Oct 8, 2011

The pending review...finally done

Myth = Mithya : A handbook of Hindu Mythology - by Devdutt Pattanaik

This is one review that was on hold for a long time, partly coz after I finished the book; I pimped it to every living soul I knew... thus the book was out of my possession for a long time. and then I got carried away with a lot of "other" stuff. But finally, I got the book back, so here I am with the review...

I'm really not sure what was the real reason I picked up this book. I guess the awesome front cover was a major reason...the colours, the image and obviously the title caught my attention. The back cover proved another anchor and my ship was marooned in the flowing words of Devdutt Pattanaik.

As I mentioned earlier...I'm not religious person. I've never been a part of devout ritual follower and still am not. But I am a Hindu. There's a dark side of being Hindu that is colluded by all politicians and their hidden agendas about what it means to be a Hindu. For me, on a personal note...being a Hindu is following a certain way of life. And somehow reading Myth=Mithya offers a very rational, logical explanation of what being a Hindu mean. I'm sure DP did not start the book with any such ambition, but he managed to put in words what most parents should know for teaching their kids about Hinduism.

The book does not have any religious propaganda. It simply offers the meanings behind various myths and legends that you and I being Indians are aware of. The illustrations in the book are rich and engaging. Simplistic yet full of meanings; the language as an easy flowing stream...the ideas grand as the universe, yet simple as truth. The three sections in which the book is divided is clearly defined, and well thought of, well researched and full of details.

Its not a genre I'm really a big follower of, neither was DP an author I was familiar with...but the sheer brilliance of the book lies evident in the speed with which I finished the book...mere 2 days. Its explanatory, informative and highly engaging, the three qualities, I've learned are qualities of DP's writing. When I started the review, I thought I could offer you an objective glimpse of my experience, now halfway through writing, I realised the only way I can do that, is by sharing some of DP's words with you...

Everybody lives in myth. This idea disturbs most people. Everybody believes they live in truth. But there are many types of truths. Objective, subjective, logical, intuitive, cultural, universal...Myth is truth, which is subjective, intuitive, cultural and grounded in faith.

Ancient Greek philosophers knew Myth as Mythos. They separated it from Logos. Mythos gave rise to Oracles and Art. From logos came Science and Maths. Logos explained how the sun rises and how babies are born. But it never explained WHY. Why does the sun rise? Why is a baby born? For answers one had to turn to Mythos. Mythos gave purpose, meaning and validation to existence.

Ancient Hindu seers knew Myth as Mithya. They distinguished Mithya from Sat. Mithya was truth seen through a frame of reference. Sat was truth independent of any frame of reference.

Myth is essentially a cultural construct. A common understanding of the world that binds individuals and communities together. all myths make profound sense to one group of people. Not to everyone. In the final analysis, you either accept them or you don’t.

This is an excerpt from DP's introduction to the book. The further ventures in understanding the meaning behind words like Mythology etc. As is evident in the passage...his words are simple, ideas clear and explanations plausible. The three pillars on which he balances Myth=Mithya.

My recommendation:
Read it if you consider yourself a devout Hindu. Read it even if you a non-Hindu. Share it with others around you. Share it as knowledge. Pass it to the young of today who will need to understand who we are and what it means to be a Hindu. But do all that with a clear mind, without prejudice and without any prior concepts. I'm sure you will find a read that is not only interesting but also inspiring.

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