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The Myths And Gods Of India * Alain Daniélou (1991 inner traditions * isbn 0892813547)

hindu polytheism 1964

The subtitle of this work by Alain Daniélou (1907-1994), The classic work on Hindu polytheism refers to the original title Hindu polytheism. In Tyr journal volume one (2002 reviewed elsewhere) Collin Cleary writes: “If you read only one book on Hinduism, it must be Danielou’s Myths and Gods of India.” I partly agree with Cleary. Daniélou is a Westerner who has spent most of his life in the far East. He is regarded the modern authority on Eastern religions, especially from the fact that he ‘wrote from within’. The book is extremely inspiring, very well-written, stuffed with countless quotes from many different texts and also well-structured, which makes this book a very good reference work. The 440 pages are divided in six sections and 32 chapters. The writer starts with “philosophy”, “the theory of polytheism”. After that he writes at length about different deities with cross-references, quotes and interesting information. The last section is about “ritual” and speaks about mantras, yantras (“magic diagrams” ranging from simple symbols to what are nowadays call “mandalas”), mudras, etc.
This book should be read by anyone who wants to get a serious, thorough, well-readable book about Hinduism. Also people who are interested in other Indo-European or ethnic religions are advised to read it, since Hinduism is the oldest, best documented and almost only living of the Indo-European religions.
I don’t agree with the way the writer speaks about polytheism. Sometimes he writes somethat that I would say (there is no polytheism, since the Ultimate Immensity (Brahma) is One), but he keeps coming back on many-goddedness. I have written about this elsewhere. Then the new title promises something that the book doesn’t make true: myths. Agree, Daniélou sometimes refers to myths, quotes many texts, but almost nowhere (re)tells a myth in which a particular God plays a part. With this kind of information added for every good, this book would have been perfect. For this reason I would like to add to Cleary’s statement, this book for the philosophical grounding and a book with myths for the context. I will be looking for a good book with some of the Hindu myths to read in the near future.

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