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Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization Paperback – May 1, 1972

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Zimmer moves among [the myths of India] unhurriedly, with a respect that amounts to devotion. Gradually his comments bring to light the universal meanings beneath the archaic exterior."--The New York Times

From the Back Cover

"In viewing India's art and civilization, the late Dr. Heinrich Zimmer, a man of penetrating intellect, the keenest esthetic sensibility and a predilection for psychoanalytic methods, found unlimited material for employing all three qualities. . . . The Indian material offered is of the best quality: the language in which it is presented is imaginative, figurative, poetic, vigorous."--W. Norman Brown

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Product Details

  • Series: Works by Heinrich Zimmer (Book 6)
  • Paperback: 282 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; New Ed edition (May 1, 1972)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691017786
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691017785
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #70,191 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 55 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
Zimmer is without a doubt a brilliant and sophisticated scholar of Indian Art and Mythology and this text reflects that fact very well. The sheer density of the text lends to the quality of it as a resource, but it not the number one choice of texts for someone who is just interested in mythology and folklore. Zimmer does more than merely tell you the myth or legend, he offers incredible symbolic and literary analysis of the myth in terms of broader and universal symbols. He brings together history, art, myth, religion, and philosophy in a incredible combination. However, the text is extraordinarily difficult to follow as a casual read.
In many places the text simply jumps around without any transition and in a seemingly nonsensical manner, making it difficult to read in a linear fashion. There does not seem to be any real organization to the text, with bits and pieces of the text's various elements thrown into the book at what feels like haphazard points. The photographs of the art which Zimmer discusses is useful, but are hidden at the back of the book in small, hard to see, grainy, black and white photos. I found to be a real pain constantly to flip to the back of the book to see what he was talking about and having to squint to make out the intricate art in the poor quality pictures. It would more useful if the photos were on the page where they were discussed, were in color, and were bigger. One final quibble is that the sheer volume of information makes taking notes as you go along crucial to obtain a real understanding of the text.
While I think these points are valid, do not let them scare you away. The text possess an immense wealth of information about Indian mythology and incredible analysis of its stories.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By K.S.Ziegler on November 21, 2008
Format: Paperback
In the editor's forward, Joseph Campbell notes the sudden passing away of Heinrich Zimmer in 1943 and the vast potential of the work that he had begun but was far from completing. Campbell definitely was influenced by Zimmer and was intent on continuing his work both here in this edited book and also in his own pursuits. With better photographs, this particular work could make an impressive coffee table type book, but the powerful focus evident here is not so much the pictures but the text. Zimmer had a special ability to elucidate for Westerners the rich manifestations of Indian mythology even without illustrations.

The author explains how the conception of time that underlies Hinduism and Buddhism differs from the West's linear conception of time. Rather than a continuum that starts with the Act of Creation, time is conceived of as an endless series of cycles, in which everything repeats itself throughout eternity. The universe, as we know it, is a cosmic illusion (Maya) that continually renews itself (Shakti). The gods and goddesses - such as Vishnu, Shiva and their consorts Lakshmi and Parvati-Kali - are personifications of the processes of construction and destruction. They represent the wonders and energy of the life force in dualistic masculine-feminine forms, and they also point to the ultimate release from the suffering of being trapped in space and time, attainable through intense meditation or by practicing yoga.

Contrary to the Abrahamic traditions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam there is no need to maintain that the stories of the gods and goddesses actually happened the way they are told, or whether the subject matter is the literal Word of God.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Diane DeArmond on May 12, 2007
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For those of us who want to be informed about the myths and symbols from ancient civilization, this book is a must. Informative and interesting at the same time. Zimmer has accomplished a great deal in presenting such rich detail.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Edward J. Barton VINE VOICE on November 30, 2008
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Zimmer was one of the world's foremost Indiologists. His insights in translating the Indian symbols and myths into a format that is easily understood, if not fully comprehended, by the Western mind is a great treasure. This book is a must read if you have interest in this topic, and should be an early read in any study of the subject.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By T. Petray on February 13, 2010
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This book was based on the works of Heinrich Zimmer, and it was brought to completion after Zimmer's death by Joseph Campbell. I found this an excellent resource for discovering the hidden meanings in ancient symbols. This work was vital in finding some unknown meanings that I could not find anywhere else for interpreting an artifact.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By ryf003 on January 20, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Although I grew up in India with daily encounters with these myths and symbols either through electronic media or religious/social ceremonies, I have to say that reading this book has changed the way I will be observing them again. In all the rush of modern age, the core concepts and interpretations (of mythic metaphors) are not structurally passed down to the future generations. For me, this book seems to start that spark and that too in a brief readable texts. I could have chosen to read book on this subject from Indian Hindu scholar but some of the Dr. Zimmer's references opened up avenues of how West views spirituality and religion, and how it has evolved over period of time to differ from the Orient. The curiosity, structure and open minded with which Dr. Zimmer has approached this work speaks for the man himself and, particularly, the way he concludes this work. I am impressed by Dr. Zimmer's ability to derive the primordial truth through the medium of cultural myths. I will continue exploring Dr. Zimmer's and Joseph Campbell's work.
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