The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan—that Institute of Indian Culture in Bombay-——needed a Book University,
a series of books which, if read, would serve the purpose of providing higher education.
Particular emphasis, however, was to be put on such literature as revealed the deeper impulsions
of India. As a first step it was decided to bring out in English 100 books, 50 of which were to be
taken• in hand almost at once.
It is our intention to publish the books we select, not only in English, but also in the following
Indian languages: Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati. Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam.
This scheme, involving the publication of 900 volumes, requires ample funds and an all-India
organization. The Bhavan is exerting its utmost to supply them.
The objectives for which the Bhavan stands are the reintegration of Indian culture in the light
of modern knowledge and to suit our present-day needs- and the resuscitation of its fundamental
values. in their pristine vigour.
Let me make our goal more explicit: We seek the dignity of man, which necessarily implies the
creation of social conditions which would allow him freedom to evolve along the lines of his own
temperament and capacities; we seek the harmony of individual efforts and social relations, not
in any makeshift way, but within the framework of the Moral Order we seek the creative art of
life, by the alchemy of which human limitations are progressively trans- muted, so that man may
become the instrument of God and is able to see Him in all and all in Him.
The world we feel, is too much with us. Nothing would uplift or inspire us so much as the beauty
and aspiration which such books can teach. In this series therefore, the literature of India
ancient and modern, will be published in a form easily accessible to all. Books in other
literatures of the world if they illustrate the principles we stand for will also be included.
This common pool of literature it is hoped will enable the reader eastern or westem to under-
stand and appreciate currents of world thought as also the movements of the mind in India which
though they flow through different linguistic channels, have a common urge and aspiration.
Fittingly the Book University’s first venture is the Mahabhara, summarized by one of the greatest
living Indians, C. Rajagopalachari: the second work is on a section of it the Gita by H.V.
Divatia. an eminent jurist and a student of t philosophy. ’Centuries ago, it was proclaimed of the
Mahabhara: "What is not in it, is nowhere." After twenty-five centuries, we can use the same words
about it. He who knows it not, knows not the heights and depths of the soul: he misses the trials
and tragedy and the beauty and grandeur life.
The Mahabhara is not a mere epic; it is a romance, telling the tale of heroic men and women and of
some who were divine; it is a whole literature in itself. containing a code of life, a philosophy
of social and ethical relations, and speculative thought on human problems that is hard to rival;
but above all, it has for its core the Gita, which is, as the world is beginning to find out, the
noblest of scriptures and the grandest of sagas in which the climax is reached in the wondrous
Apocalypse in the Eleventh Canto.
Through such books alone the harmonies underlying true culture, I am convinced. Will one day
reconcile the disorders of modem life.
I thank all those who have helped to make this new branch of the Bhavan’s activity successful.
In this hand-book, Shri V.A.K. Ayer has given in a succinct and useful form the highly desirable
information about Hindu scriptural authorities and the Samskaras. Manu has mentioned four sources
of Dharma — Shruti, Smriti, custom of good people and that which appeals to one’s good conscience.
Yajnavalkya has added Samyak- sankulpajah-karmah and also stated the fourteen Vidya- sthanas. Menu
also states that the best authority is the entire Veda i.e. Veda with all ifs six Angas. Smriti
also includes in a broad sense, Itihasas, Puranus, Upa-puranas, Tantras and Agamas. Shri Ayer has
given des- criptions of all these authorities.
He has also treated the subject of Samskaras in Section II. Maximum number of Samskaras which
are purificatory and religious ceremonies of the Hindus are counted as 48. Sometimes the number is
reduced 40; 25 to 16 or even 8. In modern times, Upanayana, Vivaha, Antyeshti are the minimum that
are performed. All to them are described in a brief but vivid manner.
This hand-book is bound to be widely appreciated and Shri Ayer deserves compliments for marking
this useful subject available to public at large in an interesting manner.
Back of the book
Author, journalist and scholar, Shri Ayer is given to by aptitude and training, a wide range of
studies extending from astrology to Vedic researches. Starting life as the Editor of a Music
Journal in the early thirties, he was a school teacher for two years. The lure of the pen drew him
again to the editorial department of daily newspapers of Ceylon, Madras and Bombay successively.
Changing the area _of his activities in the forties, he joined the staff of leading booksellers
and publishers where for over a decade he had ample opportunities of slaking his literary thirst
over a wide field and learning the abracadabra of the publishing world. He served simultaneously
as the literary editor of two popular journals.
He joined the Bhavan in 1952 and served as Associate Editor of the Bhawan’s Journal since its
inception for 15 years till 1968, when he went over to Bangalore as the Director of .Bhavan’s
Bangalore Kendra. He was later engaged in producing Culture Course Readers and other literature
for children at the Bhavan.
His published works include a book on astrology and a couple of books on palmistry, besides
Stories of Vikramadityo. (Simhasano; Dwatrimsika), Stories of King Madana Kama and Untold Stories
of King Bhoja, published by the Bhavan. Shri Ayer passed away in 1991 at the age of 80.
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