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Perpetual India (Tale of A Timeless People)

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Perpetual India (Tale of A Timeless People)
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Perpetual India (Tale of A Timeless People)

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Item Code: NAW198
Author: Abhijit Basu
Language: English
ISBN: 9788121513326
Other Details: 9.00 X 6.00 inch
weight of the book: 0.37 kg
About the Book

What sustains a continuous culture? This book seeks an answer through a ground- breaking analysis of certain abiding aspects of India’s socio-cultural ethos, dating back to Harappan and Vedic times. It is meant to address a readership interested in knowing what makes an ancient civilisation tick and evolve through all the ups and downs of its millennial history. It explores the concepts and the civilisational memories which animate the quintessential Indian tradition that thrives in seeming perpetuity, while being also flavoured by an essence of humanistic universality.

The broad canvas is a review of the gamut of history (of dynasties, tribes and societies), linguistics, literature, legends, myths, spiritual and heterodox thoughts and practices—all that make an old culture address its existential challenges and survive through ages. It essentially is a journey of humanistic exploration to unravel the genetic code that invests the Indian people with the necessary cultural resilience to withstand the onslaught of Time. It is this spirit of rational and eclectic enquiry, aided by many a reference to primary Sanskrit sources and uncluttered by any baggage of dogma or shibboleth, which should appeal to all intelligent minds lay and scholar, curious adolescent and wise adult—making this effort stand out among works on Cultural studies and adding value to a bookshelf..

About the Author

ABHIJIT BASU (b. 1950), is a one-time research scientist from the Calcutta University. After a long career in the civil service, Government of India, he retired as a high-level financial administrator in 2010, and thereafter in 2015, as part-time independent director in the corporate sector. An avowed admirer of the ideal of the Renaissance man, Basu, apart from his keen interest in the sciences, has also been a lifelong follower of the liberal arts, especially Sanskrit literature and philosophy, English and Bengali literature and history.

He has authored two books on Indian Heritage and Sanskrit literature: Prophets, Poets and Philosopher-Kings (2012), and Marvels and Mysteries of the Mahabharata (2014), both having received acclaim from critics and readers. Since 2012 he has also been functioning as freelance Consultant Editor of a variety of books published by a reputed Publishing House in Mumbai.

Basu hails from an old Kolkata-based family of civil servants, professionals and academics. He considers himself blessed in having had loving exemplars as his parents, and now an attached family to provide a sense of belonging.


Greece, Egypt or Rome—have all vanished from this world. Yet there still remain here our name and mark of presence; something there is indeed that keeps our ethos alive, though for ages we have faced the onslaught of time.

Muhammad Iqbal The Hindu religion is the only one of the world’s great faiths dedicated to the idea that the Cosmos itself undergoes an immense, indeed an infinite, number of deaths and rebirths. It is the only religion in which the time scales correspond to those of modern scientific cosmology. Its cycles run from our ordinary day and night to a day and night of Brahma, 8.64 billion years long. Longer than the age of the Earth or the Sun and about half the time since the Big Bang. And there are much longer time scales still . . .

Carl Sagan, Cosmos Both comments, one by an acclaimed Urdu poet, and the other by an illustrious Western cosmologist-philosopher, can be linked to one of the most defining characteristics of Indian culture—that of an abiding consciousness of its own antiquity. That consciousness in turn is built upon a foundation of unbroken traditions, preserved over thousands of years, in the inherited civilisational memory of Indians at large. After all, what are a few thousand years when viewed against the cosmic scale of a day or night of Brahma? In that sense, Indians are a timeless people. Their civilisation, unlike the cultures of Egypt, Sumer or Greece, has continued without any break till date. Indians themselves seem to wallow in this notion of timelessness. So much so, that even the certainty of individual demise and the scriptural prognostication of terminal apocalypse do not constrain their projection of a perpetual future in which, even after a hundred Brahma years and dissolution of the universe, followed by an equally long period of deep slumber, the creator god wakes up again to begin another cosmic time cycle.

Indeed, a nuanced view of time is central to India’s spiritual philosophy, the foremost driver and sustainer of her culture. Time, to an Indian, means kdla-in its double-layered interpretations as earthly death and cosmic perpetuity. The nexus between the two is the unique Indian belief in transmigration of soul. The Hindu in his mind transcends physical death, fortified by the talismanic reassurance in his holy book-It (the soul) is not killed when the body is killed (na hanyate hanyamane Sarire). But transmigration, or rebirth, even after the soul’s sojourn in heaven for some time to exhaust the balance of past good karman, is not the ultimate goal. That goal, achievable only through renunciation, and only by the most devout seeker of truth, is moksa-liberation from the cycle of rebirth and union with Paramatma-Brahman, the one Supreme entity. Then again, this monist model of Hindu spirituality, meant for the true jnani (knower), is supplemented by the polytheist model for the masses, enjoined by the all-embracing recognition of one Truth in many gods articulated in the Rg-Veda (ekam sadvipra bahudha vadanti). This unique mandate for polytheist inclusiveness has facilitated the integration of newer tribes in the Indian social order by subsuming their deities in the Hindu pantheon. This inclusive Indian identity, so very important to harmonious socio-cultural continuity, is further reinforced by a shared repertoire of legends and myths, many of which— like the Vedic-Puranic mythology of cooperation and conflict between gods and demons-are susceptible to layers of significant interpretation.

Moving on, some strands of ancient Indian chronology from mythological to historical time can be picked up by a discriminating study of the plethora of accounts—of kings, tribes and societies-recorded in India’s epics and Puranas. Of particular interest are the annals of the two great royal lines-the solar and lunar dynasties, with their characteristic traits; the former having Rama, and the latter Krsna, as their role models. But India’s inclusive resilience is not confined only to a spiritually inspired worldview. Perhaps the most striking manifestation of Indian pluralism is the peaceful coexistence of heterodox philosophies. India, so often stereotyped as the domain of high-flying metaphysics, also has a heritage of distinguished materialists, sceptics and even atheists who, far from being burnt at the stake, have been heard with respect, though their views may not have conformed to the mainstream opinion. Obviously, the space of ideation in Perpetual India is large enough and tolerant enough to explore avenues of disputation thrown open to all thinking minds by the fundamental question, "who really knows?", enshrined in the creation hymn of the Rg-Veda.

While these aspects broadly cover the main themes of this book, a few words now about the structuring of the themes. _ The first chapter deals with some of the striking features of Indian continuity: purity of preservation of Vedic mantras; classification into varna, gotraand vamSa as invariant channels of social, clan and family continuity; the three modes of worship, viz. fire-sacrifice, temple-worship and individual renunciation; and the ancient origins of Indian place-names. The second relates to the special place of Sanskrit as the linguistic vehicle of Indian traditions. It traces the development of Sanskrit’s uniquely perfected grammar; its remarkable semantic concordance with modern computer languages; unerring fidelity preserved over millennia of the Vedic chant; inter-civilisational links of Sanskrit with ancient Persian and the Hurrian dialect of North Mesopotamia; and abiding Sanskritic traditions of the Vedas, the Epics and the Puranas. The third chapter examines a plausible anthropomorphic line of interpretation of the mythology of gods and demons, as found in the Vedic, Epic and Puranic records. The following chapter, titled Yayati’s Children. . ., posits a plausible interpretation of the Epic-Puranic legend of the eponymous king, his two wives and five sons as a tell- tale clue to the geographical dispersal of five Vedic dynasties and tribes over the historic land lying between the Himalayas, the Vindhyas and the eastern and western seas. The chapter also addresses the ‘Druhyu Question’, relating to the debatable ‘out-of-India’ migration of a Vedic tribe beyond the north-western limits of Aryavarta. The fifth chapter on Indian Concept of Time deals with the ancient Indian theories of cosmological time in terms of yugas, kalpas and manvantaras, all worked out with amazingly overlarge mathematical formulations, based on Indian invention of zero and the decimal system. The sheer metaphoric grandeur of Buddhist and Jain projections of kalpais also discussed, along with the related Hindu concepts of progressive erosion of dharma in course of the yuga cycle. The sixth theme is ‘history’ as recorded in the Puranas, with the Visnu-Purana providing a representative template, including hypothetical details of creation, destruction, astronomical spheres and gods on one hand, and detailed chronologies (histories laced with myths) of the solar and lunar dynasties, right up to the verifiable periods of the Maurya empire and thereafter. The seventh and last chapter is, in some ways, the crux of the whole matter. India is an emotional ‘idea’ in the minds of Indians—an emotion engendered by a shared tradition of legends and myths and aided by India’s tolerant pluralism. The old traditions are instilled into the collective consciousness, having been transmitted across centuries, largely through the medium of words, folk songs, dance or drama. There is hardly a parallel elsewhere of such millennial transmission. India sets great store by her old legends and the ancient wisdom conveyed through them. That wisdom is largely the wisdom of India’s sages, still vibrantly evocative in the legends andmyths of 7 sis like Agastya, Mandavya, Markandeya or Mudgala.

No wonder then that, India’s holy books enjoin "debt to the sages’ as one of the great debts owed by the human soul. Finally, the chapter deals at some length with the respect and space given by India to its other great minds—materialists, sceptics and atheists—who, as if in pursuance of the aforesaid ReVedic mandate for disputation, had significantly furthered the cause of free thinking, so crucial to India’s vibrant pluralism.

The author owes a profound debt to the seers of India. Hence, the book’s dedication to the Drasta Rsis-the great minds who guided and moulded the devolopment of her time-tested civilisation. He must, in that same context, also record his oft-perceived sense of endowment in having had venerable book-loving parents, who inspired him to drink deep from the great well of India’s and the world’s spiritual and cultural heritage. A special word of gratitude is reserved for Mr B.G. Joshi (Bhagwan Govind Joshi), who like his illustrious father, Wesa WA. Heit (Govind Mahadev Joshi), is a polymath scholar, mathematician and sanskritist. Mr Joshi, who is a former Trustee and long-time associate of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, has, with great kindness and patience through many rounds of discussion, aided the author in this ambitious mission. The treasures of original Sanskrit sources and commentaries by many scholars and authors of the past and present were resources, without which this book could not have been written. References to almost all such source materials and authors have been given in the chapter-ending notes. Any error or omission could only be due to regerettable inadvertence. Finally, a word of thanks to the author’s wife Ratna, who, as always, has been a tower of familial support, which helped this work in no small measure.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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