- Paperback: 496 pages
- Publisher: Phoenix (1 January 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 075381854X
- ISBN-13: 978-0753818541
- Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 3.8 x 21.3 cm
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
Gem in the Lotus: The Seeding of Indian Civilisation Paperback – 1 Jan 2007
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About the Author
Abraham Eraly, who was born in Kerala, has taught Indian history in Madras and the United States. He lives in Madras.
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Good books that explain ancient Indian history are also very few; but Abraham Eraly with the `Gem in the Lotus' has created a marvelous narrative that bridges the gap to a large extent. Starting of with a lesson in geology on how the Indian subcontinent and the towering Himalayas were created, Eraly provides a good background to the geography, climate and topography that played a major role in early developments in India. He then describes the Indus Valley civilization and explores the causes of its sudden disappearance. Eraly really excels when he explains the Vedas and takes us through a detailed tour of how they came into being and what we can understand of the social dynamics of that period through them. Intellectually the grandest period for India would have been from 500 BC to 100 BC when not only Buddhism and Jainism came into being, but also hundreds of other philosophies that disappeared over the subsequent centuries.
Alexander's invasion and its effects, the first Indian empire of the Mauryas and Asoka's grand reign are covered in detail. The world's first treatise in politics and economics - the `Arthasasthra' is leveraged very well to provide us an understanding of the life and culture of that period.
Indians even now suffer from considerable cultural baggage - the most unfortunate of them being the easy acceptance of `fate'. Nowhere else will people accept unfortunate events with so much equanimity that Indians can. This might have stood them in good stead at some critical periods in the past but it has seriously affected their ability for critical inquiry. Though Eraly does not address this directly, through his book one will get a good understanding of the various factors that must have led to such a condition.
Eraly used the title `Gem in the Lotus' as a metaphor for the Indian civilization but I feel that his book itself is a glittering gem of Indian Literature.
The author's enthusiasm particularly shines forth in his chapters on Asoka, Buddha, and Alexander the Great. I especially enjoyed Eraly's discussion of the classical Greek interpretation of Indian civilization. This section contains fresh scholarship and new thinking.
The book desperately needs hacking and pruning to expose its true beauty. Sentences of twenty-five to thirty-five words are Eraly's norm, and an excessive number of clauses obscure meaning.
If this volume had not come from Penguin, one could almost believe it to have been self-published. Promoted as a book for the general audience, it is too scholarly in tone to be a "David McCullough;" too poorly documented to appeal to the academic audience. Much of the material presented in each chapter could have, and should have been, tucked into a handy section of end notes to which even the most general reader could refer.
Eraly is a decent scholar who deserved and needed a harsher, more experienced editor.
It's easily the best I've read on a period that is mostly mis-understood in India. In page after page, Eraly strips away myths, propaganda and fallacies to reveal unvarnished facts. Objective, logical and unsparing Eraly describes a land and it's people in a manner that enlightens, engages and delights.
Eraly has shown both erudition and courage, in writing a book that is grounded in reality and research. It's a work that should be read by anyone who wants to gain an understanding of India , it's origins and it's belief systems.