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About the Book

The book studies the evolution of euhemeristic deities of the Vedic period – mainly Indra, the Rbhus, the Asvins and the Maruts. It explores the rationale behind the euhemerism and the historicity of events leading to their mythologization.

From the Jacket

In deities : whether in anthropomorphic or symbolic forms, the Vedic sages conceived a transcendent principle, which is far too subtle, far too abstract for the ordinary minds to grasp. And likewise, they concertized "as divinities" the various forces of nature - recognizing the indispensability of rain and thunder, of the sun and fire for human survival. 

Alongside the material representations of the cosmic order or of nature and nature-related phenomena, mankind has also mythologized some of its exceptionally great personalities (like, for instance, the Buddha, Mahavira and Jesus), who were believed to incarnated superhuman qualities or the highest of human ideals - though these deities of our times were veritably the 'magnified' men of real history. Dr. Uma Chakravarty's book investigates this phenomenon of euhemerism: the deification of historical personages, from among the divinities of Vedic writings.

It is the first, all-exclusive study to look into the evolution of euhemeristic deities of the Vedic period and how these mortals-turned-gods came to have varying deific positions on the hierarchic scale of the Vedic pantheon. Meticulously describing Indra, the Rbhus, the Asvins and the Maruts - together with the connotations of their names and epithets - the author not only explores the rationale behind the age-old euhemerism, but even the historicity of the events leading to their mythologization. 

Supported by extensive bibliographic references, the book is a brilliant effort to demonstrate the complementarity of history and mythology. And is, thus, invaluable to the scholars of Indology and its kindred disciplines.    

About the Author 

Uma Chakravarty, (born: 1933), is a reputed scholar of Indology who, for about 35 years, has been with the Lady Keane Collage, Shillong, Meghalaya, a Head of the Sanskrit Department. She also has had a stint, during 1992-93, as Visiting Fellow at the Freie Universitat, Berlin, under the German Academic Exchange Service, Germany.

She has published several articles on Vedic themes in the journals of international repute. Currently, Dr. Chakravarty is an ICHR (Indian Council of Historical Research) Fellow at the prestigious Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune. 

Foreword

The Rgvedic mythology is essentially an 'evolutionary' mythology. It has been, throughout, reacting and responding to the various vicissitudes in the cultural history of the Rgvedic age. Even after a Rgvedic god had been first conceived, his character did not remain constant. His personality, as it were, 'grew' - it often assumed a heterogeneous character on account of the different elements which came to be assimilated into it in conformity with the mythological ideology which had been continuously undergoing modification. It is possible to detect three main and presumably consecutive phases of the evolutionary mythology of the Rgveda - the first phase of the definite realization of the cosmic (moral) order established by Asura Varuna, the second phase of the mythologization of history as represented by Vrtraha Indra, and the third phase of the hierarchisation of popular religious sects as symbolized by Sipivista Visnu. It is the second phase which Dr. Uma Chakravarty has dealt with in the present monograph.

I have met but few scholars who showed such commendable keenness for Sanskrit studies and research as Uma Chakravarty. Ever since the time when she joined the Lady Keane College, Shillong, as the Head of the Department of Sanskrit, Chakravarty seems to have fully realised that teaching and research must always go hand in hand, for, teaching incites and motivates research and research saves teaching from becoming stale. She, therefore, did not miss any opportunity to augment her academic qualifications and expand her research potentiality. For instance, she attended intensive courses of German language and made it a point to participate actively in as many sessions of the All-India Oriental Conference as possible. Her recent sojourn in Germany as a DAAD guest, though short, has evidently proved of no little avail.

Uma chakravarty's doctoral work (1966) related to Ksemendra, the Kasmirian Poet of the eleventh century AD, but, in recent years, she has been delving into Vedic mythology - and that too, fairly fruitfully. To repeat what I have said elsewhere: Various claims have been traditionally made on behalf of the Veda - claims such as that the Veda is apauruseya, that it is invested with absolute validity, that it is the fountainhead of the entire Indian culture. I would like to add to this list one more claim, namely, that the Veda is an inexhaustible and ever-absorbing subject of study and research.

Introduction

Categorizing the euhemeristic Vedic gods in one work has not been done as yet though much scholarly work has been published on the Vedic mythology in the last two centuries. This mythological phenomenon may be termed as the 'mythologization of human heroes'. A realistic approach has been taken by a group of scholars - history and myth being complementary to each other. The present work is in line with such a trend and also hopefully fills the gap caused by the absence of a work which treats of such Vedic gods only who had originally been human heroes so different in nature from other gods whose existences are based on nature or on abstract ideas. We include in this group the Rbhus, the Asvins, the Maruts and Indra.

Names have a real significance in the case of euhemerism. Of the forty-five epithets of Indra collected by us many signify his euhemeristic base. We quote below a few: vajrin, vajrabhrt, vajrahasta, vrtrakhada, vrtrahan, purbhit; purbhittama, purandara, yudhma, satrasaha, sura (occurring about 150 times in the RV), somapa, somapatama, siprin, harisipra, et al. Such epithets indicating the human origin of a god are hardly met with in connection with abstract deities like Brhaspati, Brahmanaspati, Prajapati, etc. Even if they occur they are very meagre compared to the frequency of their use in connection with Indra.

Concrete feats are attributed to the gods who form the subject-matter of this work. The Rbhus had earned divinity by dint of their four-fold achievements; the Asvins had been deprived of their right to the Soma libation temporarily for mixing too frequently among men their devotees, by curing them of their maladies and serving them when they were in difficulty. These feats of these gods form often the subject-matter of many of the Rgveda verses. The repetition simply indicates the historicity of these events. These concrete feats may be referred to in contrast with vague generalisation as creators, cosmokrators, spiritual hierophanies - Brahman, Purusa, etc.

The hymns were intended both for the gods addressed to and the human community who listened to them within the context of the sacrifice or even outside as merely heard litanies.

A god whose concrete feats are recorded whose human adversaries are named and whose conquests over actual enemies and whose real assistance to historical personalities are mentioned was to the extent more tangible, real and convincing to the community. Praise and prayer to such a god generated faith among the supplicants that this god would behave in a similar fashion to his present worshippers. To the first few generations place-names and person-names would be familiar at first hand and repeated recitations and chantings would keep the memory fresh down the generations. Such details point to real human antecedents of the gods who began as human beings and were later deities.

If we divide the Vedic gods in three categories such as:

(a) Natural phenomena: Vayu, Usas, Surya, Agni and others.

(b) Historical figures transformed into gods: The Rbhus, the Asvins, Indra, et al.

(c) Partial or complete abstractions: Brhaspati, Brahman, Brahmanaspati, Purusa, Atman, Parjapati and others, then the second category of gods belong to the stage when the actual memory of living heroes, being deified was still fresh in the community's memory; the records of the details are a pointer to this. It is in this context that the second category of gods has a special and unique significance, all ancient mythologies provide parallel instances.

Hence this work with its specific purpose of classifying the historical figures transformed into gods will fill the gap neglected so far.

Many great personalities of the past like Buddha, Mahavira, Jesus and Chaitanya were mythologised. In our life-time we have seen outstanding and not so outstanding figures like Ramakrishna and many religious preceptors being raised to divinity and worshipped with cultic rites. So the phenomenon is not unique or unfamiliar.

A short summary of the work is presented now:

The Rbhus

The Rbhus have been described as human beings elevated to the status of divinity (martyasah santo 'mrtatvam anasuh, RV, 1.110.4). They attained divinity by dint of their four epoch- making achievements: (i) they transformed a dying cow into a milch-cow; this cow, Visvarupa by name belonged to Brhaspati; (ii) they by their medical skill rejuvenated their dying parents; (iii) they made a three-wheeled chariot for the Asvins; and (iv) they made the two horses, Haris, for Indra. Their achievements elevated them to the status of divinity, viz. a solar god, a god of fecundity. They earned the right to the third Soma-pressing which they enjoyed along with Indra by making the fourth camasa.

The Asvins

There are three aspects of the mythology of the Asvins; (i) their being the divine physicians and saviours, (ii) their relation with a maiden, which is an Indo-European archetype and (iii) the divine twinship motif which is a universal motif.- (i) These twin divine physicians cured their numerous devotees suffering from different types of maladies. Bhujyu who was stranded in mid- ocean was rescued by them. This feat of the Asvins is a parallel to Greek Castor and Polydeukes (Dioskuri). As a result of mixing too much among men, they lost their right to the Soma, which of course they regained by dint of their dexterity. - (ii) The Asvins' association with a female deity is an archetype. Sometimes she is their beloved, sometimes a sister and at others their mother. A few similar myths belonging to other traditions are: Greek and Roman Castor, Pollux and Helen - a sister, Lithuanian Dieva Sunelei and Saules Dukterys, Latvian Dieva Deli and Saules Meita - a sister in both mythologies, Greek Heraklels, Iphikles and Alcmene - mother, Amphion, Zethos and Antiope - mother. - The third section deals with the worship of the twin gods which is a universal motif. This motif exists in pre-historic, Semitic, Indo-European and American mythologies also.

The Maruts

"Martial storm gods'" is the best description of the Rgvedic Maruts, Indra's associates. The RV depicts this group of gods as bright, of howling nature, angry, fearful and similar in appearance - a description equally applicable to the storm gods as well as to the martial gods. The Maruts are the regular enjoyers of the midday Soma libation along with Indra and with other gods as well. Their relation with Indra is very close. In the TS and the A V the storm god Maruts have been transformed to the rain gods. They play a major role in the Karinsti which is performed for rains. This indicates that the society had then become an agricultural one. In the later Vedic literature, however, the Maruts' position was demoted to the status of devavisah; the subjects of gods.

Contents:

Foreword 

Acknowledgement

Abbreviations

Introduction

1. The Rbhus
    
Introductory
     Etymology of the Word rbhu
     Genealogy
     Fourfold Achievements of the Rbhus
     Camasa: The Fifth Achievement and the Right to the Soma-libation
     Scholar's Opinions on the Fourth camasa 
     The Rbhus: Solar Deities
     Epithets
     The Rbhus and the other Gods
     Scholars on the Identity of Rbhus
     Conclusion 

2. The Asvins
     The Divine Doctors, Asvins and the Soma drink
     The Heavenly Twins and a Maiden
     The Asvins: An Incarnation of the Universal Twin ship Motif 

3. The Maruts
     Etymology of the Word marut
     Storm-Rain-Gods
     Warrior Gods
     Anthropomorphic Features
     The Bright Maruts
     The Howling Maruts
     The Maruts' Anger
     The Fearful Maruts
     All the Maruts are equal
     The Maruts as birds
     The Maruts and Soma libation
     The Maruts' Animals: The Prsatis, the Horses
     The Parents of the Maruts
     Rodasi, the Female Associate of the Maruts
     The Maruts and the other Gods
     The Protégés of the Maruts
     The Maruts: The Maryas
     The Maruts: Gana, Sardhas, Veata, Visah
     The Maruts: Euhemeristic Geography and History in the Marut Hymns
     The Library Beauty of the Marut Hymns
     The Maurys in the Atharvaveda
     Maruts in the TS. the Brahmanas and in the Sutras
     Opinions of Scholars on the Identity of the Maruts
     Conclusion  

4. Indra
     Introduction
     On the Etymology of the word Indra
     Indra: The War God
     Indra's Protégés
     Indra-Vrtra
     The Epithets
     Indra and other Gods
     Indra, the Highest God
     Indra in the Yajurveda
     Indra in the Atharvaveda
     Opinion of Scholars on the Identity of Indra
     Conclusion

Bibliography

Glossary

Index

Sample Pages

















Indra and Other Vedic Deities

Item Code:
IDD124
Cover:
Hardcover
Edition:
1997
Publisher:
D. K. Printworld Pvt. Ltd.
ISBN:
81-246-0080-5
Language:
English
Size:
8.8" x 5.7"
Pages:
232
Price:
$27.50   Shipping Free
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About the Book

The book studies the evolution of euhemeristic deities of the Vedic period – mainly Indra, the Rbhus, the Asvins and the Maruts. It explores the rationale behind the euhemerism and the historicity of events leading to their mythologization.

From the Jacket

In deities : whether in anthropomorphic or symbolic forms, the Vedic sages conceived a transcendent principle, which is far too subtle, far too abstract for the ordinary minds to grasp. And likewise, they concertized "as divinities" the various forces of nature - recognizing the indispensability of rain and thunder, of the sun and fire for human survival. 

Alongside the material representations of the cosmic order or of nature and nature-related phenomena, mankind has also mythologized some of its exceptionally great personalities (like, for instance, the Buddha, Mahavira and Jesus), who were believed to incarnated superhuman qualities or the highest of human ideals - though these deities of our times were veritably the 'magnified' men of real history. Dr. Uma Chakravarty's book investigates this phenomenon of euhemerism: the deification of historical personages, from among the divinities of Vedic writings.

It is the first, all-exclusive study to look into the evolution of euhemeristic deities of the Vedic period and how these mortals-turned-gods came to have varying deific positions on the hierarchic scale of the Vedic pantheon. Meticulously describing Indra, the Rbhus, the Asvins and the Maruts - together with the connotations of their names and epithets - the author not only explores the rationale behind the age-old euhemerism, but even the historicity of the events leading to their mythologization. 

Supported by extensive bibliographic references, the book is a brilliant effort to demonstrate the complementarity of history and mythology. And is, thus, invaluable to the scholars of Indology and its kindred disciplines.    

About the Author 

Uma Chakravarty, (born: 1933), is a reputed scholar of Indology who, for about 35 years, has been with the Lady Keane Collage, Shillong, Meghalaya, a Head of the Sanskrit Department. She also has had a stint, during 1992-93, as Visiting Fellow at the Freie Universitat, Berlin, under the German Academic Exchange Service, Germany.

She has published several articles on Vedic themes in the journals of international repute. Currently, Dr. Chakravarty is an ICHR (Indian Council of Historical Research) Fellow at the prestigious Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune. 

Foreword

The Rgvedic mythology is essentially an 'evolutionary' mythology. It has been, throughout, reacting and responding to the various vicissitudes in the cultural history of the Rgvedic age. Even after a Rgvedic god had been first conceived, his character did not remain constant. His personality, as it were, 'grew' - it often assumed a heterogeneous character on account of the different elements which came to be assimilated into it in conformity with the mythological ideology which had been continuously undergoing modification. It is possible to detect three main and presumably consecutive phases of the evolutionary mythology of the Rgveda - the first phase of the definite realization of the cosmic (moral) order established by Asura Varuna, the second phase of the mythologization of history as represented by Vrtraha Indra, and the third phase of the hierarchisation of popular religious sects as symbolized by Sipivista Visnu. It is the second phase which Dr. Uma Chakravarty has dealt with in the present monograph.

I have met but few scholars who showed such commendable keenness for Sanskrit studies and research as Uma Chakravarty. Ever since the time when she joined the Lady Keane College, Shillong, as the Head of the Department of Sanskrit, Chakravarty seems to have fully realised that teaching and research must always go hand in hand, for, teaching incites and motivates research and research saves teaching from becoming stale. She, therefore, did not miss any opportunity to augment her academic qualifications and expand her research potentiality. For instance, she attended intensive courses of German language and made it a point to participate actively in as many sessions of the All-India Oriental Conference as possible. Her recent sojourn in Germany as a DAAD guest, though short, has evidently proved of no little avail.

Uma chakravarty's doctoral work (1966) related to Ksemendra, the Kasmirian Poet of the eleventh century AD, but, in recent years, she has been delving into Vedic mythology - and that too, fairly fruitfully. To repeat what I have said elsewhere: Various claims have been traditionally made on behalf of the Veda - claims such as that the Veda is apauruseya, that it is invested with absolute validity, that it is the fountainhead of the entire Indian culture. I would like to add to this list one more claim, namely, that the Veda is an inexhaustible and ever-absorbing subject of study and research.

Introduction

Categorizing the euhemeristic Vedic gods in one work has not been done as yet though much scholarly work has been published on the Vedic mythology in the last two centuries. This mythological phenomenon may be termed as the 'mythologization of human heroes'. A realistic approach has been taken by a group of scholars - history and myth being complementary to each other. The present work is in line with such a trend and also hopefully fills the gap caused by the absence of a work which treats of such Vedic gods only who had originally been human heroes so different in nature from other gods whose existences are based on nature or on abstract ideas. We include in this group the Rbhus, the Asvins, the Maruts and Indra.

Names have a real significance in the case of euhemerism. Of the forty-five epithets of Indra collected by us many signify his euhemeristic base. We quote below a few: vajrin, vajrabhrt, vajrahasta, vrtrakhada, vrtrahan, purbhit; purbhittama, purandara, yudhma, satrasaha, sura (occurring about 150 times in the RV), somapa, somapatama, siprin, harisipra, et al. Such epithets indicating the human origin of a god are hardly met with in connection with abstract deities like Brhaspati, Brahmanaspati, Prajapati, etc. Even if they occur they are very meagre compared to the frequency of their use in connection with Indra.

Concrete feats are attributed to the gods who form the subject-matter of this work. The Rbhus had earned divinity by dint of their four-fold achievements; the Asvins had been deprived of their right to the Soma libation temporarily for mixing too frequently among men their devotees, by curing them of their maladies and serving them when they were in difficulty. These feats of these gods form often the subject-matter of many of the Rgveda verses. The repetition simply indicates the historicity of these events. These concrete feats may be referred to in contrast with vague generalisation as creators, cosmokrators, spiritual hierophanies - Brahman, Purusa, etc.

The hymns were intended both for the gods addressed to and the human community who listened to them within the context of the sacrifice or even outside as merely heard litanies.

A god whose concrete feats are recorded whose human adversaries are named and whose conquests over actual enemies and whose real assistance to historical personalities are mentioned was to the extent more tangible, real and convincing to the community. Praise and prayer to such a god generated faith among the supplicants that this god would behave in a similar fashion to his present worshippers. To the first few generations place-names and person-names would be familiar at first hand and repeated recitations and chantings would keep the memory fresh down the generations. Such details point to real human antecedents of the gods who began as human beings and were later deities.

If we divide the Vedic gods in three categories such as:

(a) Natural phenomena: Vayu, Usas, Surya, Agni and others.

(b) Historical figures transformed into gods: The Rbhus, the Asvins, Indra, et al.

(c) Partial or complete abstractions: Brhaspati, Brahman, Brahmanaspati, Purusa, Atman, Parjapati and others, then the second category of gods belong to the stage when the actual memory of living heroes, being deified was still fresh in the community's memory; the records of the details are a pointer to this. It is in this context that the second category of gods has a special and unique significance, all ancient mythologies provide parallel instances.

Hence this work with its specific purpose of classifying the historical figures transformed into gods will fill the gap neglected so far.

Many great personalities of the past like Buddha, Mahavira, Jesus and Chaitanya were mythologised. In our life-time we have seen outstanding and not so outstanding figures like Ramakrishna and many religious preceptors being raised to divinity and worshipped with cultic rites. So the phenomenon is not unique or unfamiliar.

A short summary of the work is presented now:

The Rbhus

The Rbhus have been described as human beings elevated to the status of divinity (martyasah santo 'mrtatvam anasuh, RV, 1.110.4). They attained divinity by dint of their four epoch- making achievements: (i) they transformed a dying cow into a milch-cow; this cow, Visvarupa by name belonged to Brhaspati; (ii) they by their medical skill rejuvenated their dying parents; (iii) they made a three-wheeled chariot for the Asvins; and (iv) they made the two horses, Haris, for Indra. Their achievements elevated them to the status of divinity, viz. a solar god, a god of fecundity. They earned the right to the third Soma-pressing which they enjoyed along with Indra by making the fourth camasa.

The Asvins

There are three aspects of the mythology of the Asvins; (i) their being the divine physicians and saviours, (ii) their relation with a maiden, which is an Indo-European archetype and (iii) the divine twinship motif which is a universal motif.- (i) These twin divine physicians cured their numerous devotees suffering from different types of maladies. Bhujyu who was stranded in mid- ocean was rescued by them. This feat of the Asvins is a parallel to Greek Castor and Polydeukes (Dioskuri). As a result of mixing too much among men, they lost their right to the Soma, which of course they regained by dint of their dexterity. - (ii) The Asvins' association with a female deity is an archetype. Sometimes she is their beloved, sometimes a sister and at others their mother. A few similar myths belonging to other traditions are: Greek and Roman Castor, Pollux and Helen - a sister, Lithuanian Dieva Sunelei and Saules Dukterys, Latvian Dieva Deli and Saules Meita - a sister in both mythologies, Greek Heraklels, Iphikles and Alcmene - mother, Amphion, Zethos and Antiope - mother. - The third section deals with the worship of the twin gods which is a universal motif. This motif exists in pre-historic, Semitic, Indo-European and American mythologies also.

The Maruts

"Martial storm gods'" is the best description of the Rgvedic Maruts, Indra's associates. The RV depicts this group of gods as bright, of howling nature, angry, fearful and similar in appearance - a description equally applicable to the storm gods as well as to the martial gods. The Maruts are the regular enjoyers of the midday Soma libation along with Indra and with other gods as well. Their relation with Indra is very close. In the TS and the A V the storm god Maruts have been transformed to the rain gods. They play a major role in the Karinsti which is performed for rains. This indicates that the society had then become an agricultural one. In the later Vedic literature, however, the Maruts' position was demoted to the status of devavisah; the subjects of gods.

Contents:

Foreword 

Acknowledgement

Abbreviations

Introduction

1. The Rbhus
    
Introductory
     Etymology of the Word rbhu
     Genealogy
     Fourfold Achievements of the Rbhus
     Camasa: The Fifth Achievement and the Right to the Soma-libation
     Scholar's Opinions on the Fourth camasa 
     The Rbhus: Solar Deities
     Epithets
     The Rbhus and the other Gods
     Scholars on the Identity of Rbhus
     Conclusion 

2. The Asvins
     The Divine Doctors, Asvins and the Soma drink
     The Heavenly Twins and a Maiden
     The Asvins: An Incarnation of the Universal Twin ship Motif 

3. The Maruts
     Etymology of the Word marut
     Storm-Rain-Gods
     Warrior Gods
     Anthropomorphic Features
     The Bright Maruts
     The Howling Maruts
     The Maruts' Anger
     The Fearful Maruts
     All the Maruts are equal
     The Maruts as birds
     The Maruts and Soma libation
     The Maruts' Animals: The Prsatis, the Horses
     The Parents of the Maruts
     Rodasi, the Female Associate of the Maruts
     The Maruts and the other Gods
     The Protégés of the Maruts
     The Maruts: The Maryas
     The Maruts: Gana, Sardhas, Veata, Visah
     The Maruts: Euhemeristic Geography and History in the Marut Hymns
     The Library Beauty of the Marut Hymns
     The Maurys in the Atharvaveda
     Maruts in the TS. the Brahmanas and in the Sutras
     Opinions of Scholars on the Identity of the Maruts
     Conclusion  

4. Indra
     Introduction
     On the Etymology of the word Indra
     Indra: The War God
     Indra's Protégés
     Indra-Vrtra
     The Epithets
     Indra and other Gods
     Indra, the Highest God
     Indra in the Yajurveda
     Indra in the Atharvaveda
     Opinion of Scholars on the Identity of Indra
     Conclusion

Bibliography

Glossary

Index

Sample Pages

















Post a Comment
 
Post Review
  • This is a short study on the Vedic deity Indra and the other deities related to Indra. Those deities include the Asvins, the Maruts, and Rbhus, as well as Indra. Chakravarty also compares these deities with the other Vedic deities such as Varuna, Surya, and Visnu.

    The term "euhemerism" is a method of mythological interpretation where the tales can be attributed to actual historical persons and events. However, the book does not identify historical figures or personages that serve as the source of these deities. Given the great antiquity of the Vedas this is not surprising. Instead, Chakravarty quite successfully assigns anthropomorphic attributes, qualities, and characteristics. In this regard Chakravarty's book is very useful and is a valuable resource to sorting out the sometimes confusing statements concerning these Vedic deities.
    While the Rg Veda is the primary focus, Chakravarty discusses qualities stated in the other samhitas and from the Brahmanas.

    This is good stating point to understanding these deities and the Vedas.
    by JAMES KALOMIRIS on 15th Jul 2014
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Paperback (Edition: 2005)
Sri Aurobindo Kapali Sastri Institute of Vedic Culture
Item Code: NZG541
$8.00
Tales of Indra (Lord Of Thunder)
by Tripti Sah
Paperback Comic Book
Amar Chitra Katha Pvt. Ltd
Item Code: NAD124
$6.50
Indra in Indian Mythology
by Muralidhar Mohanty
Hardcover (Edition: 2008)
Punthi Pustak
Item Code: NAG107
$45.00

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