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Friday, 23 December 2016

7 Secrets of Vishnu - Book Review

Devdutt Pattanaik tries to decode the Hindu mythology by offering plausible explanations. In the 7 Secrets of Vishnu he tells us that the stories of Vishnu rose to prominence after the rise of Buddhism.

The opening chapter tells us about the use of gender in Hindu philosophy to explain the metaphysical concepts of Hinduism. Here we meet the famous Mohini.

In the second chapter titled Matsya's Secret the author distinguishes between the difference between humans and the beast. It is only the humans who can empathise and it is only the humans who can exploit.

In the following chapters titled Kurma's Secret and Trivikrama's Secret, the author makes a startling revelation by stating that both the Devas and Asuras are unhappy. While Devas are gripped with insecurity, over-ambition is the cause of Asuras grief. Devdutt's books add to our knowledge. I came to know for the first time that the Devas and Asuras are born of the same fathers. That makes them step brothers. According to the author the word evil used to describe Asuras has no place in Hinduism. For in Hinduism the whole world is manifestation of the divine.

Ram and Krishna come in the fifth and sixth chapters. The future avtara Kalki is included in the final chapter.

The author says that he ancient texts are not embarrassed by sensual pleasures. They appreciate their value but also warn of the dangers of overindulgence. Speaking of Vishnu's consort he says Lakshmi is typically drawn towards places where Saraswati resides. That is why prosperity always follows peace. However when Lakshmi comes attention shifts from Saraswati to Lakshmi. Enraged Saraswati leaves.

By reading the book I came to know that the notorious demon Narakasura is Vishnu's son. Even Asuras obtain liberation using reverse devotion. In this method in hating God, one remembers God all the time and thereby earn God's affection. The author tells us how Krishna earned the epithet of Ran-chor-rai. Further he says that Krishna cannot hate anyone. His love makes room for the weakest, the cruelest, the most imperfect. This is Dharma.

The book contains beautiful pictures of various paintings, sculptures and even calendar arts. Some of them are captioned vaguely as a South Indian wall carving. I wish the location and the name of the temple had been mentioned. That would have made this otherwise good book even better.
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