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Book Review – 7 favourite Hinduism centric books from the year 2017

1. Linga Purana – Translated by Bibek Debroy

Reviewed by: Anika

Buy from: Amazon US, Amazon IN

This is one of the 13 puranas that I have read. The Linga Purana is number 11 on the list of the eighteen Mahapuranas. This Purana is a tamsik Purana, a Purana that glorifies Shiva. The Linga Purana is a comparatively short Purana because it is just eleven thousand shlokas long. It is divided into two parts. The first part is known as Purva bhaga and has one hundred and eight chapters. The second part is known as Uttara bhaga and has fifty-five chapters.

This Purana like most other Puranas is narrated by Sauti or Lomaharshana, a disciple of Vedvyasa to some sages living in the Namisharanya forest.

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There were many interesting stories in the Purana. The Linga Purana was very interesting to read. Compared to the other Puranas that I have read; this Purana comes at number 3. This Purana concentrates more on the creation and destruction of the Universe. It also talks a lot about the geography of the Earth. The Linga Purana has fewer stories and most of them have been mentioned in other Puranas. In a few stories, there is a twist which is added to glorify Shiva. It was nice reading this Purana. I have also reviewed it on my blog.

2. The Kishkindha Chronicles: Saraswati’s Intelligence – By Vamsee Juluri

Reviewed by: Anvita

Buy from: Amazon IN, Amazon US

This book talks about Hanuman before he met Lord Rama. Vamsee Juluri wrote the book, and it’s the first book in the trilogy of Hanuman’s life, that he has been writing. It starts with a small race between Hanuman, Sugriva, Vali and other monkeys. Sugriva hurts himself and spills blood, which Hanuman touches when he goes to help Sugriva. When the other monkeys saw the blood, they yelled ‘Parama Dharma Apchara’ and ran away. Parama dharma apchara was the violation of the prime duty. The people in Hanuman’s time believed in Ma Saraswati. She was the one who poured blood into their body when they were born. A single drop of blood was made of the sunlight of one hundred and eight leaves which made it so precious. Parama dharma apchara was when you spilt blood. He was thus banned from Kishkindha. He took Sugriva to Vishwamitra who healed him. They decide to accompany Vishwamitra on his journey to uncover hidden secrets in the north, followed by Sugriva. On their journey, they met the Ganeshas (elephants) who accompanied them. On their way, they discover a pack of deadly barbaric creatures who ate elephants and then used their skin to disguise themselves. After a study of the child, they realized that these creatures had to be tamed, or the parama dharma would be breached. Vamsee Juluri knows how to capture the reader’s attention and not make the book boring in between. He beautifully describes the story of Hanuman’s life. Through the whole book, he keeps talking about what is Dharma, Parama Dharma, etc. This way he also teaches us more about Indian culture, through a story. I liked the way he favoured Hanuman and told us about his habits, culture, fears and his qualities. He also sympathized Vali as he was almost a servant for his mother Riksharaja.

3. Lanka’s Princess – by Kavita Kane

Reviewed by: Anika

Buy from: Amazon US, Amazon IN

Lanka’s Princess is about Surpanakha, also called Lanka’s princess. Surpanakha means hard as nails.  The youngest and the least cared for in her family, she is the sister of the mighty Ravan. Ravan is an asura and the villain of the great epic the Ramayana. The first opinion that forms in your head, if you have read the Ramayana, is that Surpanakha is an evil shape-shifting monster. She had tried to kill Sita, but had her nose and ears sliced off by Lakshmana, brother of Ram. If you are hearing about the Ramayana for the first time, then after reading this, you too would have formed a bad opinion about her. However, instead of just imagining a shape-shifting witch, try to think from Surpanakha’s point of view. I did this and a question came to my mind. Was Surpanakha evil from the start or did she turn evil later? I read this book and got my answer. The author, Kavita Kane, has tried to sympathize with Surpanakha while being fair to Ram and Lakshman. In this way, she has shown both sides of the story. She has succeeded in doing so. I, as a kid, think the book could have done well without the overwhelming romance between Surpanakha and Vidyujiva (Surpanakha’s husband). Others might find this important or interesting, but I didn’t care much. In the book, Kavita Kane describes the small and trivial, yet important events in Surpanakha’s life that have not been written in the different versions of the Ramayana. She has described most of the story from Surpanakha’s eyes, concentrating on her emotions. It has been a nice experience reading this book. This is one of my favourite Indian books. I learnt a lot about a little-known character through this book. I have also reviewed it on my blog, so you can go there for more information on this book.

4. Puranas – Translated by Bibek Debroy

Reviewed by: Anika

Buy from: Amazon US, Amazon IN

A Purana is a sacred text. There are many Puranas. It is believed that Vedvyasa or Krishna Dvaipayana had written them. The Puranas together make one crore shlokas. Since this number was too much for mere mortals to read, he summarized it to 4 lakh shlokas. The truth is that no one person wrote the Puranas. Many people wrote them. The eighteen main ones are the ones that Vedvyasa wrote. Puranas are divided into three categories. They are satvik (puranas that glorify Vishnu), tamsik (puranas that glorify Shiva) and rajsik (puranas that glorify Brahma). The Puranas have many stories in them. Most of them are related to the Ramayana and Mahabharata. They also have new and different stories which I have not heard or read them before. Bibek Debroy has translated the Puranas to English abridged versions. Each of the versions has a particular part of the Purana as it would be very tough to give the whole version. They are short and easy to read. I find it very easy to understand as they use simple English. I have also reviewed these abridged versions. So far, I have read and reviewed 13 puranas. They are on my blog. I enjoyed reading the Puranas and look forward to reading all of them.

5. Purna Vidya (series) – by Swamini Pramananda, Sri Dhira Chaitanya

Reviewed by: Anika

Buy from: Amazon US, Amazon IN

Purna Vidya is a series of books that explain to us our Hindu Culture, our epics and various stories. They have many books in the series. This particular book is the fifth in the series. Each of the books is on a topic related to Hinduism. This book is on the Mahabharata. It is divided into 18 chapters each one on of the parvas in the Mahabharata. One of the parvas would be given at the start in the form of a story after that there would be questions and activities. It was fun to do the activities. Purna Vidya has many activities that also help us have fun as well as learn our culture. These books that should be read to a child from childhood.

6. Sita’s Sister – by Kavita Kane

Reviewed by: Anika

Buy from: Amazon US, Amazon IN

This book is about Urmila. She is a character from the Ramayana who we don’t know much about. Urmila is most commonly mentioned when Lakshman decides to go into exile with Ram. Sometimes we wonder why didn’t Urmila go into exile with Lakshman. She chose to be separated from her husband for fourteen years, rather than to go with him. The Ramayana never really does talk about Urmila. Every time I read the Ramayana, it talks about Ram, Lakshman, Sita, Ravan, Dasharatha, Kaikeyi etc. It never specifically tells us how did Urmila bear these years of separation, and how did she feel when Lakshman decided to go to the forest, leaving her behind. I think Urmila, also known as Sita’s sister was an exceptionally brave woman to bear this separation. This book gives an answer to one of my many questions when I read the Ramayana. The author Kavita Kane knows how to bring out the true feelings of a person in her books. So far, I have read three books of hers and all three of them concentrate on the feelings and thoughts of the person. All her books have been on female characters from the Ramayana or Mahabharata. In this book, it concentrates on all that Urmila feels and thinks. I only felt that it could have done without the romance between Urmila and Lakshman. Otherwise, I feel that it was a nice book and I enjoyed reading it. Between the three of Kavita Kane’s books, this was my favourite.

7. Culture Course – by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavana

Reviewed by: Anika

Weak in history? Well here’s a way to learn history easily and in a fun way. Read the Culture Course to improve your learning. This set of books are a lot like the Purna Vidya series that were mentioned in the April edition. The Culture Course series narrate around 15 stories in each book. Based on each story there are 6-7 questions. There is only one difference between the Purna Vidya series and the Culture Course. Purna Vidya mostly talks about stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata whereas the Culture Course books narrate stories about folktales, Mahabharata and Ramayana stories, stories about great rishis, the foundation of holy places, rituals, etc. These books talk a lot about the holy places in India and rituals performed there. They also talk about stuff from different religions. These books teach you a lot about Hindu culture and at the same time, they are very interesting. I enjoy reading and answering the questions in this series

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