Saturday March 24, 2018
Home India Book Review: ...

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

Greg Bailey
Hinduism in India: The Early Period. Facebook
  • “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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


‘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.


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.


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

NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.
Click here

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2017 NewsGram

Next Story

Right of Nature: Are Rivers Living Beings?

Should rivers be considered Living Entities?

Right of Nature
Many cultures across the globe believe that rivers are living beings or Gods/Goddesses and they just take the form of water bodies.

By Dr. Bharti Raizada, Chicago

Science says that water bodies are not living entities, as water does not need food, does not grow, and reproduce. Water is required for life, but in itself it is nonliving.

However, many cultures across the globe believe that rivers are living beings or Gods/Goddesses and they just take the form of water bodies.

The Maori tribe in New Zealand considers the Whanganui River as their ancestor and the Maori people fought to get it a legal status as a living being. In 2017, a court in New Zealand gave this river the status of living being and same rights as humans, to protect it from pollution. Thus, now if someone pollutes in it then it is considered equivalent to harming a human.

ALSO READ: Worshiping mother nature part of our tradition: Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Right of Nature
Rivers are sacred in many religions, including Hinduism. Image courtesy: Dr. Bharti Raizada

Rivers are sacred in Hinduism also. Hindus believe that the Ganga descended from heaven and call her Ganga Maa. A few days after New Zealand’s court decision, Uttarakhand high court in India gave the Ganga and Yamuna rivers and their tributaries the status of living human entities. The Court-appointed three officials as legal custodians. However, the court did not clarify many aspects related to this decision.

After this verdict some of the questions, which naturally came to mind, were:

Can Hindus still do rituals of flowing ashes, leaves, flowers, diyas in river or no? Can a dam be built on the river after this judgment? If some damage, to a person, animal, plants, or property, occurs because of river e.g. overflow, hurricanes, flooding etc., how the river will pay the liabilities? What if all rivers, oceans, ponds etc. are given the status of living beings? Will drinking water from river become a crime? What about taking water and using it for routine needs,  agriculture or building structures? Will it be illegal? If a child throws a stone in water, will it be a criminal act? Will fishing be considered stealing? What about boating? If someone is using heat near water and water evaporates, is it equal to taking the body part of a human being? What about taking a bath in the river?

Right of Nature
If the river gets a living status, as human, then we cannot use it for anything without its permission, so everyone has to stop touching the water. Image courtesy: Dr. Bharti Raizada

ALSO READ: Decoding supernatural: What is the nature of entities and gods who influence human behavior

Other queries, which arise, are:

Will animals and plants get the same status? What if you kill an ant or a chicken etc. or cut a tree? Will all animals and plants get a legal custodian?

Where is all the waste supposed to go? It has to go somewhere back in nature, right?

Uttrakhand state government challenged the judgement in Supreme Court and the latter reversed the judgment.

Right of Nature
So where do we stand? In my opinion, granting living status to nature is a different thing than giving protected status or preserving nature. Image by Dr. Bharti Raizada

ALSO READ: How nature destroys the negative tendencies in a positive manner

Ecuador’s constitution recognized the Right of Nature to exist, specifically Vilcabamba river, in 2008.

Then Bolivia passed the law of the right of mother earth and granted Nature equal rights as humans.

Many communities in the U.S.A. passed the Right of Nature law.

These laws are creating a dilemma or quandary also, as people need to use these resources. We cannot live without using natural resources. However, there is a difference between using natural resources and afflicting or destroying these. So, please use natural resources very diligently. Try not to vitiate nature.

On World Water Day (March 22), please start taking care of rivers, so that there is no need for future celebrations. It should not be a one-day celebration anyway, we should scrupulously look out for nature all the time.

Dr. Raizada is a practicing anesthesiologist.