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Pilgrim Nation: The Making of Bharatvarsh Hardcover – 2 March 2020
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About the Author
From the Publisher
Bharatvarsh, pronounced Bhāratvarsh, means ‘land of Bharat’. Bharat was one of the oldest rulers of Jambudvipa. As per Jain mythology, he was the son of Rishabha. After conquering the continent, he wanted to carve his name on the slopes of Mount Meru, located in the centre of the land, to declare his monumental feat. But when he reached the summit, he saw that the slopes were carved with the names of hundreds of kings, each one of whom believed that they were the first conquerors of Jambudvipa, until they reached the summit of Meru and saw the names of earlier conquerors. This story captures the timeless (sanatan) idea of the Indian ethos: we exist in a canvas of infinity. Nothing is unique, or new. Everything has happened before. Everything will happen again. We just forget until the sages bring back the memory.
As per historians, Aryans referred to this land as Sindhusthala or the land of rivers. It was where multiple river-valley cultures emerged, first in the Punjab along the tributaries of the Indus, and later in the basins of the Ganga, Brahmaputra, Mahanadi, Narmada, Godavari, Krishna, and Kaveri. In Vedic texts, each of these river basins is associated with sages such as Vyasa, Dirghatama, Bhrigu, Angira, Agastya, Atri, and many others, probably the mythical Sapta Rishi, or Seven Sages, who spread the Vedic way of life across the subcontinent. The sages were enablers of chieftains, or rajas, who went on to become kings, or chakravartis. The Bharat clan were the chieftains who enabled the organization of the Rig Veda, the oldest Hindu scripture, over 3,000 years ago, in the land we now know as Kurukshetra, north of Delhi. In the Mahabharata, Bharat is the name of a king raised in the forest, who played with the lions.
In the Ramayana, Bharat is the name of a prince who refuses to accept a kingdom that his mother secures through cunning. In the Bhagavata Purana, Bharat is the name of a sage who understood the nature of reality, having lived his previous life as a deer, because in a life before that he had become too attached to a fawn.
Bharat is also the name of the sage who, inspired by Shiva’s dance, composed the Natya Shastra, comprising the Indian approach to the performing arts where the mind is expanded by stimulating the senses, churning the mind and stirring the emotions. Could it be that Bharatvarsh was named not just after Bharat, the king, but also after Bharat, the artist-sage? We can only speculate.
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well sir, if you had mentioned that on the cover instead of hidden at the end of the preface section i would have not bought this one, as most practical readers look for 80% facts expressed through 20% perspective/folklore based narration, instead of tortorous stack of 97% folklore story about gods and then just a casual mention about the origin of the name or significance(again religious) attached to the place.
Dont take this as belligerence, just a long review about how authors at times use keywords on book titles, to try to connect their domain of knowledge to the explanation of a MUUUUUCH more broader and pragmatic mystery, in this case the mystery as claimed by you is "the "making of bharatvarsh" which a normal practical problem solving individual would read as"evolution of india's cultural milieu and civilisation, before the influence of all the known power wielders", and pls note u use the term" bharatvarsh" which colloquial refers to"bharat" the the geographical concept and cultural entity ", and referring to " before all major powers", all this would naturally imply this translation mentioned above of your title.
So in this case the natural course of demystifying the mystery would be to first refer to the current state or the most relevant recent past state, of the object of demystification( eg a highway route, a popular city/ state, a cultural practice) point out the relevant pecuiliarity about it, and then connect that to the mythological/religious background story narrating whatever happened here in the mortal world to deliver the pecularity under observation. And then ideally a string of such chapters in a chronlogical, geographical or some order of progression to develop a thorough understanding of the contribution of pilgrimages in the development of the concept of "bharat".
<<<Thats what we expected from the book basis the title.>>
>>What we get instead,<<
is right off the bat mindnumbing mythological treatise on gods, mythical demons, funny and hard named characters, long and DETAILED folklores, which last for 3/4 th of the chapter, followed by just a few line mention of the place in case, and then back to the mythological battles and tales, which probably is amusing to you as an expert, but for a regular reader looking for real world meaning in the book is excruciating.
All i learn from the 40 min of reading is that devdatt is an awesome expert on hinduism, which is nothing more than what i already know from youtube, and frankly for my appetite of the subject, those free youtube videos wud have been enuf, and for you as a altruist beacon of hindisum that should have been enuf. But no contrary to this mystic non materialistic personality that adorne, you seem to be like a regular author looking to drive sales and expand the set of customer sgements that u tap, with the same domain knowledge that you have, and frankly that's a marketer's approach, and being one myself i can tell you the title of the book is "overly ambituous" at best, and "misleading" at worst.
And hence this experience was like sitting through a long, mindnumbing satyanarayan katha with long folktales the details of which porbably only amuse the pandit, and we sat thru only for the sumptious "ladoos" of practical functional novel knowledge, but instead at the end of the katha, all we get is a measily " charnamrit", which funny enuf might be like real "amrit" to you, but to us is just tateless water, which you expect us to consume is a ritualistic manner and then smear on our heads, coz, well you are better connected to the world beyond, well...guess
what, iam better connected to this purchaee beyond, and i choose "refund", ram ram.
The book is divided into timezones dating from the ancient to the colonial times when these pilgrimage sites were constructed or reconstructed. The book shares interesting stories and anecdotes along with pictures of each site. The author also adds his commentary about various traditions practiced, in contemporary light.
What is heartening to notice is the religious milieu between Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and sometimes even Islam and the depiction of a shared culture that makes India what it is. Beyond differences is a pathway of discourse. Pattnaik also explains the different philosophies associated with the religious sites and the architecture.
These pilgrimage spots located in various parts across and now even beyond the country might be a great guide map for bharat darshan and I would recommend it to not just mythology lovers but travellers and history buffs too.
The research done in collecting information about various stories from various parts of India and their interpretation and association with what are assumed to be the originals is arduous and noteworthy.
Before nationalists and patriots, before colonizers and invaders, before emperors and kings, India was woven together by pilgrim paths. Seekers and sages travelled north and south, east and west, across mountains and along rivers, ignoring artificial boundaries, seeking and finding gods. Renowned mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik takes us on an insightful journey to thirty-two holy sites where ancient and modern deities unravel the complex and layered history, geography, and imagination of the land once known as ‘land of the Indian blackberry’ (Jambudvipa), ‘land of rivers’ (Sindhusthala in Sanskrit, or Hindustan in Persian), ‘expanse of King Bharata’ (Bharatvarsha, or Bharatkhanda), and even ‘abode of joy’ (Sukhavati to the Chinese).
Something that integrates India together is religious beliefs and the presence of religious places acroos the diaspora of the whole country. India’s land is pious and auspicious to any religions from Hinduism to Sikhism, from Jainism to Buddhism, from Zoroastrianism to Christianity and Islam. The presence of these places makes people constantly visist these places in either times of immense tragedy in fear as Devdutt explains later in the book, or in times of joy like festivals. This is what makes movement of beliefs and pilgrims the greatest form of travel that happens in India. This is why India can be called very well be called Pilgrim Nation. Thus Devdutt’s title of the book is very well suited for the book.
He brings the whole country in some pages to the common people. He brings the information of lesser known pilgrim places like Ranakpur, Velankanni, Hirapur and others like Jejuri.
Devdutt’s knowledge about Hindu beliefs is mostly based on local knowledge and practical field knowledge. He is not ridden with intense philosophical knowledge that makes Hindusim feel like an intense and strict religion with a trillion rules and regulations and measures to follow and standards to stand up to. Devdutt’s practical experience makes the book an interesting journey. He explains glimpses of his own visits to the places and the unknown tales and practices related to the places. Even a scholar of Hindu philosophy would fail in naming these places and their importance. Such a scholar is useless who does not know about the very sanctum sanctorum of those places which make India such a great pilgrimage.
Nothing is perfect nor is this book. There are some minor flaws and hiccups that make me take away half a star from the rating. The Yellama chapter focuses on the sexual assault done by the priests and the members. Yet Devdutt somewhat does not delve deep into the Devadasi followed at the Yellama temple. He somehow hids how the then religious tradition has now turned into a sex trade in cloudy sentences. There are some lines that did not get digested in my liver. In Kashi chapter, he mentions that Kashi is special for Buddhists for its proximity to Sanchi, and in the Dwarka chapter, he says that the Yadu clan followed democracy both of which feel like personal assumptions. But these minor flaws does not matter at a bigger overall level.
As a testimony of his practical field knowledge the last prologue is based on how now in the present times both Bollywood and Tollywood cinema has turned the superstars and their houses to somewhat a religious and pious place or person. He explains how Tollywood heroes are turned into somewhat Gods and how people throughout India ensure to click a pic infront of Mannat or Big B’s house.
Yet along with this practical knowledge, Devdutt writes beautifully. His ending lines and his way of explaining intense philosophical issues is praise worthy. He explains beautifully an incident at Ranakpur. There is a Kalpavriksha made on the ceiling which if you stand below and ask any wish it gets fufilled. A lady giggles and tells Devdutt while seeing the people asking wishes, They are fools, they are wishing to the leaf for the desires of their life standing infront of a deity who became liberated for leaving all the desires. One is to understand and learn a great lesson from this line itself. Same way Devdutt explains beautifully the philosophy behind Jagannath of Puri called so, why He is the lord of the world. The ending lines of each chapter are so beautiful that one is bound to note them. The experience of the book lives with you for a long time even if you have finished the book twice.