24 July, 2021

My Book of the Century

My Book of the Century

MY favourite book is actually a book of poems called Speaking of Shiva, translated by A.K. Ramanujan. This is a book of vachanas or 'sayings' of four of the most significant saint-poets of the Karnataka region-Basavanna, Allama, Dasimayya and Akkam Ahadevi. They represent the beginning of the Veerasaiva movement, a kind of 'protestant' Hindu awakening period where a deliberate attempt was made to make religion accessible to everyone. The vachana poetry in the book spans the 10th to the 12th century A.D. Far from being dogmatic, the poems are a celebration of the love for the divine. But unlike Vaishnav poetry, they are extremely profound and complex in their understanding of human longing for spirituality and meaning; they also lack the stiffness of Sanskrit slokas. Ramanujan's translation is musical, resonant, brilliant in its simplicity and free of antiquated terms. I urge litterateurs, better read than I, to consider this the book of the millenium. Perhaps it will restore people's faith in 'Protestant' Hinduism and save it from the savages.

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