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Book Review: Hinduism in Ancient India and the Various Aspects of its Traditions by Greg Bailey

These seven essays from the book range from epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata to the mythologies that form the core of Hinduism

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Greg Bailey
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  • “Hinduism in India: The Early Period’ is a compilation of essays highlighting different aspects of Hinduism
  • The Book is edited by Greg Bailey and published by SAGE
  • It is made up of seven essays covering a variety of epics and mythologies

August 15: 2017:  A compilation of essays defining various aspects of Hinduism and its traditions, Sage Publications brings to you a beautiful book by Greg Bailey, titled “Hinduism in India: The Early Period’.

Although it is complex to concise something as vast as Hinduism in a single book, Greg Bailey’s topics of selection are worthy of comprehension.

There is a total of seven essays that make up this book. These seven essays range from epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata to the mythologies that are at the core of Hinduism. Bailey’s efforts of compiling the most vital of events together should be applauded.

However, Free Press Journal had rightly observed that ‘Hinduism in India’ is sort of redundant due to the fact that India’s gift to the world was Hinduism and even today Hinduism largely refers to India.

ALSO READ: Arundhati Roy’s Latest Fiction “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness” makes it to the Long-list of Man Booker Prize 2017

CHAPTER 1

The first chapter of the book, is, of course, the introduction to the book written by Greg Bailey himself. He provides an overview of Hinduism and its principles. It was rightly observed in the review that most readers are accustomed to the usage of BC and AD for studying chronology, whereas the book has used BCE and ACE which can prove to be an impediment for some time. Referring to Axel Michaels, Greg Bailey has highlighted the significance of rituals in Hinduism. Rituals like sacrifice and asceticism are at the very core of Hindu religion. But they are not exclusive to Hinduism. Sacrifices and asceticism are present in other religions as well. Furthermore, Bailey explains the division of rituals into three distinct parts. The first two of these include- Devotional practices/ beliefs and Public Animal Sacrifice. Sacrifices are now rare in the modern practice of Hinduism.

CHAPTER 2

The second chapter of the book is also written by the editor Greg Bailey. It is about the wider aspects of Hinduism. It also states the classification of Historical periods. The writer then talks about how different rulers and empires contributed to the shaping up of Hinduism. The four phases of Hindu life, i.e. student life, householder, hermit and ascetic wandered are also presented. But this is a little discrepancy because last two phases are retirement and renunciation. The chapter ends with a discussion on the conflict of class between mainstream and independent Hindus.

CHAPTER 3

The third chapter of the book is titled ‘Rituals’. It is written by Axel Michaels. The chapter is interesting because rituals are integrated deeply within the religion. However, a lot of discrepancies are to be found. Renunciation, according to Michaels, is a ritual. But there is no reason to believe so. Secondly, ‘Garbha’ which is the womb is referred to as the semen. Being from another religion, it may have been immensely complicated for the writer to figure out Hindu rituals.

CHAPTER 4

The fourth chapter of the book is dedicated to Mahabharata, authored by Adam Bowles. Bowles has done a good research on the Hindu epic and his study is shown in his writing. For those who do not know the Mahabharata, this chapter is a revelation. The chapter is in fact so extensive that one might conclude all of Hinduism is tells the story of Mahabharata.

CHAPTER 5

Titled ‘Mythology’, the fourth chapter of the book is written by Greg Bailey. Free Press Journal suggests this chapter can be avoided due to the many lapses present. Bailey’s reference of technical institutes teaching management techniques and western based management techniques is nothing but preposterous.

CHAPTER 6

‘Religious Pathways’ is the chapter five written by Angelika Malinar. Her literary expertise helped Swami Vivekananda find pithy treatment. This chapter is a powerful one. If any discrepancy it is that the Bhakti movement which played a major role in influencing Hinduism and society was not discussed extensively. The focus given to Bhakti could have been much more.

CHAPTER 7

The chapter seven of the book is the longest chapter also. Written by Eric John Lott and titled ‘Hindu Theology’, it talks at great length about the Epics, Puranas, Vedas, Bhagwad Gita, Vedanta, and Poetry. Lott’s attempt is worth applauding because he tried to cover a very broad topic in a nutshell. Issues of sentiments have been objectively met by the author.

CHAPTER 8

The last chapter is a dedication to Hindu art by author Crispin Branfoot. Religion is influenced by its art and scriptures. The author has talked about temples, scriptures and other art forms that have resulted in our knowledge of Hinduism. Crispin Branfoot has done a remarkable job of talking about art, which is itself limitless. Over so many years, different art forms have helped to shape Hinduism but Branfoot had tried to cover most of these. Temples of Khajuraho, Angkor Vat, and Mamallapuram have all been mentioned.

To conclude, the book is good for anybody who wants to refer to some events or definitions since the categorization of the essays and their sequence is a job well done. It is interesting to read this painstaking effort by authors and scholars to objectively portray the different aspects of the religion that is Hinduism. Their efforts are exhibited in their writings.

– prepared by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394


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8 Amazing Facts About Lord Hanuman That Will Astonish You

The glorious tales of Lord Hanuman is mentioned in several texts, such as the Mahabharata, the Puranas, the Buddhist and Sikh texts

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Hanuman is the son of Anjana and Kesari. Wikimedia Commons
Hanuman is the son of Anjana and Kesari. Wikimedia Commons
  • Once Lord Hanuman assumed a very rare form of Panch-Mukhi Hanuman to kill the demon Ahiravan
  • Hanuman was kind of a naughty kid in his childhood and he often used to tease the meditating sages in the forests
  • Agni blessed Lord Hanuman, Saying, “Fire will never burn you

Lord Hanuman was a passionate devotee of Lord Rama and one of the crucial characters in the various versions of the epic Ramayana found in the Indian subcontinent. The glorious tales of Lord Hanuman is also mentioned in several other texts, such as the Mahabharata, the Puranas, the Buddhist and Sikh texts.

As per several other texts, Lord Hanuman is also presented as an incarnation of Shiva. Hanuman is the son of Anjana and Kesari. He is also taken as the son of the wind-god Vayu, who according to several stories played a role in his birth.

Hanuman Jayanti

The Hanuman Jayanti is also known as Hanuman Janam-Utsav. Hanuman Jayanti is a Hindu religious festival that celebrates the birth of Lord Sri Hanuman, who is immensely venerated throughout India and Nepal.

During the Pandavas' exile, Hanuman masked as a weak and aged monkey to Bhima in order to subdue his arrogance. Wikimedia Commons
During the Pandavas’ exile, Hanuman masked as a weak and aged monkey to Bhima in order to subdue his arrogance. Wikimedia Commons

Hanuman Jayanti is celebrated on different days in different parts of India. In many states, the festival is observed either in the day of Chaitra Pournimaa or in the month of Vaishakha. In a few states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu, Hanuman Jayanti is celebrated in the Hindu month of Margazhi.

Hanuman Chalisa

The Hanuman Chalisa literally means forty Chaupais (chapter) on Lord Hanuman. It is a Hindu devotional hymn addressed to Lord Hanuman.

Traditionally, it was believed that Hanuman Chalisa was authored by 16th-century poet Tulsidas in the Awadhi language and is his best-known text apart from the Ramcharitmanas.

The word “Chalisa” is derived from “Chalis”, which means the number forty in Hindi. So does the Hanuman Chalisa has 40 verses.

Here, we have compiled some interesting facts about Lord Hanuman which will surely amaze you.

  1. Lord Hanuman’s battle with Lord Rama

The sage Vishwamithra ordered Lord Rama to kill Yayati. Sensing the gravity of the situation, Yayathi pleaded Lord Hanuman for help. The Yayati was promised By Hanuman that he would save Yayati from any kind of danger.

In the battlefield, Lord Hanuman did not use any weapon. Hanuman stood chanting Rama’s name and the arrows from Lord Rama’s bow did not have any effect on him

Finally, Lord Rama had to give up and sage Vishwamithra relieved Rama of his word seeing the courage of Hanuman.

Once Lord Hanuman assumed a very rare form of Panch-Mukhi Hanuman to kill the demon Ahiravan. Wikimedia Commons
Once Lord Hanuman assumed a very rare form of Panch-Mukhi Hanuman to kill the demon Ahiravan. Wikimedia Commons

2. Hanuman’s hunger saga

Once Lord Hanuman visited Sita Mata in sage Valmiki’s cottage and expressed his desire to eat some food cooked by Sita. Sita Mata started cooking many dishes and started serving Hanuman.

But Hanuman’s hunger was unquenchable and the entire rations of the house were coming to an end and finally, Sita Mata had to pray Lord Rama. Then Lord Hanuman suggested Sita Mata serve a morsel with a Tulsi Leaf and then his hunger was finally satisfied.

Also Read: Saphala Ekadashi: Significance, Celebrations, Rituals, Festival Timings and Dates

3. Five headed Hanuman

Once Lord Hanuman assumed a very rare form of Panch-Mukhi Hanuman to kill the demon Ahiravan. Ahiravan was the younger brother of Ravan, who kidnapped Ram and Lakshman and took them to the Netherworld. The only way to kill Ahiravan was to extinguish 5 lamps in 5 different directions, which Lord Hanuman did with Panch-Mukhi form.

The other five faces of Hanuman, apart from himself are that of Narasimha, Garuda, Varaha and Hayagriva.

4. Demise of Rama

Lord Ram would have lived more only if Lord Hanuman wouldn’t have allowed Yama to enter Ayodhya to claim Ram.

Lord Ram diverted Hanuman’s attention by dropping his ring through a crack in the floor and asked Hanuman to fetch it back for him. Lord Hanuman immediately reached the land of serpents and asked their King for Ram’s ring and the king showed Hanuman a vault filled with rings all of which were Ram’s.

Hanuman challenged Arjuna to build a bridge like the one Lord Rama made. Wikimedia Commons
Hanuman challenged Arjuna to build a bridge like the one Lord Rama made. Wikimedia Commons

5. The curse on Hanuman

Hanuman was kind of a naughty kid in his childhood and he often used to tease the meditating sages in the forests. Finding Lord Hanuman’s unbearable acts, but realizing that he was but a child, the sages placed a mild curse on him by which he became unable to remember his own ability unless reminded by another person.

The curse of the sages is featured in Kishkindha Kanda and Sundara Kanda when Jambavantha reminds Hanuman of his abilities and encourages him to go and find Sita.

6. God’s blessing to Hanuman

After the birth of Lord Hanuman, Varuna blessed Lord Hanuman with a boon that he would always be protected from water and Agni blessed him, Saying, “Fire will never burn you.” Surya blessed him with two siddhis of yoga namely “Laghima” and “Garima”(“Laghima” could help him to attain the smallest form and with “Garima” the biggest form of life).

Vayu showered Lord Hanuman with more speed than he himself had and Yama (the God of Death) blessed him with a healthy life.

Also Read: Diwali 2017: Significance of the Diwali, Celebrations & Rituals, Date & Diwali Recipes

7. Lord Hanuman and Bhima confrontation

Hanuman is also appraised to be the brother of Bhima as they had the same father, Vayu. During the Pandavas’ exile, Hanuman masked as a weak and aged monkey to Bhima in order to subdue his arrogance.

Hanuman put his tail by blocking Bhima’s way. Bhima, unaware of his identity, tells him to move it out of the way but was refused by Lord Hanuman. Bhima wasn’t able to move the tail by himself, despite his great strength.

Lord Ram would have lived more only if Lord Hanuman wouldn't have allowed Yama to enter Ayodhya to claim Ram. Wikimedia Commons
Lord Ram would have lived more only if Lord Hanuman wouldn’t have allowed Yama to enter Ayodhya to claim Ram. Wikimedia Commons

8. Mahabharata’s relevance

During the illustrious battle of Kurukshetra, Arjuna made his way into the battlefield with a flag displaying Hanuman on his chariot.

Earlier, after one of the encounters between Hanuman and Arjuna, Hanuman appeared as a small talking monkey before Arjuna at Rameshwaram, where Rama had built a bridge to cross over to Lanka.

Hanuman challenged Arjuna to build such a bridge alone when Lord Hanuman found out that Arjuna’s was wondering aloud at Rama’s taking the help of monkeys rather than building a bridge of arrows.