Saturday, 1 November 2014

7 Secrets of the Goddess by Devdutt Pattanaik - Book Review

Lakshmi massages Vishnu’s feet. Is this male domination?

Kali stands on Shiva’s chest. Is this female domination?

Shiva is half a woman. Is this gender quality? Why then is Shakti never half a man?
Taken literally, stories, symbols and rituals of Hindu mythology have much to say about gender relationships. Taken symbolically, they reveal many more things about humanity and nature. Which is the correct reading?
The fourth title in the bestselling ‘7 Secrets’ series focuses on the Goddess, and respected mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik tries to unravel the secrets locked within her stories, symbols and rituals.

I have been a history and mythology buff for as long as I can remember and I thank my grandfather for making me one. It started off long long back with me listening to stories from him every night before going to sleep of powerful Gods and Goddesses and that fascination with mythology never left. It was a friend of mine who introduced me to Devdutt Pattanaik's books a couple of years ago and the first one I read was 'Devi' and I was smitten. Devdutt Pattanaik is an Indian physician turned leadership consultant, mythologist and author whose works focus largely on the areas of myth, mythology, and also management. What I love about his books is the simple style of storytelling which is backed up by solid research and facts. It is not religious propaganda in any way but a conscious effort to unravel the secrets behind each story, ritual and tradition that we've grown up listening and following.  This is the latest book in his 7 secrets series and the author takes us on a tour of the stories, myths and beliefs associated with seven Goddesses - Gaia, Durga, Kali, Gauri, Lakshmi, Saraswati and Vitthai.

In the Seven Secrets of the Goddess, he explains about the evolution of the Goddess cult, it's popularity in the ancient times and the reasons that led to the Goddess to make way for the predominance of the God , a reflection of the change in the position of women in society. Did you know the meaning of the word 'virgin' was very different that time? A virgin was a woman who was ready to bear a child. Now understand why there is a 'Virgin Mother'? That word over the years got convoluted and became a mark of a woman's 'purity'. Many practices, beliefs and facts hitherto unknown to many are revealed in the pages of this book. The illustrations one gets to see on every other page adds value. While I absolutely loved the content, one of my complaint is that at times, he did make it repetitive and confusing which meant that I had to go back and re-read pages. Despite these shortcomings, I loved the book and would definitely recommend you to read it if you are interested in Indian mythology and want to get more insight into the secrets of gender bias/difference. It is by no means a light read but a very interesting and thought provoking one. 

 7 Secrets of the Goddess by Devdutt Pattanaik is priced at Rs 395 and available at leading bookstores and online. 

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