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Arrow of the Blue-Skinned God: Retracing the Ramayana Through India Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (November 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802137334
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802137333
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 4.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #165,065 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Blank, who has reported on Asia for the Dallas Morning News, traveled the length and breadth of India, retracing the footsteps of the god Rama, hero of the ancient Sanskrit epic (portions of which introduce each chapter). Coupling journalistic detachment with piercing lyricism, he samples the subcontinent in all its horrific, multitudinous, overwhelming diversity, from Bombay's Hollywood-style dream factories to Calcutta's leper-filled streets. He ponders the nation's lingering caste divisions, with their "BMW Brahmins" and destitute untouchables. He meets Sikh separatists in the Punjab and, in Sri Lanka, tracks down Tamil Tiger guerrillas, young boys carrying AK-47s. He converses with holy men in ashrams and probes the erotic intensity of the Krishna cult. He scuffles with Indian's venal, infuriating bureaucracy. Blank writes beautifully and taps into India's elusive, indestructible soul with a clarity few writers attain, as he ponders the paradoxes of a country where deep-rooted fatalism clashes with Westernization and a new social mobility.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Part travel-journal, part retelling of an Indian epic, part cultural and political analysis, this first book by a former editor of Tokyo's Asahi Evening News is both eclectic and ambitious. For the most part, Blank keeps his wide-ranging and amusing narrative neatly focused and his huge cast of characters relevant and sharply delineated. Blank's attention swings back and forth between India's mythological past and its only slightly less extraordinary present, alternately recounting episodes in the life of Rama--blue-skinned god of the title and hero of the 3,000-year-old epic known as the Ramayana--and his own adventures as he tracks the wanderings of Rama across the subcontinent. Along the route, Blank encounters gurus and guerrillas, mendicants and maharajahs, Indian idols in shadowy shrines and klieg-lighted TV studios. Rama's struggles with demons and demigods are paralleled by the author's imbroglios with the wildly bureaucratic Indian Postal Service as he attempts to send a package home. Though he reveals little personal information about himself, Blank probes beneath the exotic surface of Indian life to examine such matters as Hindus' emphasis on duty, the growing number of couples marrying for love, and Hindu fatalism compared with Calvinistic predestination. On a more intimate level, he speaks with Mother Teresa, and with Arun Govil, who portrayed Rama on a popular TV series. More personal information about Blank would have been welcome; even so, a delightfully offbeat travelogue. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

I'm an anthropologist who's done time in professions ranging from government to academia to journalism. I write books for the same reason I read them: To explore some of the endlessly-fascinating corners of our world.

More info on my books (and me) is available at www.jonahblank.com

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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Overall, I highly recommend this book - I could not put it down.
S. Shetty
This book reminds me of Joseph Campell/mythology, history, culture, and travelogue melded beautifully together for a great read.
Marie H. Shieh
It is a book I will always remember, and hopefully someday I'll get to read it again.
Lee Durkee

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Lee Durkee on September 16, 1999
Format: Paperback
Jonah Blank's book deserves to be in print. I can't find it anywhere. I read it years ago and it spurred a great love for the Ramayana, and for India, but then I gave away my copy little suspecting it would be lost forever. Arrow of the Blue-skinned God is a classic. It is a book I will always remember, and hopefully someday I'll get to read it again.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Sharon in France on June 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I love India and have been there many times but this book taught me a lot I don't know. The book has an original format which was risky but works. You really get both caught up in the story and then feel like you've visiting the countries he's talking about.

As travel writing, it doesn't get better than this. So refreshing to not be talked down to and he avoids the horrible snobbishness often encountered in the gendre.

I just wanted to savor each page. It's not a book you flip through. I was sorry when I finished it. I just wish I could give it six stars.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Robert Reid on March 22, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was first tuned into Jonah Blank through the Travelers' Tales of India anthology. Reading his hilarious account of discovering that a poorly functioning Delhi airport clock was in fact manually operated, I expected more of the same in this book. While there are more of these entertaining cross-cultural discoveries throughout, this overly ambitious book addresses what you'd expect from a naïve twenty-something writer, covering the broadest of all philosophical topics- with chapter titles including "Rites," "Fate," "Caste," "War," and "Love." The scary thing is that he succeeds, displaying a remarkable ability to grasp complex issues.

This work is held together with a strong narrative thread. Beginning each chapter by retelling a passage from the Ramayana, he then applies this theme to modern Indian culture, and compares this with life in America. Despite a reflexive defensiveness of American culture and government, he portrays a deeply nuanced understanding of the complexities of Indian traditions as they clash with modernity. For example, he dispels any notion that Hindu fatalism is the same thing as passivity. Unlike Christianity, you can't just pray for salvation in Hinduism; you have to earn it and change yourself to adapt to an unchanging world. In a later chapter, he credits Hinduism's adaptability to the well-educated elite's acceptance of metaphorical (rather than literal) interpretation of the Vedas, and credits Sikhism's sustainability to its openness that the Gods of all religions are really different manifestations of the same entity.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Gaurav Choudhury on August 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book is a riveting read.

It touches upon a myriad of social, economic, political, emotional and ultimately human themes from the Ramayan epic and juxtapositions them with the present day Indian psyche.

The substance is informative and interesting without falling into the trap of being academic or verbose.

The author's style is succinct, witty and appropriately poignant.

Being a non-resident Indian, I was pleased to read such a well written and objective analysis of such a behemoth of a country.

This is a very vast, tricky and interconnected subject matter to tackle.

Jonah Blank does it with aplomb.

I would recommend that anyone wanting to know about India read this book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By DAGMAR CELESTE on January 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
im have lived in india for years have family and friends there ,have been back over more than three decades and have read much about this most beloved country but "the arrow of the blue skinned god" has become one of my all time favorites.....i only wish Blank had been more willing to share his own personal insights.dispassionate perspectives are less useful than they used to be and india is certainly not a place that ever engendered neutral responses. thank god for that.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By S. Shetty on January 22, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is a must read for all students of Hindu philosophy. I revised my opinion of the Ramayana - which I had previously thought of as less interesting and more simplistic than the Mahabharata. I also revised my opinion of Sita - from the symbol of the downtrodden Indian female to someone who was the other half (better?) of Lord Rama. The book also raises interesting questions about whether Hinduism is essentially a fatalistic faith or an action oriented one. The encounters that Jonah Blank had with all levels of Indian society ring true. Overall, I highly recommend this book - I could not put it down.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By GT Reviewer on February 13, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It has a lot of elements- travel writing,history, interviews with a wide cross-section of the contemporary Indian society and using the Ramayana as a guide a lot on Indian philosophy and religion, naturally concentrating on Hinduism and its meaning. I liked that he used his journalistic skill and tried to be as impartial as possible. Enjoyed it a lot!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By "nsri" on February 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
blank does what few westerners do well: present a balanced portrayal of the distinguished history of a modern-day eastern country. at times, blank glosses over subjects, but broadly-speaking, it is an exceptional analysis of india through the ramayana. an absolute must-read for anyone with an interest in contemporary india
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