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India: A Sacred Geography Hardcover – March 27, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


“No major civilization has made sacred the very ground of its being as India has done, and no one has described this sacred organism with the down-to-earth humanity of Diana Eck.  This is magnificent introduction to India by one of the leading lights in the study of religion today.”-- John Stratton Hawley, author of The Memory of Love: Surdas Sings to Krishna.

In this lucid, learned and luminous book, Diana Eck introduces the Western reader to the sacred landscape of India. She leads us into an unfamiliar world, with myths and symbols that seem initially strange, but by the end of this rich journey we find that we have encountered unexpected regions within ourselves.”—Karen Armstrong, author of A History of God and Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life

“Reading [Diana Eck’s] new book was like listening to an old, wise friend, whose love and admiration of India and its people shines on every page.”  --Phil Semler, San Francisco Book Review (5/5 stars)

Praise for Diana Eck’s Banaras
“In Banaras, Diana Eck... has written a notable book about this greatest of Indian pilgrimage sites.... Her brilliant, comprehensive book seems likely to remain for a long time the definitive work on this great Indian city.”--Washington Post

“The most beautiful book... on India.”--Journal of the American Academy of Religion

“Eck is a master of tone here. She begins as dry scholar, allows her personal voice to emerge and then, through judicious use of lyric quotations, advances to a striking level of exaltation and triumph.... To take us gently off this high, Eck buttresses us-and her arguments-with a truly amazing display of addenda; glossaries, calendars and appendices. One ends filled with admiration and awe, not just for the vision given us, but for the scholarship and dedication that made it possible.” --Los Angeles Times

About the Author

DIANA L. ECK is professor of comparative religion and Indian studies at Harvard University and is Master of Lowell House and Director of the Pluralism Project. Her book Banaras, City of Light, remains a classic in the field, and Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras won the prestigious Grawemeyer Book Award. In 1998, President Clinton awarded her the National Humanities Medal for the work of the Pluralism Project in the investigation of America's changing religious landscape.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony; 1 edition (March 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385531907
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385531900
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.9 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #645,910 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By GregJS on May 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
India's culture, traditions, history, lands, and religions are way too complex to ever get your arms all the way around. But if you've ever wished for something to help you at least get a bit of handle on it all, Diana Eck's wonderful tour through the sacred geography of India is a great place to turn. Actually, it is several tours. You will crisscross this land repeatedly as you visit sites and specific features of the landscape associated with the traditions and stories of:

* Siva
* Shakti
* Vishnu
* Krishna
* Rama
* rivers in general
* the lands of India as a whole

In these traditions, even the smallest details of the landscape - specific rocks, springs, trees, etcetera - can be imbued with cosmic significance. Many of these traditions/stories overlap at various points and features of the geography, which only adds to their richness. There is some kind of intuitive genius at work in how, together, these stories form a huge interconnected web, making the entire land a kind of 3-D, interactive scripture that answers the human longing for a life of larger, deeper meaning. Overall, the geographical approach to these traditions brings them - and the land they relate to - alive in a unique way that will stay with me and that makes me more thoughtful about the ways that spiritually sensitive and open humans can relate to the land they inhabit so as to reinforce that sensitivity and openness.

One of the most fascinating things brought out in Eck's presentation is that many sacred sites are repeated throughout India. As she puts it, there is a "distinctively Hindu tradition of multiplicity: Any place that is truly important is important enough to be duplicated and sited in multiple places.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover
In the range of its learning and in its sweep, passion, and insight, Diana Eck's new book, "India: A Sacred Georgraphy" (2012) is a grand meditation on India and religious life. A professor of comparative literature and Indian studies at Harvard University, Eck has written widely on Indian religion and on American religious pluralism. In 1998, then President Clinton awarded Eck the National Humanities Medal for her work as director of the Pluralism Project in the invesitigation of America's changing religious landscape.

The overriding theme of Eck's study is pilgrimage. She offers a story of pilgrimage to India's many sacred places that is at once mythical, romantic and factual. Eck herself has spent decades in India exploring the sites her book discusses in extraordinary detail. Her pilgrimage extends over millenia and to the millions of people who make pilgrimages to Indian sacred sites each year. As I read, I realized that the pilgrimage was also Eck's own, and it ultimately becomes that of the reader.

Eck writes that she had the idea of writing this book of broad pilgrimages and sites upon writing an earlier book on the city of Benares. Eck came to realize that Benares was not a single sacred city in the manner of, for example, Jerusalem or Mecca, but was instead part of a vast network of Indian sacred places which she set about to explore. Eck argues that pilgrimage rather than sacrifice of the study of sacred texts is the primary expression of Hinduism and that Hinduism and religion, in turn hold the key to understanding the heart of India.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Charles Poncet on August 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Diana Eck's latest book is in the line of her first, rightly celebrated, description of Kashi (Benares) as the "City of Light", but with twenty or thirty years of research added. Admittedly, this is not a book for beginners. It presupposes at least some basic knowledge of the Indian "Weltanschaung" : if you have no idea who Krishna, Rama or Shiva are, you are unlikely to be able to enjoy Diana Eck's superbly perceptive description of what she calls the sacred geography of India. She means by that the subtle connexion between the geographical landscape, the history of certain famous places - Ayodhya for instance - and the underlying religious visions of a sub-continent where ever year tens of millions of pilgrims travel to what we would call holy places. Diana Eck talks from experience: it is obvious from her descriptions that she has been there and the reader is thus treated to a superb mixture of impressive erudition with practical experience. Furthermore the author is very good at describing what she saw: her writing is clear and elegant, never repetitive, yet precise. The book is divided by divinities, so to speak: Shiva's pilgrimages and sacred lanscape, Vishnu, Devi, Krishna, Rama, etc. Diana Eck deals splendidly with the complexity - and the sheer volume - of information available. She is sometimes a little light footed where one would have expected less diplomacy: for example, the scandalous neglect of the Indian government(s) for their "sacred" rivers, most of which are sewers, totally poluted, filled with human and industrial waste, endangering the life of the worshippers who bathe in them is evoked several times, but one would have expected a stronger call for action. But these are minor deficiencies in an otherwise superb book. Anyone with an interest in India should read it and it is sure to remain THE reference on this subject for many years.
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