971), ran a publishing business. While in high school, she studied dance under George Balanchine andMartha Graham. She graduated summa cum laude in Sanskrit and Indian Studies from Radcliffe College in 1962, and received her M.A. from Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in June 1963. She then studied in India in 1963–1964 with a 12-month Junior Fellowship from the American Institute of Indian Studies. She received a Ph.D. from Harvard University in June 1968, with a dissertation on Asceticism and Sexuality in the Mythology of Siva, supervised by Daniel H. H. Ingalls, Sr.. She obtained a D. Phil. in Oriental Studiesfrom Oxford University, in February 1973, with a dissertation on The Origins of Heresy in Hindu Mythology, supervised by R.C.Zaehner.
Doniger holds the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor Chair in History of Religions at the University of Chicago. She is the editor of the scholarly journal History of Religions, having served on its editorial board since 1979, and has edited a dozen other publications in her career. In 1985 she was elected President of the American Academy of Religion, and in 1997 President of the Association for Asian Studies. She serves on the International Editorial Board of the Encyclopædia Britannica.
She was invited to give the 2010 Art Institute of Chicago President's Lecture at the Chicago Humanities Festival, which was titled, "The Lingam Made Flesh: Split-Level Symbolism in Hindu Art".