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Wednesday, 7 December 2016

7 Secrets of Shiva - Book Review

The first chapter of Devdutt Pattanaik’s 7 Secrets of Shiva focuses on the meaning of the Shiva-linga, a meaning which is deeper than the titillation offered by a phallic symbol. The author says that the Western preference for form over thought stems from their cultural preference over the subjective. Hindus, on the other hand, are very comfortable with the subjective, hence can easily overlook form and focus on thought. The second chapter looks on Shiva’s violent contempt of territorial behaviour amongst humans. The third and fourth chapters of the book look at how the Goddess gets Shiva to engage with the world out of compassion. The next two chapters deal with Shiva’s two sons Ganesha and Murugan, through whom he connects with the world. Shiva is the only God who is worshipped along with his entire family viz. wife and children. The final chapter revolves around Shiva’s role as a wise teacher who expresses wisdom through his dance.

The author says when the perception is incomplete and inaccurate, God is not worshipped as in the case of Brahma. When perception is complete and accurate, God is worshipped as in the case of Shiva and Vishnu. He further says that Shiva is a God who breaks free from all forms, having found all of them limited, hence he is the destroyer who is worshipped as linga.

According to the author, Dutta is the gentler form of Bhairava. Speaking of Yagna he says that it is all about controlling the wild nature and domesticating it so that it comes under human control, becomes manageable, predictable and hence less frightening. He say the rice balls offered during funeral ceremony represent the human body because ultimately food forms the building block of the flesh. I liked this logic offered by the author.

He says if Lakshmi brings wealth, then Sarawati brings peace. Only Ganesha is able to bring them together. He removes the obstacles to wisdom. He narrates the various versions of how Ganesha got his elephant head. But I have one query, why didn’t the all powerful Shiva not fix the boy’s head back on his body. Why did he require the head of another animal? Unfortunately this query is not answered in the book.

Yet with its simple narrative, interesting anecdotes, 7 Secrets of Shiva is worth reading.

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