Monday, 27 September 2010

Day 194- Illuminations Fom the Bhagavad-Gita


Last Saturday, after breakfast with mum and a 2 hour facial treatment which put me in a most heavenly mood, I walked into a book flea mart. These sale happen quite often near my facial shop and I love them. Some of my best loved books on craft , dolls' houses (once) and India. are from these marts. I struck gold again this time when I found Kim and Chris Murray's "Illuminations From The Bhagavad-Gita". 


The Bhagavad-Gita, a scared Hindu scripture has been described  as one of the most important texts in the history of literature and philosophy. The Murrays have so titled this book both for the way the manuscripts are illustrated and for the illuminations one gains from reading the text.


The Gita is actually Book 6 of the Mahabharata and is written as a dialog between Lord Krishna and the hero, Arjuna, taking place in a timeless moment on the battlefield before the climactic struggle between good and evil. 


Like most life changing literature, the Bhagavad Gita is told as a story. It is a story of 2 warring royal families of cousins descended from 2 brothers. The cousins were all brought up together in the same household and even had the same teachers. Alas, one family of 5 boys were endowed with knightly traits like righteousness, self-control and nobility while the other family of 100 sons embodied qualities of evil and were cruel, unscrupulous, greedy and lustful. 


When it came time to crown one of them as king, war became inevitable as the eldest from the evil could not accept that the good would be crowned. Both sides sought help from Lord Krishna and so the Lord made them choose: either his vast army or Krishna himself as a charioteer and counsellor. Arjuna who was the middle child of the Good , picked the latter.


On the morning just before the battle, Prince Arjuna was torn with self doubt and remorse as he realised that his enemies were his own relatives, beloved friends and revered teachers. And so began  the Bhagavad Gita (songs of God)  as Lord Krishna counselled and guided Arjuna on  the principles of life, love and duty in his conduct of the war.


Thanks to the universal theme, the Gita has had a significant influence far beyond Hinduism.  I read that Robert Oppenheimer recited the verse (from Chapter 11)  'I [have become] Death, Destroyer of Worlds", just before the first test of the atom bomb. I have also read and re-read Chapter 11 and found no such sentence. Perhaps one of you can enlighten me?


That has always been my problem with epic literature and that's why I always love them abridged, illustrated and retold for children. I have no qualms in confessing that my copy of the Mahabharata was found at the Children's Section.


Apparently, the Gita can be found in hotel bedstands throughout India, much like a copy of the bible. Although I just checked with my sis, SuZ on MSN and she told me the only book she found in her hotel at Chennai was the in-room dining menu. I told her she can read my copy when she is back. I am always very excited when I get to share books like this with SuZ because she is even more of a visual person than me. She may also be able to identify with Arjuna being a middle child like him.


So do I recommend this book? Absolutely! 

I believe this book was first printed in 1999 but my copy (a huge book) has the following details: 

Artist: Kim Waters Hardbound / 80 pp Size: 16.5 x 24" Weight: 2.3 lbs  ISBN: 1-886069-21-2 . 
40 color plates and more than 50 black-and-white drawings,. A selection of essential verses is lavishly illustrated, incorporating both Eastern and Western classical illumination styles. The authors worked on the illustrations for over five years, inspired by the timeless wisdom of the Gita and their personal association with A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, the translator of the book's verses and poems from Rabinranath Tagore.  Artistic inspiration from Renaissance, Pre-Raphaelite and Celtic art.

35 comments:

TreeFeathers said...

Wow, what a gorgeous book! Such a great find, I'm envious (you know how I love books, lol!) Some of my favorite books are children's books, too.

- Grace

Lorraine Escapita said...

Most of my shelves are filled with children's books :). There is just something about them. A lot of young adult, fatasy tales though. I've been into classic literature at the moment, and I've been getting back in touch with a lot of books that I've neglected for too long.

I'm so glad you shared this with us! I am definately adding this to my list!

The Old Maid said...

Sorry couldn't concentrate on the text this time - these singing birds, just fab! ;D Love the colour drawings:D

rosanna said...

Beautiful drawings, intriguing story and yes, children's book have something which is totally appealing. BTW isn'it strange that a couple of hours ago I wrote to you talking of a book? more and more I think that blog binds people more effectively when it works outside a PC. Hugs, Rosana

Ascension said...

Que maravilloso libro y que fantasticas ilustraciones.
Me ha encantado conocer la historia, mientras escucho a los pajaritos cantar y el correr del agua.
Ha sido muy relajante, gracias
Feliz semana
besitos ascension

Ara said...

What a beautiful book Sans!! I can definitely see these pages being an inspiration for you! I love finding books for good deals... especially such beautiful ones! hugs, ara

Liberty Biberty said...

What an AWESOME book! I love kids books too, especially beautifully illustrated ones with loads of detail.
Mercedes

Marit said...

Hi Sans,
When I visited this blog this weekend, it was empty, that's why I linked your name to the other blog. That's yours too, isn't it? Blogger can be so strange! Thanks for the correct link, love your blog!
Marit

cockerina said...

Sans thanks! log into your blog, not only means to enrich culture, but also to do with fantasy flights.
the books are beautiful and the illustrations show that there are great artists even beyond the world!
I am with you, I never stop dreaming!
kisses from Italy
Caterina

Tallulah Belle said...

What a beautiful book Susan...I have a real love for books of any kind but illustrative ones, esp ones as beautiful as this really draw me in whatever the subject matter.

Sans! said...

Grace, I have too many books :) so I try not to buy them by the dozens anymore. These days, I can walk away with none or just 1 and I am proud of myself :) although I will never walk away from a book sale. I haven't felt like showcasing a book on this blog since when I started the blog until this one. :).

Sans! said...

Lorraine, last year I read the Spiderwick chronicles , 1 of the Philip Pullman Golden Compass series and Ink Heart. Have you read Ink Heart?? Or watch the movie ? I remember reading about the aunt's collection of books and were intrigued. I could be HER! Plus the grouchiness :). And that book on Persian Illuminated Manuscripts. I fell in love just reading the description and went head over heels when I saw the movie. :)

My sis who has 3 children has no time to read anything apart from young adult's fiction. She loves the Spiderwick Chronicles. I will never forget it's those magic books by Enid Blyton that got me to love reading. Do children still love books on The Malory Towers and St Clare? OMG, I could not put those down! :)

Sans! said...

Hehe, Ewa, I didn't want to have any music for this post except Hare Krishna by Boy George and all the Beatles songs with Hare Krishna in them :). Until I try to read my post and found that nothing went in because the music was just too distracting. How in the world did I use to study with disco music in the background?? LOL

To keep the ipod on my blog, I need to have at least 1 song and I could not find "silence" with no sound :). Next post. No sound. I promise :) Music makes the reading very difficult sometimes.

Sans! said...

Rosanna, I just read your email :). Are you sure I can finish the book in a few hours? I haven't done that with anything except a picture book for children :). Remember the book I was reading when we went to Malaysia? I did 150 pages in 1 night and since then, I have finished another 25 pages :):). Toilet time :). Sighhh, almost 2 months and only 25 pages! But I will keep a look out for that book. I love funny books that tug at your heart strings :).

Sans! said...

Rosanna, I just read your email :). Are you sure I can finish the book in a few hours? I haven't done that with anything except a picture book for children :). Remember the book I was reading when we went to Malaysia? I did 150 pages in 1 night and since then, I have finished another 25 pages :):). Toilet time :). Sighhh, almost 2 months and only 25 pages! But I will keep a look out for that book. I love funny books that tug at your heart strings :).

Daydreamer said...

Ohhhh Sans! You have done it again! You have aroused my Book Envy! :( I have not a single copy of the Bhagavad Gita, illustrated or not from which to reference your illuminated version! That is a Beautiful find! (I have found many of my best books in used book stores.... so I know how wonderfully tempting they are! You are lucky to have one so near you!)
I am intrigued by the multi-cultural style of the illuminations... and the fact that they are aimed at children. Art for children is always something I am interested in! Illustrative art is a fascination of mine.... in case you hadn't guessed that about me! (BTW, I LOVE the accompanying bird song soundtrack!)As usual... thank you for enriching our lives with your research!

Sans! said...

Ascensión, para mí siempre hay algo un poco místico en el arte y la literatura india:) que me dan ganas de conectar con la naturaleza:). Yo no sabía que no hay agua corriente en esta música .. jejeje:)

besos :)

Sans! said...

Hey Ara :), this book is more of an unusual find for me. I just have not seen this kind of illustration when the art is quite obviously Indian. This is such a huge book that I don't think KIm, the illustrator can be called a "miniaturist" which is a technical term for people who does illuminated manuscript :). Dictionary online defines them as Obsolete!

Sans! said...

I knew you may like this one, Mercedes. My love for children's books grew even more after I met some of you who often show off their children's books or make them in 1 inch scale. I have been thinking of making pop ups :):). Or reproduce Indian comics :), Dollhouse size of course!

Sans! said...

O wow, Marit, you are here! I absolutely love your work :).

My other projects blog is not as active as this one but it is not as dead as the one on my 4 Victorians! I don't know what made me start 3 blogs. Hahaha! I guess I really want to concentrate on My Maharajahs Palace and India for this blog. I am thrilled that you like the blog :):)

dora said...

Beautiful, Susan again around here.
I came to greet you.
A pleasure to enter in your blog.
A kiss Carmen

Ascension said...

Jejejejeje, Sans yo juraria que suena agua corriendo.....quizas debe ser que me he reajado tanto que he soñado jejejejejeje
besitos ascension

Lorraine Escapita said...

I have read the Spiderwick chronicles, the Golden Compass series and just the first book in the Ink Heart series. I saw the movie on that one before I saw the book and I was much happier with the book! I did love that library though, I've always dreamed of having one like that! I hadn't looked into Enid Blyton yet, I'll have to read up on her books :). She's got quite the list!
My daughter and I are currently reading The Mortal Instruments series, it's more on a darker side of fantasy (daughter's a teenager). And I'm also reading The Shamer Chronicles, I really like these!

Sans! said...

Hey Caterina, thank you for visiting the blog :). Such a pleasure to see you here especially when you came bearing great gift of compliments :).

This book makes me feel like practising yoga :) only because it is referred to as the ancient yoga text )but it really has very little to do with the physical yoga :).

Maybe it's seeing a forgotten friend on facebook. She is 47 and look nada a year older than when I met her 15 years ago. Yes, she is teaching Yoga now :):):).

Sans! said...

Jayne, you and me both :). I really love these illustrated books, almost always. I just gave away my Children's Book of Bible to my nieces and nephew, a copy I owned since 20+ years ago. The retold version is very simplified and confusing but at least you know the parables :).

I also owned some illustrated Shakespeare (comic style- hahaha), even a cookbook from Venice. My one and only -only because of the illustrations!:) O yes, and the one Rosanna gave me. :) which I was supposed to give to my sis (because she cooks but I don't) but held back. Too beautiful ..LOL

Sans! said...

Betsy, you KNOW that I had you in mind when I did this post right? :). :) How about if I send you a mini version ? :). I saw something at the bead shop 2 days ago and bought them for you. Now send me an email, will you? You don't have one listed on your blog. :)

Sans! said...

Carmen, you don't know how happy I am to see you back here :). WELCOME BACK! (((((((((Carmen)))))))))). That's a hug :) A big fat abrazo :)

Loads of besosssss too!

Sans! said...

Ascensión, tiene toda la razón! Eso fue un chorro de agua :):). Mi volumen es bajo en algún momento así que no puedo escuchar con claridad ... jejejejeej

Sans! said...

Lorraine, I remember a time when I was sooooo into Goth and all things dark. Actually I sort of still am, just not that intense anymore. I will check out the mortal series. I have been meaning to pick up the twilight series but didn't feel compelled enough. LOL

Daydreamer said...

Dear Sans! You are too generous to always be thinking so much of everyone else! But I will let you in on a secret.... I have been thinking of you too... and want to make something for you, :) but you have to be patient because I am so slow and art does not always come at the snap of the fingers! That said, I am touched... and will e-mail you right away... I should add it to my blog info....not a secret! :)

Rupa said...

Sans, your blog and all the posts are such a treat. I have been thinking of you this week because it's Navaratri (Dasara or Dussera) time in India (I miss being in India at this time of the year!). So, Navaratri brings out the dolls in the country, the most exquisite ones. Well, Dasara in Mysore is 400yr old tradition and the grandest in India. They are selling thousands of dolls, even miniature doll furniture for royalty and replica of Mysore palace etc. My sister is getting me many dolls from there this year. I just kept thinking you would have just LOVED that place! Google "Bombe mane" and you will see few pics of decorated elephant carrying the King etc. Bombe mane in Kannada (language spoken in Mysore) means doll house. They have displays of dolls/palace worth tens of thousands dollars apparently. Hope you go there in Oct some day! All this news from my sister! Sorry for the lo n....g post!

Anonymous said...

India is just starting to put Bhagavad Gita books in hotel rooms. Interestingly, 65% + moderate hotels/motels in US are owned by Indians and they have started to put these books in the rooms. Irrespective of any religion, the message of good over evil is the same, you have found such a treasure in this book!!!

Sans! said...

Oh, oh, oh Rupa, I can't thank you enough for all the information you have so kindly and patiently typed out for me!! (Btw, I LOVE LONG comments,especially if they are chock full of info, so no need to apologise at all). They are precisely what I want to know! I went to http://bombemane.blogspot.com and OMG, my mind is blown! 350 dolls of a parade with elephants, howdahs , soldiers!!! AND the topping..tadah! THE PALACE! WOW! You are absolutely right ! I'll love love love to visit Mysore during Dasara or Navaratri. October should be cooler now? Ohhhh, how I wish I can meet up with fellow doll enthusiasts like you and your sister who can also discuss the significance of these festivals with me. :):)

I think I know exactly where I can go to to source for craftsman for my Maharajah's Palace now, thanks to you, Rupa :):).

I just posted some nesting dolls from India that I bought yesterday. :). They are probably not typical but I do love them.

Little India in Singapore is all decked out now with wonderful little stalls selling paraphernalia for the upcoming Diwali. I will probably bring my camera down one of this weekend and do a post on the bazaar. I spoke to the shopkeeper where I bought the dolls (posted last night, not sure if you have read it) and was told that Navaratri is celebrated here as well.

Rupa, if you have a blog, can you let me know?

Sans! said...

Betsy :(:( I have forgotten how tedious it is to make a mini book :(. You must have the patient of a saint to wait for me to finish :) . That's another gift from me to you, the patience of a saint I mean ..hehe :).

Sans! said...

Hey Anon :):), I totally agree with you on the Gita. It really is beyond religion , faith , race and nationality. I want to make many many mini versions and probably have a copy in each of my bombe :):).

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