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Comment: This book is good outside, but shows signs of use inside. Its cover is bright and clean, although it has some edgewear. The pages are clean, but a number have reader markings and a few have a little underlining. The fly leaf is sunned and has markings. All text is completely legible. Overall, this is a solid copy.
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The Origins and Development of Classical Hinduism Paperback – December 5, 1991

ISBN-13: 978-0195073492 ISBN-10: 0195073495

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (December 5, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195073495
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195073492
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.4 x 5.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #423,634 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"I ecided to use this text as soon as I read it, and we have used it this term. The previous texts on Hinduism received criticism from the students in formal assessments. This year's class has very much liked Classical Hinduism, finding it readable and informative. The students have been more favorable to the course this year at least in part due to this text."--Prescott A. Rogers, cademy of the New Church College

"The best brief introduction that I have seen. Basham coers all the essential material and much more. His style is wonderfully fluid and personal."--James Mayhall, University of Missouri-St. Louis

"Best work on the subject. Simple and scholarly."--S. N. Desai, St. John's University

"Clear and lucid, and it is enhanced by wonderful examples...of Hindu art. A useful introduction to the field."--Choice

"Provides an insight into what is the 'original' Hinduism....Basham will send many back with eager minds to the original texts."--The Independent Sunday (India)

"A fine book...a suitable introduction to Hinduism and to early Indic thought."--Willard Johnson, San Diego State University

"This book is a gem! Sometimes mildly controversial, it is never eccentric, and it provides, in lucid style, much of the information most likely to interest beginners."--Douglas A. Fox, Colorado College

"A concise, accurate and useful compilation of matrerials from one of the leading Indologists of our time."--Douglas R. Brooks, University of Rochester

"Reflects deep knowledge of the Hindu tradition--a complex religion made simpler."--S.N. Desai, St. John's University

"This is a lucid, comprehensive introduction to the essentials of classic Hinduism."--Bradley Nystrom, California State Univ., Sacramento

About the Author

The late A.L. Basham, a distinguished scholar of South Asia, was the author of many books, among them The Wonder That Was India, and The History and Doctrines of the Ajivikas.Kenneth G. Zysk, a former student of Basham's, is Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Literature at New York University. His books include Asceticism and Healing in Ancient India (Oxford, 1991) and Religious Healing in the Veda (1985).

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Bharat Sarath on February 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a rare book that combines deep and original scholarship with a style that makes it accessible to a general audience. The book is a collection of lectures so each chapter is self-contained and may be read on its own. While I suspect that some of the conclusions may be controversial, the arguments in favor are presented concisely and logically. This book is not intended to be an introduction to Hindu philosophy; however, anyone with a casual knowledge of stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata will enjoy this book.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Marc Ruby™ HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on February 22, 2002
Format: Paperback
One of the worst problems in getting a grasp of Indian religion and philosophy is that there is so much of it. If you are a dilettante, such as I, trying to keep the Vedas, Upanishads, Sutras, and their derivatives in some kind of mental order is a task that distracts one from the real reasons for such study. In addition, the terminology is often daunting, especially for a beginner. Yet the ideas of India and it's neighbors have had influence far beyond their countries of origin, and a good basic understanding grants tremendous insight into the workings of the human spirit.
Fortunately, there are many writers who have dedicated themselves to the explication of Indian philosophy. Almost too many. A short visit to the book store reveals many shelves of material, most of which entice and bewilder. Of course, this isn't surprising given the vastness of the subject matter. What is really needed it a bit of a roadmap, with enough detail to point the way to areas of interest. Which is where Arthur Basham's thin little book on classical Hinduism fits perfectly.
Basham is both a scholar of ancient Indian culture and religion and one of its best proponents. His style is very clear and lucid, even when the subject matter is a bit dry. This volume is actually a collection of a series of his lectures put together in 1989 and is quite accessible. These span a period of time from about 2700 BCE through to the Common Era and beyond. More than Hinduism itself is discussed. Buddhism and Jainism come under scrutiny, although not as deeply as the main subject area. The editor (Kenneth Zysk) has appended a fine bibliography which will help guide the reader in further pursuits.
The size and style preclude excessive detail, but Basham carefully steers clear of oversimplification.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By John in Orlando on October 19, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book collects a series of lectures presented in the mid-eighties by the eminent Indologist A.L. Basham. In these lectures, Basham traces the tradition that he calls "classical Hinduism" from its origins in the early Vedic religion of the Aryans (the author dismisses suggestions that the religion of Indus Valley/Harappa culture displayed aspects of Hinduism) to the full flowering of Upanishadic philosophy and Bhakti devotionalism. Along the way, he touches on themes in Indian thought that also conditioned the development of other traditions, like Jainism and Buddhism.

The Origins and Development of Classical Hinduism is a mere 112 pages in length (exclusive of appendices and notes), but it presents a solid overview of Hindu history emphasizing its philosophical and theological ideas and its major texts. Basham's observations on the origins of asceticism and the evolution of the key interrelated concepts of karma,, samsara, and moksha are speculative but fascinating--his hypothesis is that this complex of doctrines was "discovered" nearly simultaneously by independent sages and only gradually spread into the broader Indian consciousness. The chapter on the Bhagavad-Gita is also illuminating in its approach--Basham notes the differing, sometimes contradictory theologies of various passages and provides a good non-specialist overview of textual-critical perspectives on the work. The final chapter, written by the editor, Kenneth G. Zysk, completes the historical picture by tracing the course of Hinduism in India after the medieval period, and in the West.

Overall, this would be a solid first book on Hinduism for most general readers, although Gavin Flood's An Introduction to Hinduism is probably the introduction of choice. Basham's focus on the philosophical and theological side of Hinduism leaves out much of the popular religiosity that is the Hinduism of the vast majority of Indians historically, and Flood presents a much more balanced view.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Will Jerom on September 6, 2009
Format: Paperback
While Basham's writing style may not be the most scintillating, this book is a good concise overview on the development of the Hindu religion. Touching on the roots of ancient Harappan culture, and the Vedas, Basham also manages to introduce the ancient gods, to introduce Jainism as well, and finally to discuss the Mahbharata, the Ramayan, and Bhagavad-Gita. Readers who wish for a first brush meeting with Hindu culture and religion will still find this a reliable supplement to other very good readings - such as Fred Clothey's Religions of India.
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