“Smeared with ash
Draped in animal hide
He sits atop the snow-capped mountain
Skull in hand
Withdrawn, with dogs for company
Destroying the world with his indifference
He is God who the Goddess shall awaken
His name is Shiva
Locked in his stories, symbols and rituals are the secrets of our ancestors. This book attempts to unlock seven.“
This is not the first time I’ve read Dr.Pattanaik’s work. I immensely enjoyed ‘The Pregnant King‘ and ‘Jaya‘ enjoys a place of prominence on my windowsill book collection. I’ve also been following his articles and blogposts.
A lot of things draw me to Dr.Pattanaik’s writings. I have a dispassionate relationship with religion, customs and the concept of God & gods. I find it tiresome to labour through the reverence & perceptions that those of religious fervour, add to them. Most writing on religion reads like a priest’s preaching. I want to read about faith, belief & customs from an objective perspective and not from inside a “You must revere this or DIE!” mindset. All that I’ve read of Dr.Pattanaik’s writing so far, has matched that need. It has been refreshing to read his thoughts and even old stories, expressed without a fundamentalist ‘This is a God so we don’t question anything he/she does.’ attitude. I’m afraid 7 Secrets Of Shiva did not convey as much to me. It was as dry and preachy as the aforementioned religious treatises that I’ve taken much care to avoid.
Secondly, the other books I mentioned (Jaya & The Pregnant King) contained a fair degree of the author’s own analysis of beliefs. His articles often carry forward an idea from mythology and apply it to realities of our modern times. But 7 Secrets of Shiva seems to be no more than a collation of several floating stories about Shiva, with no sign of the author’s objective intellect showing.
There is a definite difference in tone from his earlier writing and this book. I used to think of Dr.Pattanaik as a keen, scientific observer of beliefs, myths and their relationship with human cultures. His earlier writing felt like a conversation between one intelligent, rational mind and another. But 7 Secrets of Shiva makes me feel like a stern-faced, elderly priest is frowning down on me while preaching from his dusty, religious texts.
Most notably, every Pattanaik work I’ve read so far has been beautifully illustrated by his own simple, distinctive sketches. I couldn’t find a single one in 7 Secrets of Shiva. Instead the book contains plenty of black and white photographs & paintings. The starkness of this is only compounded by a large font size, the kind you usually see in children’s books. Where is the quality I’ve come to expect from a Pattanaik book?
I get the feeling that I’m not the intended audience for this book. Perhaps it is a book for those completely unfamiliar with Hindu mythology and want a ready primer on the Shiva myth. Even so, I would rather recommend a simple Amar Chitra Katha over the dry, heavy tome that is 7 Secrets of Shiva. For the first time in my reading life, Dr.Devdutt Pattanaik disappoints.
Here are three other BlogAdda book reviews: