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by Jeff Hay

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
This title is part of the publisher's "Religions and Religious Movements" series. (Other titles include Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Islam, and Judaism). The series aims to provide high school students with an historical context for each of the world's religions. By using articles and essays from a variety of sources, the books seek to offer a range of theological and historical contexts, as well as the challenges facing the religion in question in the contemporary world. It is an ambitious project. This title begins with essays by English and American scholarly "others" and attempts to define this elusive phenomenon loosely termed Hinduism. The writings of Stanley Wolpert, Wendy Doniger, and David Knipe are represented here. Romila Thapar is here—a name guaranteed to raise the ire of certain Hindu groups, yet certainly she belongs in any collection purporting to represent a range of voices about the subject. Other chapters include material about Mahatma Gandhi, a selection from a popular Hindu web site, excerpts from a translation of the Bhagavad Gita, and 15th century poetry from Kabir. Among featured essays are those by poet and one-time ambassador to India Octavio Paz, novelist Gita Mehta, and beloved Indian author R. K. Narayan. From the codification of personal law in ancient times, to caste, conflicts with Islam, and the evolution of new religions out of the space of Hindu thought, this is truly a hodge-podge. It is reminiscent of temple towers sharing space with flashy movie posters on Indian city streets. In a way, it is eminently representative of the complex, colorful chaos of Hinduism itself. Draw your own conclusions, repeatedly. Ifthey contradict one another, you are on the right track. One factual error must be mentioned. R.K. Narayan is referred to on page 167 as a "Nobel Prize-winning author." In fact, deserving as he was, Narayan was never awarded the Nobel. 2005, Thomson Gale, Ages 14 up.
—Uma Krishnaswami
It is easy to underestimate Hinduism. From the outsider's point of view, it is a primitive religion, with worship of gods garishly sporting too many arms and with androgynous features. Hinduism seems to contain elements that are abhorrent to conventional Western religions, such as "idol" worship, polytheism, and reincarnation. Clearly not a modern religion, it is portrayed with some understanding in this series volume. Hay includes the obligatory scholarly opines on the origins of Hinduism and some interesting essays on subjects such as transplanted Hinduism, Mahatama Gandhi's version of Hinduism, and the conjunction of Islam and Hinduism. There are also some translations of Vedic text and related literature, which are lyrically appealing but contextually fuzzy for many Western readers. None of these go very far to explain the power of Hinduism, however, until R. K. Narayan's piece titled The Village Storyteller Personifies Hindu Traditions. Regarding the role of the elaborate myths that have invigorated Hinduism for its long history, Narayan explains that everything in Hindu culture is interrelated. "Stories, scriptures, ethics, philosophy, grammar, astrology, astronomy, semantics, mysticism, and moral codes-each forms part and parcel of a total life and is indispensable for the attainment of a four-square understanding of existence," he writes. The spirit of Hinduism remains elusive for the casual tourist. Nevertheless Hay does a worthy job, in a volume so small, of collecting essays that offer diverse insights into a mighty and ancient religious tradition. (Religions and Religious Movements). VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P S (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Senior High,defined as grades 10 to 12). 2006, Greenhaven, 223p.; Glossary. Index. Photos. Maps. Source Notes. Further Reading. Chronology., PLB . Ages 15 to 18.
—Diane Emge
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-A compilation of essays by various authors. The organization is fair, and the illustrations consist only of one map and a few sporadic black-and-white photographs. The text is somewhat dry and may be confusing to readers with no background knowledge of Hinduism, but the information is accurate and well researched.-Amanda Conover Le, St. Johns County Public Library System, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Greenhaven Publishing
Publication date:
Religions and Religious Movements Series
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
15 - 17 Years

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