Tuesday, November 8, 2011

7 Secrets of Vishnu

Author:     Devdutt Pattanaik
Published: 2011
Publisher: Westland Ltd.
Paperback: 232 pages

I received this book from Blogadda under their book review program.
I belong to the Iyengar community which worships Vishnu as their main deity. Therefore I am generally familiar with most of the legends and rituals built around Vishnu. However I was always curious to know the hidden meaning and significance behind them and hence this book sounded interesting and I offered to review it. 

There are seven chapters in this book, each dealing with one secret of Vishnu. These seven chapters also correspond to seven of the several avatars (reincarnations) of Vishnu viz.; Mohini, Matsya, Kurma, Trivikrama, Ram, Krishna and Kalki.  These avatars are chosen to explain various underlying and hidden metaphysical and philosophical themes :
  1. Mohini's Secret - Spiritual growth need not exclude material growth.. 
  2. Matsya's Secret - Difference between man and animal - only humans can empathize, and exploit.
  3. Kurma's Secret - Wealth eludes the insecure.
  4. Trivikrama's Secret - Ignorance breeds insecurity and ignorance.
  5. Ram's Secret - Outgrow the beast to discover the divine.
  6. Krishna's Secret - Know the thoughts behind actions.
  7. Kalki's Secret - The wisdom of letting go of things with a faith in its renewal.
 The title of the book is a misnomer for it reveals much more than seven secrets of Vishnu . It also slips in the secrets of  Shiva, Brahma, Saraswati, Lakshmi and many more gods, goddesses, asuras and rakshsas as well as a bonus within confines of the above chapters !
All the legends , rituals and symbols are very well interpreted, though I am not sure whether it is author's own interpretation or whether it is based on the research he had conducted.The writing style could have been simplified a bit more. It is slightly abstruse and somewhat disjointed and lacks a spontaneous flow. This may cause some difficulty to readers not exposed to Hindu philosophical concepts, though for me it is not a major issue.
The book has an attractively designed cover and an impressive layout of pages.It is profusely illustrated. Every alternate page has an illustration of a classic painting (for e.g.Mysore painting, Kerala murals, Pahari miniature, Mughal paintings, Patta paintings etc.) or a calendar art or a temple sculpture. The illustrations are well supported by explanations in call-out bubbles which point to the exact part of the illustration being explained. See below a sample of such illustrations.
A few suggestions for the author and the publisher to be taken care of in the next edition:
  1. A glossary for non-English terms used in this book.
  2. An index to easily locate the interesting pieces of information.
  3. A consolidated list of all the illustrations along with their sources.
  4. A hardcover version of this book with glossy illustrations in color will make this an excellent coffee table book.
Overall I am really impressed with this book and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in religious mythology, spirituality or philosophy. At just Rs. 250/- this book is a real bargain. 
I was luckier since I got to read it free. However as a part of the deal ,  I had to try hard and take time out to write a 500 word review within the 7 days deadline given by BlogAdda. But it was worth it.

Visit the Author's website for interesting articles on mythology.

Sample illustrations from this book:

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!
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