“The Bhagavad Gita For Millennials”: Bibek Debroy

Actually, I believe the title of Bibek Debroy’s book, ” The Bhagavad Gita For Millennials” (published by Rupa in 2020) is a misnomer. While it might entice the millennials to read it, I think it is apt for people of all ages. So simply and well has Debroy approached the subject which, at first, might appear to be a daunting read especially for the uninitiated. Debroy, as you may have heard, is a famous economist and translator. He happens to be the Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Council, no less!

The millennial by popular definition are those born between 1981 to 1996, so they would be between 24 to 39 years old now. While Debroy targets them as a reading audience, the book has wider meaning for those older than 40!

It is replete with information- much of which I must confess- I didn’t know myself. Starting from the shruthi texts and the smriti texts, ( such as the Mahabharata) Debroy explains just how vast the texts in Hinduism are. Some who associate the Gita exclusively with the Bhagavad Gita may be astonished to know that there are probably 58 Gitas.

The Bhagavad Gita as is well known comes from the epic- The Mahabharata. For a generation which has seen this on television in India, the book explains many nuances of how it should be read. The author argues that it is best read in Sanskrit, but for those who don’t know Sanskrit there have been many translations over the centuries. The earliest translation into English rules believed to be by Charles Wilkins way back in 1785.

Debroy also shares his research into just how ancient the Bhagavad Gita is with cogent reasoning. He also decries the tendency to quote the Gita selectively or out of context and gives a few common examples. Here scholars and layman alike have been guilty of picking a phrase or sentence and using it to justify their actions saying it is written in the Gita!

This book should not be read in a hurry. I would advice that you read it with an open and calm mind. While the explanations themselves are lucid, if you are not familiar with Sanskrit ( probably applies to most of us ) your reading speed will be constrained. It is recommended that you read both the Sanskrit original followed by the explanation in English of the shlokas.

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