Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

Book Reviews

Beginnings of Life, Culture and History. Bhishma’s Study of Indian History and Culture: Gen. Editor: S. D. Kulkarni. Shri Bhagavan Vedavyasa Itihasa Samshodhana Mandira, B 7-8 Sreepal Apts. Near Aradhana Talkies, Panch Pakhadi, Thane - ­400 602. Price: Rs. 320.

This is the first volume of a daring project to rewrite the history of India. It is recognised on all hands that most of the extant histories – whether by Western scholars or Indian­–are prejudiced or err with half-lights. With a view to arriving at an objective, authentic account of the evolution of the Indian peoples, Sri Kulkarni has begun this venture with the collabora­tion of authorities in their respective fields.

The origins of Indian civilisation are undoubtedly to be traced to the Vedas whose central purport is generally missed by the Indologists. “One is amazed to know that some thousands of years ago, the Vedic Aryans could grapple in their own way with the mystery of the creation and life. Their ideas on the subject appear to be far ahead of their times. The Vedas are regarded as the foundation of religion, culture and philosophy of the Indians but in actuality they belong to the world at large. The Rig Veda clearly reveals that the home of the Vedic people was a vast expanse of land encompassed by the Caspian Sea in the west, the Pamir and the Himalayas in the north and north-east, the Ganga and the Yamuna in the east and Arabia. Iran, Iraq and Mesopotamia in the south. It was here that the Vedic culture initially flourished. Later, the Aryans dispersed to different lands in Europe, North Africa, the rest of Asia and America, and developed the ancient world civilisations in their respective regions. Unfortunately, those who migrated from their original homeland, almost totally lost their links with their ancient culture, while only the Indians could preserve the Vedas and their links with the ancient Vedic civilisation, making such modifications as the climes and times demanded.”

Some of the chapter headings indicate the lines on which these studies have been carried on: Sources of Indian History; Origin of the Universe; Problem of Consciousness; Vedic model of creation; Home of the Vedic people; Geographical references in the Vedas; Veda as History; Corporate life in the Vedic age; Science of Measurement of Time; Problem of Indian Chronology; Note on Gupta Chronology; Saraswati-Sindhu civilisation; Art of writing in ancient India. Maps, charts, photographs add to the documentary value of the work.

The conclusions are stimulating. One may not accept all of them, but one is obliged to think again on the subject. The editor observes: “We now know that the Bharat War was a historical event which took place in 3138 B. C. The contemporary of Alexander, the Greek adventurer, was Chandragupta of the Imperial dynasty and not Chandragupta Maurya who really belonged to the 6th century B. C. The age of Adi Sankara was also 6th century B. C. and not 8th as is generally held.”

There is a happy blend of the ancient thought and the modern spirit of research in these pages. It will be a landmark when this project of 18 volumes is completed. History, Religion, Warfare Technology, Fine Arts, Economics, Positive Sciences, European Interlude and Revival of the Indian Spirit – all these rub shoulders in this well-printed and hard-bound volume.


The Heat And Sacrifice in The Vedas: By Uma Marinavesei. Motilal Banarsidass, Bungalow Road, Delhi-110007. Price: Rs. 100.

To pooh-pooh and decry Vedic rituals has become a fashion of these days in India. In this context it is not only heart-warming hut also surprising to note that many foreign students are coming to India, studying the Brahmanical and Sruta texts and expounding the significance and relevance of Vedic rituals. The hook under review is one such written by an indefatigable research student, a native of Rome and author of some other books also. Unlike the religious rites of other countries, it is only in India that cooked rice is offered to gods. The reason for such a treatment forms the subject matter of this thesis.

The first four chapters describe the emergence and development of the concept the Fire as god of energy, and heat as an important element of rituals. Other chapters take into account four emblematic rituals where heat is especially prominent. Spirituality underlying these rituals also is pointed out.

The famous Vedic sentence “atapta tanus na tat amo asnute” is explained. Ritual heat, in Rigveda, is a source of energy. Filter when heated before use in sacrifices, purifies, transforms and endows Soma with power. Efficacy of the heat in horse sacrifice and funeral rites also is brought to our knowledge. Ritual, according to her, is a fundamental factor for the construction of a world in which a human being can live in peace.

In short, one is reminded here of the Gita’s teaching “Parasparam bhaavayantah sreyah param avapsyadha”. This book exemplifies this teaching, and opens our eyes to the greatness of Vedic rituals and culture.


Gada’s Garland of Devotion: By Dr. Prema Nandakumar. Samata Books, Congress Buildings, Mount Road, Madras-6. Price: Rs. 15.

Prema Nandakumar’s Goda’s Garland of Devotion is her garland for Goda, an act of love, faith and devotion. It is a sensitive, endearing recounting and rendering of Sri Krishnadevaraya’s magnificent Prabhandha Kavya, the Aamukta Maalyada, as well as a scholarly presentation of the work’s intricate plot, its religious and socio-cultural context and content, and its symbolic and allegorical dimensions. Aamukta Maaiyada is considered to be a highly complex and difficult masterpiece, a classic stylized and textured in the Naarikelapaaka, and hence not easily accessible to the common reader without the Paracletean intercession of a congenial interpreter. Prema Nandakumar has undertaken this task and accomplished it with great distinction. A daughter of Tamil Nadu and an adopted daughter of Andhra, there is a fittingness in Prema’s critical response to a Telugu classic so deeply soaked in the Tamil ethos. We are indebted to her for her rendering it in the graceful and lissome manner of the Draakshaapaaka style.

Aamukta Maalyada, subtitled Vishnuchittiyamu, stands for the gifting of the worn garland, the garland of celestial flowers culled in the fields of God, blooming in the human consciousness and sanctified by the life empowering Dohada of the Divine Bride, a mystic offering legitimised by the aesthesis of Sringara and Bhakti, and accepted by the Lord of Creation and Sustenance with loving concern for the human kind. This symbolic mythos frames and integrates the divern Prabandhic constituents of Rasa. Dhvani-Varnana and Paatro­-Chitrana into a marvellous Mandala of the shaping imagination in Devaraya’s work. Prema Nandakumar’s exposition brings out the intrinsic alliance of feeling, form and content that effects the dynamic aesthetic balance as well as the congruence of the Kavya’s existential coherence and its secular plasticity. Her exegesis of the Avatarika or the preamble demonstrates the organic unity and continuity of Aamukta Maalyada from its genesis in Iha to its gnossis in Para, charting the varied contours of the soul’s pilgrimage toward the Divine. Her own votive song of adoration, A Lyric Dawn, stands out not as a mere appendix but as an affirmation of the spiritual progression from advent to epiphany which defines and informs the architechtonic principle of Aamukta Maalyada.

Tracing the origins of the poem in the Emperor-poet’s historical, psychological and spiritual circumstance and motivation, Prema draws attention to the long tradition of Vaishnava classics, especially the hymnology of the Alwars indicted in the Divya Prabandham as the inspirational foundation of Aamukta Maalyada. The stories of Vishnuchitta, Khandikya and Kesidhvaja, Yaamunaachaarya, and finally of Goda Devi herself, are presented as the thematic interfaces of a single, paradigmatic narrative which celebrates the Bhakti Yoga which draws earth and heaven into a cosmic Kalyaana. Naturally Goda Devi’s story is at the ontic-epistemic centre of Aamukta Maalyada embodying the Vaishnava theodicy of Prapatti, and Prema Nandakumar shows how closely Devaraaya’s work adumbrates the mystic’s path of aspiration, waiting, vision, dark night of the soul, longing and union as archetyped in the Tiruppaavai. Her identification of the poet’s Dasaavataara apostrophes with the asketic salutations of Nachiyaa Thirumozi establishes the doctrinal and aesthetic authenticity of the Telugu Prabandha as a Vaishnavite classic as also Goda’s pathway to the Divine, as Kaavya Naayikaa, through “a love of beauty in Nature and Art.” (p. 45) The episodic fable of the Maaladaasari and the Brahmaraakshasa, one of the highlights of the poem, is discussed both in its narratological and its ecological significance. The symbolic connotations of the Goda Devi-Sri Ranganatha wedding are charmingly correlated to Krishnadevaraaya’s own spiritual quest and fulfilment as the celebrating bard of the holy wedding.

In the brief compass of 58 pages Prema Nandakumar has offered us God’s plenty. If criticism is an invitation to creative reading, it is very much in evidence here. At a time when Indian scholar-critics are pre-occupied with their chimerical pursuits of the critical idiom in the wilderness of deconstruction, and are busy defamiliarising us, with their Reeti Vaada and Sushka Paanditya, from literature as a living process, it is soothing to come across so agreeable a mode of sensibility as Prema Nandakumar’s, which affiliates itself with the genius of a great world classic like Aamukta Maalyada. To say more than praise is to tempt the evil eye. Suffice it to assert, with Prema, that Aamukta Maalyada is a well-worn garland-of-love and devotion and grace.


Vision of the Sacred Dance: By K. C. Kamalaiah, 6, 65th street, 12th Avenue, Asoknagar, Madras-83. Price: Rs. 60.

Mr. Kamalaiah’s book is obviously inspired by Tirumular’s Tirumantiram and Anand a K. Coomaraswamy’s Dance of Shiva in the Siddhanta Deepika. Attempting a work of this genre needs a large measure of devotion, besides scholarship and the ability to give expression to one’s innermost thoughts. The book is a fine combination of religion and art and is more religious than mere art explication.

The six essays in it have been the work spread over nearly two decades. To these have been added the author’s English rendering of the Tiru-k-kuui-t-iaricanum which reveals the poetic quality of the inspired seer, Siddhar Tirumular.

The cosmic dance of Lord Shiva has been a subject of deep contemplation by seers and sages down the ages. Shri Adi Shankara sang in melodious verse the indivisibility of the Supreme Being and the Supreme Mother: “Shivashaktayukto yaat bhavari shaktuh prabhavitam … in Soundaryalahari. Nataraja, the master of cosmic dance, inheres in his Supreme Being the Supreme Mother for the one always inheres the other. Con­templating the one is contemplating the other too. Tirumular says (the translation is Mr. Kamalaiah’s):

The invisible Shakti is the will power of the Invincible Lord
Goading Him and the Souls into action
Instilling in the latter a sense of discrimination
That is agent provacateur, guide and instrument of love
Leading the souls unto the feet of Haran.

The translation is competent. The book would surely appeal both to art-lovers for the writer’s study and explication of the various icons of Nataraja and to the God-loving for its quality of devotion.


William Golding A Study: By V. V. Subba Rao. Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd., L-10 Green Park Extension. New Delhi-110 016. Price: Rs. 125.

The outbreak of World War II was a turning point in the career of a school master–William Golding–who was not very happy in that profession. “It was the turning point for me,” Golding is quoted as having said, “I began to see what people were capable of doing. Where did the Second World War come from? Was it made by something inhuman and alien –or was it made by chaps with eyes and legs and hearts?” Lord of the Flies, Golding’s first published novel was based on the vision of evil inherent in the human heart that he found in the war.

William Golding: A Study based on the author’s doctoral dissertation, studies the mind of William Golding that visualized the universe as “cosmic chaos”. Though such an idea is felt in all his writings that include poems, essays and plays, the researcher has chosen only his fictional writings for the study. This thesis is intended to make a study of man questing for order on various levels and encountering in the process chaos within and without as seen in Golding’s novels.

Dr. V. V. Subba Rao takes up the novels of Golding from Lord of the Flies to The Paper Men one after the other according to their order of publication and devotes a chapter each for his discussion. Thus in the main ten chapters of the book he succeeds in showing us the world of Golding in which chaos manifests itself in various forms. The book examines Golding’s projection of a vision expressive of his tragic sense of human destiny and thereby helps us acquire a better understanding of the complex nature of Golding’s fiction.


Bangkok Desk (Reminiscences of Thailand Days): By A. B. Das Gupta. Writers Workshop, Calcutla-45. Price: Rs. 60.

Dr. Das Gupta, hailing from Calcutta, joined an Emergency Commission in the Medical Service of the Government of India during the Second World War, which took him to Burma (as it was then called), Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand (erstwhile Siam). After relinquishing the Commission in 1946, Dr. Das Gupta left for Thailand in 1947 and practised medicine there till 1979 when he returned to his native city.

The book, as the sub-title itself indicates, is a faifhful and factual record of the writer’s experiences in the land of his adoption, Thailand – the people, their manners and customs, their courtesy and hospitality, their charm and camaraderie, their helpful nature and obliging attitude, as also the Royal family and its members (who are held in great esteem and reverence by the people), the officialdom and bureaucracy, the universities and places of public interest, the consular representa­tives of various countries stationed there including the Indian, the conviviality of these well-assorted comrades in the enjoyment of the good things of life and a host of other minutiae regarding life in that country. Dr. Das Gupta writes about them all with engaging ease, unobtrusively and straight from the heart, without ornate literary embellishments or conceits of phase and expression. It is just like a narration of events in all their colourful, and at times not so palatable, details to a friend sitting on the opposite side of the talk-table, listening intently.


Brahma Vidya: The Adyar Library Bulletin Vols. 51 and 52 of 1987 and 1988. The Adyar Library and Research Centre, The Theosophical Society, Adyar, Madras-20. Prices: Rs. 120 and Rs. 50 respectively.

Volume 51 of 1987 was published as a special issue on the occasion of the 60th birthday of Prof. Ludo Rocher. In addition to a biography and bibliography of the works of Prof. Rocher, we have here in a rich harvest of fifteen research articles on a variety of subjects like Jurisprudence. Religion, Philosophy, Grammar and Ayurveda, written by eminent scholars, students and admirers of Prof. Rocher. Many of these have something to say afresh, and provide interesting reading.

Volume 52 contains eight articles with the titles “Limitations in the scientific and phenomenological study of scriptures,” “Samskrit metrics as studied in Buddhist Universities”, “Was Ramakrishna an Advaitin”, “The Advaita theory of meaning”, “Kavyasyatma Dhvanih”, Pramana Vartika problem of definition in Indian logic, contextual reference and relation of identity. In addition to these, we have a text dealing with Mudras used in Archana, Arghya and Guruvandana, all 32 in number, with slokas, their English translation and illustrative photos. A commentary named “Grandha Yojana” on Sabara’s Bhashya on Jaimini Sutras is also published for the first time. These two texts, together with a section devoted to review of about ninety books, make this volume a valuable and permanent asset to all indologists and students of Mimamsa and Tantra in particular.


The Affair: By Sharat Kumar. Writers Workshop, Calcutta-45.

This tiny volume of short stories within a, hundred pages tries to pack fresh ideas in the shape of story. The author, belonging to naval and military assignments, has not ignored observing the life around. His idea of literature is conceived, well as evident from a passage in his Preface. He says: “Literature offers opportunity to constantly assess the value which people hold sacrosanct and which they live with. The anxiety to preserve life propagates conventional morality which makes claim to wisdom, forgetting that wisdom cannot reside in the state, for it is always in motion, that it can only lie in the nimble movements of the human spirit. Traditions become earth-bound and heavy. They promise stability and thrust responsibility. But no fights of imagination leap from tradition’s unquestioned discipline. It smothers the ecstacy and ethereal fragrance of love which stirs the inner depths and brings consciousness of life as a new elevation with a joyful upsurge of the creative spirit.”

In the title story, which happens to be the fifth in order of contents, here, represents the author’s theory in a successful manner. Meeting a divorced woman who leads a free unconven­tional life, young Ashok finds the uninhibited companionship in a way that is not much different from that of love. They express themselves to each other of their own feelings which do not take away the sanctity attached to pure married existence. Still they are not married or rather the author does not mention marriage. The other stories, most of them bear traces of experiences which are not commonly felt by the general run of writers. Each of the other ones possesses a strange elusive quality without at the same time estranging us from the characters. Events of a gripping nature are few, though that by itself does not take away the absorbing interest of the reader owing to the smart yet convincing dialogues throughout.

As usual, the Writers Workshop has produced the book attractively.


Two Plays: By J. P. Das. Writers Workshop, Lake Gardens, Calcutta-45. Price: Rs. 20.

Here are two playlets whose main themes centre round the present day agitation over the evil of dowry system. Despite legislation to ban the dowry by severe punishments for violations, the effect seems not much of a gain to the community, as resorts usually to devious methods or make-believe reforms result only in moral deprivation of one kind or other.

The first play is a total entertainment to the reader because of the attempts at competition between two fellows bidding for higher and higher prizes, only to end in a farce of disappointment of their own making. The second one deals with a girl sought by the parents to be shoved against her desire, on a person whose claim to probity is nil and who only descends to weaknesses of duplicity and deception, while he is discovered by the sensitive would-be bride with a strong will to resist any pressure from her parents.



Kumarasabhava of Kalidasa with the commentary Panjika by Vallabhadeva: Editor and Publisher Dr. Gautama Patel, “Valam” L-III, Swatantra Senani Nagar, Nayawadaj, Ahmedabad-380 013. Price: Rs. 57.

Kalidasa’s Kumarasambhava Kavya needs no introduction. There are many commentaries on that Kavya. Vallabhadeva’s commentary named Panjika is one among them. It was not in print all these days. Dr. Patel, a Samskrit Professor, who had many research papers and publications to his credit, unearthed not less than 25 manuscripts, selected and collated eight of them and offered this edition with all the critical apparatus. He made a good job of his work, an arduous one indeed.

A critical and scholarly introduction comprises three sections. The first two sections give detailed information about the manuscripts, Vallabhadeva and his achievements, and commentators preceding and following him. The third section is entirely devoted to a critical study of the commentary, its salient features, merits and demerits thereof, and the extent of the Kavya.

Variant readings in Kumarasambhava text and Vallabhadeva’s commentary are noted under every verse. The three appendices list out (1) the variant textual readings arranged verse-wise. (2) quotes in the commentary with their sources, (3) all the sayings in the commentary and (4) Panini’s Sutras quoted by the commentator. Variants in the commentary according to some traditions on some verses are recorded separately. Bibliography and abbreviations are not left out. Kudos to the editor.



Sri Ramanuja Vaibhavam of Vadivazhakiya Nambi Dasar: Edited by Vidwan R. Kannan Swami, Author, 91, Tulasinga Mudali Street. Perambur, Madras-600011. Price: Rs. 54.

The first biography of Ramanuja was written by his Andhra disciple, Vaduga Nambi. Later on, numerous accounts of Sri Ramanuja’s compassion-laden life and spiritual, ministry came to be composed by devotees, scholars and poets like Garuda Vahana Pandita, Anantacharya, Vedanta Desika and Varada­charya. The Guru Parampara Prabhavam of Vadivazhakiya Nambi Dasar is justly famous. Sri Kannan Swamt who combines scholarly erudition with oratorical brilliance, has edited Dasar’s hagiography with a lucid translation into Tamil prose. The present (second) volume contains the lives of Nathamuni, Alavandar and Ramanuja.

The intense Narayana Bhakti of these Acharyas is a familiar but ever-wonderful story. Nathamuni who rescued the hymns of the Alwars from oblivion is literally the founder of Srivaishnavism. His grandson. Alavandar (Yamunacharya) had a colourful life and is a major presence in Krishnadevaraya’s Telugu epic, Aamukta Maalyada.

Ramanuja was born in 1017 A. D., and became a Sannyasin in his 32nd year. As the spiritual head of the Vaishnavas he tended his devotees with maternal solicitude, perfected the day­-to-day administration of the Srirangam temple and traveled all over India. For a few years he had to go to Karnataka in self-exile because of the Chola king’s enmity. In Karnataka, Ramanuja converted the Jain king Bittideva to Vaishnavism. As Vishnuvardhana the king built the marvellous temple at Belur to worship Narayana. Ramanuja also wrote a few seminal commentaries like Vedanta Sara. Sribhashya and Gitabhashya. His three gadyas in SanskritSaranagati, Sri Ranga and Sri Vaikuntha are, of course, flashes of radiant devotional fervour.

Vadivazhakiya Nambi generally follows the traditional account regarding Ramanuja’s life. The Acharya’s student days in Yadavaprakasa’s school, the parting of ways, the Kanchipuram sojourn, renunciation, spiritual ministry at Srirangam, listening to the Aadi Kavya in Tirupati and the building of the Tiru­narayanapuram temple are all referred to succinctly but with suggestive poetic similes. Ramanuja passed away in Srirangam when he had attained the advanced age of 120. The Udayavar Sannidhi in the temple complex where the Acharya’s mortal remains were interred is today a place of holy pilgrimage. Sri Kannan Swami has earned our special gratitude for showing us how Dasar’s biography uses phrases from the Divya Prabhandham hymns with telling effect. A welcome entrant to the shelves of Bhakti literature.


Mahayogamu: Telugu translation by Ramachandra Kaundinya. Sri Ramanasramam Book Depot Tiruvannamalai. Price: Rs. 15.
Soham: Part I: Telugu translation by Ramachandra Kaundinya. For copies Vedam Venkata Ramasastry, Linghichetti Street, Madras - 600001. Price not given.

The first book is a translation of the original work in English which itself is a brilliant Bhashya or commentary on Sri Ramana Maharshi’s memorable work, “Unnadi Naluvadi”, written by Dr. K. L. Sharma and heard and approved by the Maharshi. Sri Sharma and the translator also are close disciples of the sage Ramana.

A book with the title “I am That” in English is the original for the second book under review. This is a collection of dialogues on several days of late Nisargadatta Maharaj of Bombay, a Grihastha-saint whose teachings savour of the salubrious preachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi and Morris Firdman, a seeker of truth, doing Sadhana for the last several years.

These two books contain the teachings of two Jivanmuktas. They give a lucid exposition of the theory and practice of Advaita. They dispel our doubts, answer and solve the questions raised and problems posed by many rationalists, prescribe tested remedies to all the maladies of spirit that we are victims to, and put us in a righteous and spiritual path. In short, these two books in modern parlance can be named as “Golden Guides” to the theory and practice of a divine life.

The book Mahayogamu, is otherwise named as “Upanishad Darshanamu” in twelve chapters, deals with the cause of our unhappiness, importance of a Guru, Ajnana, Adhyasa or superimposition. Pramana or valid authority, nature of the world, Jiva, Iswara, Atmavichara, Bhakti, Naahamsthiti, Jnana etc. The chapters dealing with the Jagat, Atmachintana, Bhakti, Naahamsthiti, and Maharshi deserve a careful study for practical guidelines.

Soham: The subjects dealt with and the questions raised in the first book are dealt with here also in a new form. Many more points also are discussed. All of these are the teachings and statements found in the Prasthana Traya and commentaries thereon but presented here in precise and pithy sentences. “To know what you (1) are, know at first what you are not,” “negate everything that is not you” (Neti Neti). In short, for an understanding of Advaita’s tenets without tears, one cannot find a better book. These two books, troves of Upanishadic wisdom, deserve to be read and preserved by all.


Guru Ramana Vachanamaia: (Tr) Ramachandra Kaundinya. Sri Ramanaashramam, Tiruvannamlai-606603. Price: Rs. 4.

This little book is of immense value for all spiritual sadhakas in general and for the devotees of the Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi in particular. This is in fact a translation of a translation and yet is of great value because the present Telugu translation of English version of Paramartha Deepika itself a rendering from the Tamil compilation of the Bhagavan’s teachings called Guru Vacakakkai by Muruganar, one of the celebrated sishyas of the Bhagavan, is himself a close disciple of the Bhagavan and is a scholar-poet in Telugu in his own right. Sri Kaundinya’s prose has classical elegance about it and at times catches the rhythms of poetry, too. The translator’s long association with the Maharshi and his philosophy stands him in good stead in translating the teachings from English.

In addition to giving literary Telugu rendering from English, he provides a number of elucidating notes by way of footnotes, which go a long way in avoiding pitfalls in understanding the text. For example, on page 17 (paragraph 58) he adds a footnote to explain that although the text says that there is a state above turiya (the fourth one), it should not be taken literally as such. He elucidates: Pat Vaakyamu nikristaa­rthamukaadu (above sentence does not constitute the considered opinion) and adds that the Maharshi had elsewhere made it clear, beyond any shadow of doubt, that above the state of manas there is only one state called turiya. If the translator had chosen easier or colloquial forms of words, it would have served the needs of modern men whose grounding in classical Telugu is not much. Sri Kaundinya, being a scholar, cares more for exactitude than for spontaneous communication. But then it should be remembered books of this type are not every­one’s cup.


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