Set of six books written by Swami Harshananda
Hindu Gods and Goddesses, Pp 177, Rs 40.00
The Caste System: A Monograph, Pp 48, Rs 6.00
The Ramayana of Valmiki: An Appraisal, Pp 90, Rs 25.00
Hindu Festivals and Sacred Days, Pp 12, Rs 25.00
In the first title on gods and goddesses, the author says that Hinduism is all-pervasive, all-inclusive and penetrative. Hinduism is ‘apauruseya’, that is, of impersonal origin and therefore it is devoid of errors of instrument and cognition. Similarly the Hindu gods are eternal, un-decaying and undying. Some gods occupy eminent space in the Vedas and some in the subsequent Vedic literature, like the Itihasas and Puranas.
Belief in God has sustained mankind for millennia. The Hindu concept of god has two features. Depending upon the needs and tastes of his votaries, God appears to them in any form they like to worship to and responds through that form. He can incarnate himself among human beings to lead them to his own kingdom. The other aspect is that God is the absolute to whom the name given is Brahma. The Hindus have three main cult deities – the Trinity comprising Brahma, Visnu and Siva along with their consorts. The minor deities like Ganesa and Kumara form the second aspect. The author describes the Vedic gods like Indra, Agni, Varuna, Surya and others, apart from several female deities, who are the presiding deities over Nature.
The book contradicts the Western belief that polytheism exists in Hinduism.
The second book on the caste system says that though human beings came alone in the world, they create a family or a group to live with. Various factors contribute to the divisions or groups essentially due to their professions, racial features, beliefs and customs carried down over the generations. The division of the Hindu society into four broad varnas came about because the society grew in size and division of labour took place. Some, whose occupation was accumulation of knowledge, wisdom and culture, are called Brahmanas, while those who were physically strong and took to arms, are known as Kshattriyas. A majority, who took to taking care of wealth or looked after agriculture or trade or commerce, are called Vaisyas. Those who did manual labour and service to others are called Sudras. The Hindu caste system is a natural growth and evolution from the varna system as mentioned in the Vedic culture; it has imparted stability to the Hindu society; its decadence started due to renunciation of spiritual beliefs by the Brahmanas for pelf and power; and as such “need not be and should not be given up. Right attitudes must be created for the uplift of the Hindu society,” adds the author.
The Ramayana of Valmiki is one holy book that has influenced the life, thoughts and culture of millions of Hindus over the millennia. No aspect of Hindu religion or culture, be it literature, drama, music or sculpture, remains unaffected by many significant aspects of the Ramayana and what is more, it was Sage Valmiki, author of the Ramayana, who provided shelter to Sita when Rama banished her. He gave her shelter when she was busy bringing up her two sons, Luv and Kush. It is said that he was a Brahmana by birth but was brought up by a family of robbers. He repeatedly meditated on Lord Rama for days such that ants collected on his body during his penance and he came to be known as Valmiki. The book also narrates the story of Rama and how his reign came to be called Ramrajya.
The book on Hindu festivals presents a brief history, meaning and symbolism of each festival like Holi, Diwali, Rama Navami, Janmashtami, etc. along with its significance. An added attraction is the detailed account of all vratas (fasts) observed to celebrate festivals with greater devotion.
Pilgrimage or tirthayatra to holy places is an integral part of a Hindu’s life. These centres of pilgrimage are spread all over India though the four major centres or dhams are Amarnath in the north, Somnath in the west, Puri in the east and Ramesvaram in the south. The purpose of pilgrimage is to atone for one’s sins and attain purity of mind. It is said that a bath in the waters of River Yamuna and Ganges takes you to heaven. The author describes the places of pilgrimage, their flora and fauna, their significance and the best seasons to visit them.