Sunday, December 23, 2012

7 Secrets of Shiva

Author:     Devdutt Pattanaik
Published: 2011
Publisher: Westland Ltd.
Paperback: 234 pages

I was really impressed with the author's book 7 Secrets of Vishnu which I  read last year. I have even written a summary of it in this  blog.
So I ordered for this book when one of my Flipkart coupons was about to expire.
This book intends to clarify for the readers the implicit patterns in the stories, symbols and rituals of Lord Shiva.
There are seven chapters in this book.
The first chapter,Lingeshwara's Secret - Imagination makes us human, explains the meaning of the Shiva-linga going beyond its conventional interpretation as a phallic symbol. 
The second chapter ,Bhairava's Secret- From fear comes all corruption, focuses on Shiva's violent disdain for territorial behavior amongst humans.
The third and fourth chapters - Shankara's Secret - Without empathy there is no evolution and Bholenath's Secret - Culture is a human delusion - deal with how the Goddess Shakti, Shiva's consort gets him to compassionately engage with the world.
The next two chapters - Ganesha's Secret - Food alone does not satisfy hunger and Murugan's Secret - Face fear to outgrow it -  revolves around these two son's of Shiva who, through whom he connects with the world.
The final chapter, Nataraja's Secret - Destruction is deconstruction, presents Shiva as the wise teacher who expresses wisdom through dance.

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 his research.
The writing style is more coherent and simpler as compared to the author's other book 7 Secrets of Vishnu.
The book has an attractively designed cover and profusely illustrated. Every alternate page has an illustration of a classic painting  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:
  • A glossary for non-English terms used in this book.
  • An index to easily locate the interesting pieces of information.
  • A consolidated list of all the illustrations along with their sources. 
  • A hardcover version of this book with glossy illustrations in color will make this an excellent coffee table book.
I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in religious mythology, spirituality or philosophy. At just Rs. 250/- this book is a real bargain. 

Sample illustrations from this book: 

[Please feel free to leave your comments below or bookmark/share this summary]

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