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Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend Hardcover – 2002
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by Anna L. Dallapiccola.
Mine was the last available copy at a well-known major Midwestern art institute. I am so glad that I purchased it. I have read, in random order mostly, about 85% of this 224 page beauty. I grew up till my 20th year in a very orthodox and liberal Hindu family. Most of what I heard was "dos" and "don'ts." Adsorption, rather than critical learning, was expected and encouraged. Gods, pantheons and festivals were staples of my family life in the late 1940s and 1950s. Schools emphasized Western civilization with a strong British bias. Economic necessities of the elders left little spare time for explication of the names, origins and representations prevalent in Hindu mythology. Now, after more than a 40 year hiatus I am lucky to have the luxury of relearning the religions of the world including Hinduism. This reparative volume has informed me afresh and has taught me what I ought to have known.
Professor Anna Dallapiccola has produced an excellent and comprehensive dictionary of Hindu legend and mythology. Nearly all of the Hindu gods, demi-gods, lesser divinities and demons are described. We find very satisfying descriptions of all major gods such as Ganesha, Shiva, Vishnu, Nataraja, Durga, Lakshmi, Kali, Parvati, Sarasvati and Ambika. Often we learn about alternate spellings and variant appellations, such as Gajanana, Pillayar, Vinayaka for Ganesha or Murugan and Kartikeya for Subrahmanya. Gandharvas (semi-divine beings), navagrahas (planets), rakshasas (demons), Alwars, Nayanmars (poets, scholars) are all included either as generic headings or individual entries, or both.
Dallapiccola does not stop with descriptions of legendary divinities only.Read more ›
My biggest quibble with the book is that it espouses the now questionable theory of an Aryan invasion from the west, which supposedly brought sophistication of thought to the various peoples of India. The publication date is 2002, and from many of the things I read, that euro-centric idea has been widely discredited.
As a disclaimer, I should note that I am a believer in the extreme antiquity of the peoples of India. By this I mean 12,000 or 14,000 years ago for the Vedas...not 3,000 years ago, and certainly not from supposedly more enlightened invaders from the west. I don't deny that there were invasions from the west into India, but I no longer believe that it was Europeans that brought deep and sophisticated religious thinking and composition to India.
There IS some good information in this book, but I am going to continue looking in other places for my education about these very ancient and mysterious people. I hold them in great esteem.