The author Devdutt Pattanaik has made a name with his numerous books on Indian mythology.He is a doctor .And yet, his flow of words never does reveal that he has been anything else, other than a weaver of tales ! His numerous books include 7 Secrets of Shiva,7 Secrets of Vishnu,Seven Secrets from Hindu Calendar Art among others.His latest is "Shikhandi : And other tales they don't tell you ."
This book is published by Westland Books.The cover illustration is the Calendar print of Balambika ,daughter of Humanity.The image of Balambika is extremely attractive.The book is of 259 pages & is priced at Rs 395/- only.Every alternate page has photographs of idols,or calendar art or other paintings depicting the various Goddesses & Gods.this makes the book highly interesting & visually appealing.All the photos are captioned for better understanding.
The book begins with Author's note on Reality & Representation.In this ,the author reveals that representations of Gods & Goddesses in Hindu mythology mean many things.Literally ,they signify something.And symbolically ,it refers to something else.Context is equally important.There are 7 chapters in the book each revealing a particular Goddess's secret.The book concludes with symbols of Goddess & a note on Acknowledgements.
In this book,the author tries to determine the reason behind the worship of Goddesses,their depiction ,their power,their position ,etal.The narration is crisp & taut.He narrates many stories like that of Annapoorneshwari,Kanyakumari ,Bhu Devi,Shri Devi & many more.He incorporates even Greek,Polynesian ,Egyptian mythology to trace the origins of worship of Goddesses.There seems to be a common thread across mythologies across the world.He states why particular animals like tiger,swan ,elephant,are associated with Durga,Saraswati ,Lakshmi & what the said animals symbolise. He says that the Goddess represents nature & God ,the mind.Mind cannot exist without nature .Yet nature can exist without mind .This is a very feminist statement empowering women !
He states that Vedas were full of rituals.Puranas which came later talked of bhakti & devotion.Gram devis were the Goddesses of the early communities.As society developed further,a sense of property arose.This led to the women being claimed as property by men.So ,the seeds of patriarchy were sown thus.The patriarchal attitudes became stronger when Hinduism was attacked as being pagan by Christianity & Islam.Christanity & Islam had Men as Gods.There was no feminine deity in these religions.In Hinduism ,there were many Goddesses & this was not taken kindly by Muslim & Western raiders & This led to purdah,etc.This led to more subjugation of women.Later ,scientific thinking & Liberals saw new light in Hindu practices & rituals.Yet ,Mahabharata & Ramayana are seen as enforcing patriarchy.This was never so .There are many versions of Mahabharata & Ramayana .We believe in plurality unlike Western culture.
The author concludes that we must expand our mind to appreciate various thoughts.This will make us outgrow gender.A must read to unravel the traditional worship of the Goddess !