Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Ayodhya Ram Mandir: Bharat’s Quest for Ram-Rajya by Swadesh Singh (Book Review: 4.5*/5) !!!


1st Book of 2024


I remember reading about Ram Mandir in 2011 descriptively in the newspapers when one of the prominent hearings in the court was going on. That was the first time when I understood the prominence and controversy around Ram Mandir and why it has become so important for certain section of our society – surprisingly the section which counts as majority in our nation. 4 years back, I turned into a Vishnu devotee. At this point of time while I was reading about Lord Vishnu and his avatars and the most famous one – Lord Ram, I realized the importance of Ram Mandir which was due to be built at his birthplace. Luckily, the Bhoomi Pujan happened just after.


Since then, I wanted to know all about its history etc. which I got a great opportunity to finally learn when Swadesh Singh released his latest book this January named “Ayodhya Ram Mandir”. I must applaud Rupa Publication as well for publishing this book as it might have turned into a controversy and despite howsoever secular our nation is, whenever it comes to such sensitive topic, it is objected by certain section of audience whatsoever might be the case. Anyway, talking about the book, it helps us understand the whole history of the establishment of Ram Mandir and its multiple destruction by different rulers of India. It helps us get into the past and know about the psychology of people towards this temple and why it is so prominent even after centuries for the Indian civilization.


The 1st chapter discusses the significance of the land of Ayodhya. Author delves into explaining us about the Ikshvaku dynasty and all its respective kings. It tells how Ayodhya has always been a major part in the history of India. Along with it, author discusses about the different set of rules under which temple and its existence suffered right from Mauryan, Gupta, Mughals and finally, Britishers. The 2nd chapter finally brings us to the modern India where the first case gets filed in the Indian judiciary in the year 1822 and how it kept on struggling in court until 2019. I was surprised to learn how intellectually and smartly Supreme Court rejected the judgment of High court which gave three different parties equal land at the birthplace. It is also a proud moment to learn how Indians accepted the Supreme Court judgment and there was no major case of any violence across India.


In the latter part of the book, author moves towards the current scenario where the construction of Ram temple has begun in Ayodhya and is ready to be open for its devotees to worship Lord Ram in his childhood avatar proudly standing at its rightful location – Lord Ram’s birthplace. Author gets into details and gives an overview on the design, architecture and the whole insight on how the whole temple and the premises will look like. The way author has written the whole part actually makes you visualize the whole temple in front of your eyes. It will make you impatient as the construction of whole temple premises will take some more years for us to view what it is actually planned and aspired to be.


Swadesh also discusses how the development of modern Ayodhya is being planned along with the temple because it becomes very necessary for the whole locality to have different tourist spots for the devotees to enjoy as people come from faraway places and expect every lane to give an essence of Lord Ram’s presence. I am glad the way author narrated about all the existing attractions around Ayodhya such as Sarayu River, Hanumangarhi, Kanak Bhawan, Shri Nageshwarnath temple, Sita ki rasoi etc. Along with this, author also talks about how these attractions shall be further beautified after the temple gets opened for its devotees.


Along with the importance of Ayodhya for Sanatan Dharm, Swadesh speaks about how it is also equally worshipped by other religions such as Jains and Buddhists as well. I wasn’t aware about Ayodhya’s relevance as a spiritual fabric of the nation for multiple religions which the book made me decipher in very easy language. Swadesh has divided the chapters in a manner where each of them talks about a topic specifically which makes the interest alive for the readers and keep them focused towards the subject.


His research and efforts are visible in every sentence as author has deep dived into the subject. He could have made this book difficult for all of us by getting into the legal aspects in the language of our Indian law but he keeps it simple for all the audience to understand and learn from an overview aspect as to how the whole phenomena around Ram temple kept disturbing the emotions of the people aspiring to pray their Lord on his birthplace itself. Also, the book is of around 160 pages hence it becomes easy to go through it in few sittings itself.


Overall, this book is an excellent read specially at this point of time when Ram Temple is already open for all of us. It is going to be a very different experience while visiting Ayodhya after reading this book hence I would recommend everyone to read this one before planning an Ayodhya visit. It will also help you understand when is the best time to be there on the spiritual land based on the development that has been planned by Government along with its timelines. I rate this book 4.5* out of 5.






Thursday, December 28, 2023

Questions You Always Wanted to Ask by Swami Mukundananda (Book Review: 4.25*/5) !!!


36th Book of 2023!


I always get excited whenever I get to know that a spiritual leader/personality has written a book because their perspective of seeing things is always very optimistic and calm than how we look at things. I wanted to finish my reading target of 36 books for the Year 2023 with one such book. Hence, I picked up recently released book written by Swami Mukundananda named “Questions you always wanted to ask”. The book is published by Rupa Publications in around 190 pages. One can easily finish the book within a single sitting itself but the kind of spiritual and insightful gems author keeps on sharing with us doesn’t allow us to read it in speed but give each chapter its own time and reflect upon the same.


As the title of the book says, it is about the questions we generally have in our mind about life which we wish to ask to a spiritual guru and learn from them on how to handle our issues. Author has cumulated all such basic questions and tried giving answers from his perspective unapologetically. Author doesn’t shy away from writing solutions which might sound quite biased in terms of spiritual process but he assures that he only responds back to a question with an answer as experienced by him rather than giving some random templated answer. The book starts with talking about faith on how can one classify between blind and true faith. This chapter itself gives a solid foundation to the book as it clarifies how people generally falls into the cycle of blind faith without understanding what devotion actually is.


Swamiji is very crisp in his responses to every question and doesn’t end up writing long generic pieces which we have already read in some newspaper articles or Facebook/WhatsApp post. He gives short answers but with a very effective tone. Even while reading the answers, you start feeling some positive changes in your mindset and attitude. It is understandable the kind of impact it would make to us if we start following those advises and suggestions. In one of the chapters, author clarifies how all of us have misunderstood the concept of visualization and we believe that just by visualizing some ideal situations, we would manifest it into truth. He throws upon the light on how equal amount of effort is also required from our end in order to make our visualizations turn into true events.


Author doesn’t confine the book in either – spiritual or practical world but tries providing modern solutions even to the old-school questions. His intention is evident in every word that he wants to help readers in receiving the answer they’re looking forward by investing their time in this book. He has written every page with responsibility and ensures that the reader gets the maximum benefit out of the book and mostly, he has been successful in his endeavour.


There are topics where author has provided insights on the subjects such as reincarnation, past lives, destiny, life’s purpose, spirituality, religion, meditation etc. On the other hand, author has widely discussed about modern topics such as work-life balance, finding time for devotion, searching for a spiritual guru, self-confidence, enthusiasm, family life etc. Similarly, author also speaks about practical implementations for several topics such as reading scriptures and from where to start it – why Ekadashi fasting is necessary and how should one initiate it – how can one perform daily sadhana and meditation and for how long – the benefits of providing Seva – adopting vegetarian lifestyle etc.


Reading this book is like sitting in a breeze and enjoying pleasant flow of wind. The tough conditions and situations of our lives are also being talked of so easily that we don’t feel uncomfortable while reading them. For anyone who has never read spiritual books or didn’t perform spiritual practices, this book will be a good start to enter into the world of spirituality. The topics are nicely divided into different chapters. Every topic is then beautifully segregated in terms of several questions which helps us understand the direction in which the answer is being drafted.


Talking about the drawbacks, I must say that the author has provided very basic answers in certain sections which people keep on hearing anyway in their life. People expect something extra when they pick up a book from a spiritual personality like Swami Mukundananda. Secondly, author has promoted his belief right in our face without realizing that this book could be picked by anyone – either an atheist or people belonging to other religions as well. It felt very immature from the author’s end. Thirdly, author regularly gives reference of his own initiative and markets it while giving few answers. I think it should have been avoided.


Overall, this is a good read and can be gifted to anyone falling above the age of 12. I give this book 4.25* out of 5.






Monday, December 25, 2023

Tara's Truce by Kavita Kane (Book Review: 4*/5) !!!


35th Book of 2023

Well, I am almost on the last leg of my reading target of this year 2023 and I am grateful to have picked Kavita Kane’s “Tara’s Truce” in the last week of December. As all of us know, Kavita is a great mythological author and she loves penning story from the point of view of women who aren’t given much significance in our ancient texts. She picks such characters and write descriptively on them which turns out to be an exciting read for us as we don’t know much about them and wish to learn more.


This 300-pages book published by Rupa Publications is based on Tara, who is married to King Vali of Kishkindha and serves as the queen of the kingdom. Some events happen and she has to unhappily marry Vali’s brother, Sugriv. The book talks about the kind of trauma she has to go through to survive the ego clashes between both the brothers. She is also shown as a wife who is regularly trying to control her aggressive husband’s behaviour throughout her life. The story speaks of all the pre-events that happens before the main event where Lord Ram kills Vali – something that all of us have heard. Kavita takes us deeply into the world of Kishkindha and basically, the Kishkindha palace and makes us understand the dynamics of how the Vanara leaders were caught in their own turmoil before joining Lord Ram’s force in search of Sita Mata.


Kavita Kane had a very complex task while writing this book which is clearly evident as she had to convey and handle the complexities and dynamics between a lot of characters as every individual had direct relationship with another and none of them were either white or black. The gray shade in the personality of both the brothers- Vali and Sugriv has been beautifully portrayed. Throughout the story, as a reader, one ends up being confused if either of the two brothers can be called righteous and supported against the another. Both had their flaws but their backstory makes you support each of them at different instances. Kavita has been able to play this game beautifully with words and series of events narrated powerfully to display the best and worst in both of them.


Talking about Tara’s character on whom the book is based, I, frankly, didn’t know anything about her even though I am someone who reads about my religion regularly. Thankfully, this book has made me understand the plight and power of Tara. Her role in managing the kingdom in tough situations tells us how women played equal and major role in not only managing the bureaucracy but also go through the tantrums their King husband starts showing out of their ego, power, money and what not. All the conversations where Tara stood up against Vali and make him realize about his wrongs were such courageous scenes to read as any other woman must have got scared of even putting her opinion. Every time she ended up failing in stopping Vali from going the wrong path, her reactions and responses are just too inspirational for us with respect to how to behave when we are at our most hopeless and helpless state.


Though the book is named after Tara, but it gives equal justice not only to Sugriv and Vali but also to Rumi, who is Sugriv’s wife. She is not as courageous as Tara but the way she keeps herself up emotionally against everything that happens around her without her approval or validation tells us about the inner strength of a lady. A conversation between herself and Tara where they discuss how both of them didn’t get an ideal husband is such a phenomenal piece to read. I was in awe while reading what even Rumi had to say about her expectations from Sugriv and how she has not received much love from him.


In the pre-climax, the interest level goes on another stage as finally, Ram enters the storyline and it’s just mesmerizing to read how he talks with Tara after killing Vali maintaining his Godliness and stability. His conduct with Tara even after she curses him teaches us so much about humility, acceptance and forgiveness. Tara’s character again sees an upsurge after she handles Lakshman’s anger against Sugriv for not being available for Ram in search for his wife despite promising the same. Even Lakshman gets confused how she could play so beautifully with words and assure him of support after being cheated for months by her husband. The epilogue comes as a surprise where Ram’s words are being kept by him even in his next birth as Krishna. Kavita Kane’s research and effort can be seen in every twists and turns that makes this story so interesting and powerful.


Now, talking about the drawbacks, I must say that Kavita ends up writing few things very descriptively which ends up lengthening the story. It becomes boring at many places where the story becomes stagnant and we read the same thing repeatedly. Even some conversations between the main characters seems similar multiple times and we wish if author could have shortened it by just mentioning what conversation they had in just 2-3 sentences. The book could have been easily short by 70-80 pages for sure. Other characters such as of Hanuman, Jamvant, Angad etc. should have been given a little more visibility as all of us know about them and wished to read how they were participant in Kishkindha’s work affairs.


Overall, this is a nice read as we get to know about one of the characters in Ramayan who has to offer so much. I give this book 4 stars out of 5. This is my 2nd book by Kavita Kane and I am looking forward to reading all her other works as well.






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