When I first saw Devdutt’s TED video, I instantly felt like it answered some of the questions I always had, some of the questions I never found the answers for. For the longest period of my life, I had not delved into this subject — Hindu Mythology — because there was hardly anything you could read or hardly anybody you could talk to, without touching your own religious views/ faith.
In that video, he attempts to find answers to why Indians are the way they are, the law of unity Vs the law of infinity, logos Vs mythos, how western Vs eastern beliefs of god, death, heaven, hell, re-birth affect every dimension of our life — how we measure life, how we measure our happiness, how we behave at work etc… — all this without getting religious. In other words, you can be from any faith or none at all and still benefit from the study of myths and the stories, symbols and rituals within.
Few months later, I decided to buy this book titled “Myth = Mithya : A Handbook of Hindu Mythology (ISBN: 978–0143099703)” and thats what this review is about.
I will give you the bottom-line first: This is the kind of book you read to get a summary of such topics that would otherwise require you to buy so many books that you wont be done reading even in your deathbed. This book is the “Best of Elvis Presley” or “Best of Pandit Ravishankar” — if you knew anything about music, you know these 2-CD packs are a minuscule representation of the entire body of work.
But having said that, Devdutt has organized this small book very nicely — a chapter on Brahma, a chapter on Vishnu and another chapter on Shiva and written this in an extremely sophisticated language. If you have heard that there are 330 million gods in Hinduism, it might as well be true, but almost all of them are an avatar or reincarnation or a playful version of one of these 3 gods. In fact, some myths are so confusing that even Brahma and Shiva come from Vishnu etc…
The point is not who came from who. But this is about how mythology forms the foundation of our life, lifestyle, meaning of life and everything we pursue. You can completely remove the element of god from these stories, still find useful meanings and use the stories by themselves to teach your kids (and yourselves) everyday morals of life.
I look forward to reading another book of his where he relates mythology to corporate culture.