“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.

“Devi: The Goddesses of India” edited by John Stratton Hawley & Donna Marie Wulff

Hindus, by and large, are accustomed to a plethora of Gods and Goddesses. From childhood on they have seen their parents and the elders in their houses worship a myriad of gods and goddesses. Every child will remember a shrine, big or small, ornate or simple, which housed the gods and goddesses to which the family prayed. The Gods and Goddesses which featured in the prayers often depended upon which part of the country one lived in. In the North of India, it was commonly Vaishno Devi, just as it was Durga in the East of India and Saraswati , the Goddess of Learning in the South of India. Perhaps Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth was a common factor all over the country. I too had my own notions about the Goddesses of India. Continue reading ““Devi: The Goddesses of India” edited by John Stratton Hawley & Donna Marie Wulff”

“The Life of Hinduism” Edited by John Stratton Hawley & Vasudha Narayanan

Perhaps as you grow older, you become more interested in religion and spiritualism. This could be one reason why these days I have been reading books I would never have sought out even 10 years ago. One on this list is, ” The Life of Hinduism” edited by John Stratton Hawley, Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Religion at Bernard College, and Vasudha Narayanan, Professor at the University of Florida. This was first published by the University of California Press in 2006. The version I read is the one published exclusively  for South Asia by the Aleph Book Company in 2017.  Continue reading ““The Life of Hinduism” Edited by John Stratton Hawley & Vasudha Narayanan”

“My Hanuman Chalisa” by Devdutt Pattanaik

“Jo yeh padhe/Hanuman Chalisa/Hoye siddhi/sakhi Gaureesa” these lines are known to almost every Hindu. If they have not actually read them, they would have heard them recited by their elders, their parents and their grandparents. The lines written in Awadhi by Tusidas over 400 years ago mean, “Whoever reads/these forty verses of Hanuman/Will achieve whatever he desires/a claim to which Gauri’s lord (Shiva) is witness.” Awadhi is a dialect of Hindi that was commonly spoken in the areas of the Gangetic plains which include the holy cities of Awadh or Ayodhya and Kashi or Varanasi.  Continue reading ““My Hanuman Chalisa” by Devdutt Pattanaik”