Starred Review. Historian-travel writer Dalrymple (The Last Mughal) knows his Asian subcontinent, having moved to New Delhi in 1989. The engine of Indian economic development is bringing rapid change, and Dalrymple spotlights changes and constancies brought about in IndiaÖs dizzyingly diverse religious practices. The titular nine lives are those of a variety of religious adherents: a Jain nun, a sacred dancer, a Sufi mystic, a Tantric practitioner, among others. His subjects, for the most part, do their own show-and-tell in explaining their religious paths, which differ but share the passionate devotion (bhakti) that characterizes popular religion in India. Dalrymple has a good eye, a better ear, and the humility to get out of the way of his subjects. It helps to know a bit about the subject coming in, as it saves endless flipping to a very helpful appended glossary. The author also notes in his introduction he has made a special effort to avoid exoticizing £mystic India,¥ yet he has picked some extremes to exemplify different kinds of religious beliefs and practices. Still, those are minor quibbles about this ambitious and affectionate book that respects popular religion.
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Dalrymple, author of prizewinning works of far-roaming inquiry, including The Last Mughal (2007), knows when to let others speak. Which is what he does with great finesse in this evocative set of portraits of nine spiritual seekers living across India. Nine lives that open doors onto nine of India's many arduous paths to the divine and reveal striking, nearly surreal juxtapositions between the old and the new. There's the haunting tale of a Jain nun who as a girl renounced her life of privilege and the wrenching story of Rani Bai, a devadasi, or servant of the goddess Yellamma, who was forced into prostitution as a girl. Hari Das describes what it feels like “to be taken over by a god” when he performs theyyam, the sacred possession dance of Kerala, only to return to his dangerous work as a prison guard. Dalrymple sets each vivid profile within an intricately drawn history of the ancient and now-endangered tradition each devotee is dedicated to preserving in the escalating battle between holiness and hustle that is transforming India. --Donna SeamanSee all Editorial Reviews
Amazing read...quite a different perspective on the sacred in India...touched by Dalrymple's writing!Published 1 month ago by Kailash Narayan
Read this as I was travelling in Sikkim, and as usual, gained insight and more love for India as I read on. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Ganosh Gourmet
Outstanding! Book was in pristine condition. Super fast shipping. Many thanks.PatPublished 3 months ago by Patricia A. Gallagher
Non-fiction - A current view of the lives of 9 individual Indians living in the Southern portion of India. Very different from Northern India. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Busy Bee
Fascinating book. The author has wonderful facility with language. He is able to paint pictures in words that transports me to the places and people he is writing about. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Mary K. Wylie
The books talks about the practices that are not necessarily known to many Indians. Dalrymple has done an amazing research to get the facts and put it across to the world as story.Published 5 months ago by ALAM
Nine Lives is an amazing portrayal of selected characters from across India. Author's research and portrayal of the characters really makes this book a great read.Published 5 months ago by Srinidhi
He promised a insight into lesser known gods and traditions of india and thats what we got with beautiful descriptions and inspiring stories. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Kalyani Mirajkar