Aditi Garg, Tribune India


Some say Hinduism is the oldest religion in the world and one that is still widely followed. Others say it is more than a religion, a way of life, as those following other religions also practice yoga in one form or the other. It is not just about one God or a set of adherents that bind followers, rather it has evolved over the years and encompasses within its ambit everything from financial guidance to health concerns to familial issues.

Promod Puri illustrates Hinduism beyond its popular perception. A graduate from Panjab University’s School of Communication Studies, he worked with a few newspapers before migrating to Canada. He was the editor of The New Nation, a Canadian newspaper and started The Link, retiring only after 30 years in journalism. Hinduism — Beyond Rituals, Customs and Traditions explores Hinduism’s spiritually liberating and progressive aspects.

In times when the religion is in news for all the wrong reasons, the book sheds light on the liberal outlook of Hinduism, which the author approaches as an ever-evolving faith. He underlines the importance of rituals and also how certain practices can negatively impact the image of the religion. Tracing the origins of Hinduism, he elucidates the theory behind universally revered chant of Om and mantras that form an important fraction of Hinduism. From idol worship and the scriptures to the scientific advancements attributed to the sages, teachers and proponents of the faith, he points out both the good and the bad about Hinduism.

Yoga and meditation are also dealt with as are other aspects like dharma, karma, arth, moksha…. An interesting and quick read for those who are interested in knowing more about the religion without going through tomes and scriptures.

Mughals had a defining influence on India. They changed the architectural landscape of the country. As much the Mughal rulers were known for their tales of love, they were as popular for battles for the throne. Fighting between brothers, killing them and imprisoning parents, they did everything to rule the then biggest empire of India. With each sibling staking claim to the throne and asserting it as his right, the empires were always dealing with spies, cross-spies, surprise attacks and counter-attacks.

Srinivas Rao Adige is an alumnus of Doon School, Dehradun and St. Stephen’s College, New Delhi and has been serving as an IAS officer. In his first novel, The Mughal High Noon, he combines his love for Indian history with his passion for writing. A beautifully written book, it lays out history while reflecting the emotions at play that pitch blood against blood.

Shahjahan is one of the most popular Mughal rulers and the book opens with the news of his deteriorating condition. Dara, along with his doting and authoritative sister Jahanara, prepares to overrule the norms for the benefit of their father. An overwhelming sense of uncertainty starts engulfing the empire with many thinking the emperor is dead and that the news is being censored to benefit those in the palace looking to inherit the throne. In this atmosphere, enmity between the brothers festers.

Dissatisfied at being sent to the Deccan region, Aurengzeb just needs a push to claim the throne. Any qualms about claiming the throne while the emperor still lives are dispelled by previous rulers who did the same. Patricide was not unheard of and it made sense to emerge stronger than be dead. His fear that Dara being close to the emperor would be crowned the next king makes him mount an attack on the empire. One of the most tyrannical kings, absolute power becomes his ultimate aim. Whatever might have been his motivation in extending the reach of his faith, he made a place for himself in the history of India as the one who put power before his family, murdering them in cold blood.

Well-written and well-researched, it is an easy read that gives you a glimpse into the accession battles fought in that era. The book introduces you to Jahanara’s role in the turmoil.