Friday, 11 December 2015

Our Heritage Revisited by Anju Saha: Book Review

Most of us including me, if asked which Hindu texts we are aware of, would have Mahabharata and Ramayana in our answers. If asked twice, we may answer Vedas but then we wouldn't know any other word about the Vedas. 

For centuries, we have cornered ancient Hindu scriptures to temple priests. Of course, unfortunately, not all of us are permitted to acquire and practice the knowledge of Vedas. However, isn't it good to learn what in the first place Vedas and Upanishads are? 

That's what Author Anju Saha does in her book, Our Heritage Revisited! She takes us through an easy and comfortable ride into the world of ancient Hindu scriptures. If you've felt guilty for being ignorant of them all these years, here's the right tool for you. 

It requires immense efforts to come up with a literary work as Our Heritage Revisited. Though the book offers only a glimpse of the ancient texts, it must have taken considerable time and dedication to compile the vast facts into a book. Author Anju deserves hearty appreciations for reviving our past and also for the mammoth levels of discipline and resolution this work must have demanded. 

The following questions and answers further explain the nature of the book:

Vedas? Upanishads? Aren't they too vast to be covered in a book of 136 pages?

This book does not contain all the texts in detail. It only gives a glimpse into the Hindu scriptures in order to help beginners to know what texts exist.

Will I be able to chant Veda Mantras with the help of this book?

No. The book does not quote the actual texts of the scriptures. 

Which are the scriptures that are covered in the book? How are they structured?

The book consists of two parts. In part I, the author gives an introduction to the Shruti texts and explains the classification of the Veds into Sanhitas, Brahmans, Aranyaks and Upanishads. Each of these is further briefed in 2-4 pages each. Part I also includes a background to the Smriti texts followed by a couple of pages each for Itihas and Agams & Tantras namely Purans, Darshans, Dharm Sutras and Shastras. 

Part II briefly introduces the Upanishads, popular terms and concepts in it and addresses each of the Upanishads in a couple of pages again. 

Two tables have been provided at the beginning of the book that shall help readers to understand the classification of the texts. My sincere thanks to the author for the additional enclosure of two more tables which certainly increase the clarity on the subject. 

A glimpse into the book?

With respect to the Veds part, my knowledge and interest are not great enough to sync with the subject. However, I can make out that people who get confused with what is what of the Vedas can definitely find relief in the book. I particularly relished the Darshan part that speaks about the various philosophies like Sankhya and Yog philosophies. I would like the author to come up with another detailed work on the Vedant. 

Who are likely to be benefited by the book?

Though, in general, readers interested in learning about the basics of Hindu texts, will find the book interesting, specifically, students who need information for their academic works will find it helpful. 

How interesting is the book?

The book straight forwardly describes to the point the necessary information. Readers who are inclined to the study of Hindu texts can gain a wealth of information. However, the rest might find the content a little bland after a certain point. 

How authentic are the sources of the content?

As a reader, I found the sources to be vague. The book does not list huge references as any other book of this sort would have. A few main texts referred are quoted but there are several website links including Wikipedia, as well whose authenticity is up to the readers to consider. 

Reviewed for the Author

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book as a complimentary copy from the Author in exchange for a honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 

Title: Our Heritage Revisited: A Glimpse into Ancient Indian Texts
Author: Anju Saha
Publisher: Self-published 
Pages: 136

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About the Book

Ever wondered what is in the Veds and Upanishads? The terms Shruti, Smriti, Puran, Agam, Nigam, Advait, Vedant philosophy to name a few have been heard – but what exactly are these? This book attempts to bring all of this and more in a quick-read for an overall perspective.

We in India are blessed with a great literary heritage and tremendous cultural, philosophical and traditional wealth. However the contents of ancient Indian scriptures have generally remained an enigma and most of the existing works available to readers, take up for commentary, an individual text for a detailed understanding but an overall picture is not easily available.

This book attempts to present a user-friendly description of these texts and their evolutionary account. It is a simple version, meant for someone keen to get an overview of our amazing ancient scriptures but may have found existing books too exhaustive.

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