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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
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.

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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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After Three Decades, Japanese Emperor Akihito Will Abdicate His Throne

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Japan
Japan's Emperor Akihito takes part in a ritual called Taiirei-Tojitsu-Kashikodokoro-Omae-no-gi, a ceremony for the Emperor to report the conduct of the abdication ceremony, at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan April 30, 2019. VOA

Japanese Emperor Akihito will abdicate on Tuesday in favor of his elder son, ending a three-decade reign during which he sought to ease the painful memories of World War Two and engage with people, including the marginalized in society.

The abdication, the first by a Japanese monarch in two centuries, will be marked by a brief and relatively simple ceremony in the Imperial Palace’s prestigious Matsu no ma, or Hall of Pine. About 300 people will attend and it will be broadcast live on television.

Akihito, 85, was the first Japanese monarch to take the throne under a post-war constitution that defines the emperor as a symbol of the people without political power.

His father, Hirohito, in whose name Japanese troops fought World War Two, was considered a living deity until after Japan’s defeat in 1945, when he renounced his divinity.

People raise hands as they shout 'banzai', or cheers, facing the Imperial Palace on the day of the Emperor Akihito's abdication in Tokyo, April 30, 2019.
People raise hands as they shout ‘banzai’, or cheers, facing the Imperial Palace on the day of the Emperor Akihito’s abdication in Tokyo, April 30, 2019. VOA

Akihito, together with Empress Michiko, his wife of 60 years and the first commoner to marry an imperial heir, carved out an active role as a symbol of reconciliation, peace and democracy.

“I think the emperor is loved by the people. His image is one of encouraging the people, such as after disasters, and being close to the people,” Morio Miyamoto, 48, said as he waited near a train station in western Tokyo.

“I hope the next emperor will, like the Heisei emperor, be close to the people in the same way,” he said.

Akihito, who has had treatment for prostate cancer and heart surgery, said in a televised address in 2016 that he feared his age would make it hard for him to carry out his duties fully.

‘Sacred treasures’

Akihito will report his abdication on Tuesday morning at sanctuaries inside the Imperial Palace grounds, one honoring the sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami, from whom mythology says the imperial line is descended, and two others honoring departed emperors and Shinto gods.

The abdication ceremony will take place in the afternoon with attendees including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Empress Michiko, Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, as well as the heads of both houses of parliament and Supreme Court justices.

Imperial chamberlains will carry state and privy seals into the room along with two of Japan’s “Three Sacred Treasures” — a sword and a jewel — which together with a mirror are symbols of the throne. They are said to originate in ancient mythology. Abe will announce the abdication and Akihito will make his final remarks as emperor.

Naruhito, 59, will become emperor in separate ceremonies on Wednesday. Naruhito, who studied at Oxford, is likely to continue an active role and together with Harvard-educated Masako give the monarchy a cosmopolitan tinge.

FILE - Japan's Emperor Akihito, flanked by Imperial Household Agency officials carrying two of the so-called Three Sacred Treasures of Japan, leaves the main sanctuary as he visits the Inner shrine of the Ise Jingu shrine, ahead of his April 30, 2019 abdication.
Japan’s Emperor Akihito, flanked by Imperial Household Agency officials carrying two of the so-called Three Sacred Treasures of Japan, leaves the main sanctuary as he visits the Inner shrine of the Ise Jingu shrine, ahead of his April 30, 2019 abdication. VOA

Police have tightened security near the Imperial Palace, a 115-hectare site that is home to the emperor and empress in the heart of Tokyo. Media said several thousand police officers were being mobilized in the capital over the next few days.

Tuesday marks the last day of the Heisei imperial era, which began on Jan. 8, 1989, after Akihito inherited the throne. The era saw economic stagnation, natural disasters and rapid technological change.

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Akihito officially remains emperor until midnight, when the new Reiwa era, meaning “beautiful harmony,” begins.

Japanese traditionally refer to the date by the era name, or “gengo,” a system originally imported from China, on documents, calendars and coins but many people also use the Western calendar. (VOA)