My Rating: 2 / 5 Star
Diana L. Eck (born 1945 in Bozeman, Montana) is a scholar of religious studies who is Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies at Harvard University, as well as a Master of Lowell House and the Director of The Pluralism Project at Harvard. Among other works, she is the author of Banaras, City of Light, Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India, Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras, and A New Religious America: How a Christian Country Became the World’s Most Religiously Diverse Nation. At Harvard, she is in the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies, the Committee on the Study of Religion, and is also a member of the Faculty of Divinity. She has been reappointed the chair for the Committee on the Study of Religion, a position which she held from 1990 to 1998.
Raised as a Christian Methodist in Montana, Eck later embraced Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist beliefs about spirituality and now she describes her religious ideals as “interfaith” infrastructures. She has been connected with the World Council of Churches, and Harvard Divinity School.
Eck received her B.A. in Religious Studies from Smith College in 1967, and her M.A. in South Asian History from The School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London in 1968. In 1976 she received her Ph.D. from Harvard University in the Comparative Study of Religion.
India is one of the most interesting topics for me and I am very much impress about the view made by this book. Literally this book transferred the message of India and geological study through its vast number of pilgrimage known as “Thiratha”.
As a insider of this tradition and customs, I can see things differently and may be more emotionally. Here this books talked about various places of India’s pilgrimage. Seriously, after landing from airport you will find that India is not just a nation of Land, forest, river and people. It is a nation of 1.25 billions stories and truths. These stories about their Lord and Dharma (Indian Hindu religion) is embedded from street of Delhi to peak of Himalaya’s, From west land of dawarka to east of Brahmaputra, from middle of Madhya Pradesh to South sea of Chennai.
India is one of country where religion is not printed in holy books but in Mind and Life of native peoples.
Diana start her journey with vast details of pilgrimage in India. Her books show some map which is belongs to Pandav’s (Mahabharata’s hero’s) journey to pilgrimage during their exile. Then she landed to Hindutva Ideology (I am really fascinated when people enhanced this ideology as terror outfit. I mean do we consider Christians or Islamic people terrorist when they preached national integrity of based on Christians nation and Islamic nation, how it painted bad when its come to Hindus ideology for nation strengthen-Hinduphobia) which I think she is consistently in opposition. However, then she try to too and forth many time in Mahabharata and Ramayana for proving these epics are mixtures of myths and geography.
(This kind of narration I always oppose if you look any holy book, they are meant to deliver many things in package i.e. History, poetry, morals, account of Incident in ancient time, ancestral wisdoms. I have seen bible is account of mixed of everything, Jesus is not consider as mythical figure but West do biased in this. They consider Ramayana and Mahabharata is mythical account or geographical account captured by many ancient aesthetic during their lifetime Only.)
Well, Diana has divide whole book in eight sections which slowly unwrapped the cover of her view about India. She is one of the sympathizers of India wisdom but hard to digest the new emerging Indian national identity. Her argue revolved around the question that Is this new national identity of India is gift of colonizers and geography of ancient India is just based on pilgrimage. She has started to answer this question by linking and giving common account of pilgrimage and ancient bard/stories related to pilgrimage all across the India. She has taken account of Ashoka’s edict on Hinduism for expansion of India in early time and alexander Historian’s Strabo account of describing India in 3 BCE.
Diana is no doubt very excellent writer and she started this book an Idea about India. Actually she asked an question to Indian consciousness that “What is India?”. This is very old age technique of Hindu phobic writes to confused people or refueled people mind about the very concept you are about to read. Diana explain India as diverse it is, she started to describe about beauty of Himalayas and satisfied wind of Rameshwaram.
She attacked on Sir Jhon Starchey, who considered that India was not a united nation as a geography. He said “There is no such country, and this is the first and most essential fact about India that can be learned. India is name, which we give to great region including a multitude of different countries. There is no general Indian term that corresponded to it” Page 62
According to her, John Strachey ignored the holographic signs of Pilgrimage which is very core part of Indian spiritual life. She also describe that how he totally denied the many scripture which was accurately describe the land marked of India in every verse from Puranas to Ramayana/Mahabharata. She briefly describe how India has been named by many invaders or other religion people i.e. Al-Hind, Hindustan, India etc.
Rose Apple Island: India in The lotus of the world.
In this chapter Diana explain how Indians philosophy was not only concentrated to Indian land only. The very ancient idea of India included other realm also where whole earth is Consider as “Bhuloka” (A realm of Planetary system), where India is nothing but just part of this bhuloka. Their ancient philosophy they describe many other nation and vertical realm from heaven to hell.
Diana expression for Indian wisdom and their ideas of other nation is appreciable. she has been vocal to rigveda X.90 which describe about how universe formed from non being state to being state which we known as Brahamad. she explain many theory mentioned in Puranas-specially Vishnu Puran, shiv puran and Brahma Purana. Most of the Purana contain similar stories but with a bit of defection and indicate Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh as prime dieties after Brahaman (Supreme Being).
The Ganga and the rivers of India
India is land of river and each river has his stories. Ganga amongst them consider it most divine. It is one of the river in world which worshiped by millions of people as live god and nature mother. she has been called as lady goddess and consider divine in form of river. One of the accepted thought in Indian societies is that she is living and has memory to remember every sinner. she is consider that most divine who can wash your sin if you bath with her water once with clear mind. Indians consider this river one of great river that many others river in India is nominated as Ganga of South, west and east.
Indian river system contain Yamuna, Ganga, sindh, Barhamputra, kaveri, krishana, Tugabhadra etc. many river. each river has her stories and denoted as divine goddess. These rivers are lifeline of religious system in India. each years many pilgrimage visited such places.
Diana has describe each and every details of river and I am sure she has done waste study for understanding these river system. But here also, she never missed to blame Indian right wings for bad condition’s of river while every one know a country with population of 1.25 billion people in which such rivers are part of their religious sentiments, its common responsibilities of Govt and People to keep them clean and alive. But writer seems to have an agenda after each chapter she throw garbage of each and everything on Indian right wing while they have served only 7 Years out of 67 years Independence.
Moreover, Indian river system has wast network in south and consider mostly sacred. she has mentioned each and every details of pilgrimage through out the length of river. a must read experience.
Shiva Light In the land of India
This chapter is dedicated to Lord Shiva and his jyotirlinga (symbols of Light). I would like to remove one misconception from my reader mind. many of them think, Shiva Linga is a phallic symbol of Indian religious system cause in Devanagari (Hindi) linga is mentioned for sex/phallic symbols but in Sanskrit Linga and Lingam is mentioned for “Symbol”. Hence, she attacked on many western writer which tried to misquoted this symbols and try to derail the value of Shiva linga through rhetorical and illogical argues.
India has many places which is count as Jyotir (Light) Linga (symbol) of Shiva. few of them is Omakeshwara, mahakala, Rameshwara etc. These places doesn’t have any idol but a symbol of Shiva (consider that more than 10000 BCE the same symbol used for him as God), which is self emerged in specific point in Histories. Many symbols are such powerful that lingam has meganetic capacities. Hence, many Indians called them power center of earth.
(Disclaimer: Some part of book is biased but over all it is good book. I would like to suggest reader, if you read any book about Hinduism. Never ever believed on any book on Study of Indian history & Hinduism. West Indologist and scholar has done insensitive and biased study on This subject.)