The reform processes initiated during the early years of 1990s brought about a major shift in India’s approach to economic development. The old Nehruvian model of mixed economy gave way to a market driven economy. Despite changes in the political regimes, the reform process has, more or less, continued unabated over the last 15 years or so.
There is a certain celebratory tone in writings about India today based on the perception that India is breaking through the shackles that restrain it and it will take its rightful place in the world. Increasingly we are told that we are on the path to prosperity and it is only a matter of time before we catch up with the West.
I have to say that Gwilym Beckerlegge continues to astonish me by the frequency with which he produces consistently good scholarly material for the study of the Ramakrishna movement. On the notion of ‘seva’ itself, (usually translated as social service) I recall having read no less than five research papers and a monograph in about as many years.
Growing up in Pennsylvania during the 1960s, my friends and I used to hang out at a drugstore (that is, a combined eating place, general store and pharmacy) in an outer suburb of Philadelphia. Bolted to the lunch-counter of this establishment was an ancient fortune-telling machine.
What could one expect an elderly non- Indian, a specialist in modern European and Mexican art to contribute to the creation of a museum of Indian ancient and medieval art? Not much, one would reasonably predict. But Grace Morley proved her critics wrong. Appointed the first director of the National Museum of Art in Delhi in 1960,
The study of Indian aesthetics came to the forefront following the publication of K.C. Pandey’s work around the mid 20th century but subsequently it suffered from neglect. Several sporadic attempts have been made to revive interest in the subject quite recently. The Journal of Arts and Art Criticism in the mid 1950s had devoted a special issue to Indian aesthetics and had contributed to facilitating a lively debate around Indian aesthetics in comparison with western aesthetics.
This book, with an unusually long title, rounds off the investigation that Wendy Doniger, Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at Chicago, launched in 1998 with The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth (Columbia University Press).
In a strange coincidence, I have recently read two books that present a grand narrative across a vast span of human history. There is a similarity in the approach of Christopher Booker in his Seven Basic Plots, and Karen Armstrong in her A Short History of Myth: prose that seduces with its lucidity, persuading one to accept their elision of particularities, and an engagement with concepts of archetypes.
This collection of essays on the devotional element in Indic religions has an interesting history. It arises from an international conference organized by the Dharam Hinduja Institute of Indic Religions, University of Cambridge, which was widely attended by academics, interested lay participants and ‘devotees’.
Gunther-Dietz Sontheimer passed away in 1992. His writings reveal an intensely reflective scholar, who provided us, amongst other things, with a definition of Hinduism that is remarkable for its apparent simplicity and inherent fluidity. His works were also informed by a concern with the marginal, especially pastoral peoples. Besides writing, he was a film-maker, documenting the lives of the peoples amongst whom he spent his most productive years.
Jawaharlal Nehru was, throughout his life, a teacher and an educator to others as well as to himself. From jail he wrote the letters to his daughter giving to Indira and the younger generation in India glimpses of world history. In the Indian National Congress he was the preacher of new ideas—of socialism, secularism and internationalism.