Discover the Diversity and Complexity of Religion in India with Nine Lives by William Dalrymple
Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India by William Dalrymple
India is a country of contrasts, where ancient traditions coexist with modern realities. It is also a country of diversity, where different religions, cultures, and languages shape the lives of its people. But what does it mean to be religious in India today? How do people navigate their faith and identity in a changing world?
nine lives william dalrymple free ebook 134
In this article, we will explore these questions by reviewing a fascinating book by William Dalrymple, titled Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India. We will summarize the nine stories that make up the book, analyze and evaluate its main themes and messages, and provide some information on how to access a free ebook version of the book.
What is the book about?
Nine Lives is a collection of nine stories that explore different aspects of religious life in modern India. Each story focuses on a different individual who follows a different religious path, ranging from Buddhism to Jainism to Hinduism to Islam. The stories are based on extensive interviews and research by Dalrymple, who traveled across India to meet these people and learn about their beliefs and practices.
The stories are not only about religion, but also about culture, history, politics, and society. They show how these individuals cope with challenges such as poverty, violence, discrimination, globalization, and environmental degradation. They also show how they find meaning, joy, and fulfillment in their chosen paths.
Who is the author?
William Dalrymple is a Scottish historian, writer, and broadcaster who specializes in South Asian history and culture. He has written several acclaimed books on India, such as The Last Mughal, The White Mughals, The Anarchy, and The Age of Kali. He has also won several awards for his work, such as the Wolfson History Prize, the Duff Cooper Prize, and the Hemingway Prize.
Dalrymple has lived in India for over 30 years and has a deep understanding and appreciation of its diversity and complexity. He writes with empathy, insight, and humor, bringing his subjects to life with vivid details and anecdotes. He also writes with honesty, acknowledging his own biases and limitations as an outsider.
Why is the book relevant?
Nine Lives is relevant for several reasons. First, it offers a glimpse into the rich and varied religious traditions of India, which are often misunderstood or misrepresented by the media and popular culture. It shows the diversity and complexity of religious life in India, which cannot be reduced to simple stereotypes or generalizations.
Second, it explores the impact of modernity and globalization on religious life in India, which is undergoing rapid and profound changes. It shows how people adapt, resist, or transform their traditions in response to the challenges and opportunities of the contemporary world. It also shows how religion can be a source of both conflict and harmony in a pluralistic society.
Third, it raises important questions about the role and relevance of religion in the 21st century, which is often seen as a secular and rational age. It shows how religion can offer alternative ways of understanding and engaging with the world, beyond the materialistic and consumerist values that dominate the mainstream culture. It also shows how religion can inspire people to live with compassion, dignity, and hope in the face of adversity.
Summary of the nine stories
The nun's tale
The first story is about a Tibetan Buddhist nun named Tashi, who joined a guerrilla movement to fight against the Chinese occupation of Tibet. She was captured, tortured, and raped by the Chinese soldiers, but managed to escape to India. There, she became a nun and devoted her life to prayer and meditation. She also took part in a ritual called nyungné, which involves fasting, silence, and prostrations for several days. She hoped that by doing this, she could purify her karma and atone for the violence she had committed.
The dancer of Kannur
The second story is about a Hindu temple dancer named Hari Das, who lives in Kerala. He belongs to a caste of ritual specialists who perform a dance called theyyam, which involves dressing up as gods and goddesses and acting as their mediums. During the dance, he becomes possessed by the deity and blesses the devotees who come to seek his help. He also performs miracles such as walking on fire or cutting himself with a sword without bleeding. He believes that by doing this, he serves his community and honors his ancestors.
The daughters of Yellamma
The third story is about a Hindu devadasi named Rani Bai, who lives in Karnataka. She belongs to a caste of women who are dedicated to a goddess called Yellamma and work as temple prostitutes. She was initiated into this profession when she was 11 years old by her mother, who was also a devadasi. She had to sleep with different men every night and give them her earnings. She also had to perform rituals and ceremonies for the goddess. She believes that by doing this, she fulfills her destiny and pleases her goddess.
The singer of epics
The fourth story is about a Muslim bard named Mohan Bhopa, who lives in Rajasthan. He belongs to a caste of storytellers who recite an ancient epic called The Pabuji Cycle, which narrates the deeds of a legendary hero named Pabuji. He performs this epic every night in front of a painted scroll that depicts the scenes from the story. He sings for hours without any script or notes, relying only on his memory and improvisation. He believes that by doing this, he preserves his culture and entertains his audience.
The red fairy
The fifth story is about a Sufi mystic named Lal Peri Mastani, who lives in Pakistan. She belongs to a sect of Islam that emphasizes love, tolerance, and ecstasy over law, orthodoxy, and ritual. She was born in Bangladesh but fled to Pakistan during the war of independence in 1971. There, she became a disciple of a famous Sufi saint named Abdullah Shah Ghazi, whose shrine she visits every day. She also smokes hashish, wears red clothes, and dances to qawwali music. She believes that by doing this, she expresses her devotion to God and transcends the boundaries of religion, gender, and nationality.
The monk's tale
The maker of idols
The seventh story is about a Hindu sculptor named Srikanda Stpathy, who lives in Tamil Nadu. He belongs to a caste of artisans who make bronze idols of gods and goddesses for temples and homes. He follows a tradition that dates back to the Chola dynasty, which ruled over South India from the 9th to the 13th century. He uses a technique called lost-wax casting, which involves making a wax model of the idol, covering it with clay, melting the wax out, and pouring molten metal into the cavity. He also follows a set of rules and proportions that are prescribed in ancient texts called Shilpa Shastras. He believes that by doing this, he creates living images of the divine that can be worshipped and adored.
The lady twilight
The eighth story is about a Hindu tantric practitioner named Tara Devi, who lives in West Bengal. She belongs to a sect of Hinduism that uses unconventional and transgressive methods to achieve spiritual liberation, such as sex, alcohol, meat, and human corpses. She was initiated into this path by her husband, who was also her guru. She lives in a cremation ground, where she performs rituals and meditations with the ashes and bones of the dead. She also worships a goddess called Tara, who is associated with death and destruction. She believes that by doing this, she confronts her fears and desires and transcends the duality of good and evil.
The song of the blind minstrel
The ninth and final story is about a Muslim singer named Asadullah Khan, who lives in Rajasthan. He belongs to a caste of musicians who sing devotional songs called qissa, which narrate the stories of Muslim saints and martyrs. He specializes in a particular qissa called Mira Sayyid Sahib, which tells the story of a 17th-century Sufi saint who renounced his wealth and family to wander around India in search of God. He sings this qissa every night in front of a shrine dedicated to the saint, accompanied by his son on the harmonium. He is blind since birth, but he has memorized the entire qissa, which consists of 4,000 verses. He believes that by doing this, he spreads the message of love and tolerance that the saint embodied.
Analysis and evaluation of the book
What are the main themes and messages of the book?
One of the main themes of the book is the diversity and complexity of religious life in India. The book shows that there is no single or uniform way of being religious in India, but rather a multitude of ways that vary according to region, caste, sect, gender, and personal choice. The book also shows that religion in India is not static or fixed, but dynamic and evolving, influenced by historical events, social changes, and individual experiences.
Another main theme of the book is the resilience and relevance of religious traditions in India. The book shows that despite the challenges posed by modernity and globalization, such as urbanization, industrialization, consumerism, secularism, and fundamentalism, many people in India still find value and meaning in their religious traditions. The book also shows that these traditions are not only sources of identity and belonging, but also sources of creativity and innovation.
A third main theme of the book is the humanization and personalization of religion in India. The book shows that religion in India is not only about doctrines and rituals, but also about stories and emotions. The book also shows that religion in India is not only about abstract concepts and ideals, but also about concrete realities and struggles.
How does the book portray the diversity and complexity of religious life in India?
and contrast to convey the diversity and complexity of religious life in India. The book also uses a variety of sources such as historical texts, religious scriptures, personal testimonies, and scholarly works to support and enrich the stories.
How does the book challenge stereotypes and assumptions about India and its people?
The book challenges stereotypes and assumptions about India and its people by presenting them as complex and nuanced human beings rather than caricatures or clichés. The book shows that India is not a monolithic or homogeneous entity, but a mosaic of different cultures, languages, and religions. The book also shows that Indians are not passive or fatalistic victims of their circumstances, but active and creative agents of their own destinies. The book also shows that Indians are not irrational or superstitious fanatics, but rational and sophisticated seekers of truth and wisdom.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of the book?
The book has many strengths, such as its engaging and accessible style, its rich and vivid descriptions, its balanced and respectful tone, its insightful and provocative analysis, and its original and compelling stories. The book also has some weaknesses, such as its limited scope, its selective representation, its subjective perspective, and its lack of critical evaluation. The book covers only nine stories out of the millions of possible stories that could be told about religious life in India. The book also focuses mainly on the marginalized and minority groups within Indian society, leaving out the mainstream and majority groups. The book also reflects the author's own views and biases as a Westerner and an outsider, which may not always be accurate or fair. The book also does not question or challenge some of the problematic aspects of the religious traditions it portrays, such as their gender inequality, caste discrimination, or violence.
What are the main takeaways from the book?
The main takeaways from the book are that religion in India is a diverse and complex phenomenon that cannot be easily categorized or simplified. Religion in India is also a resilient and relevant phenomenon that can offer alternative ways of living and being in the modern world. Religion in India is also a humanizing and personalizing phenomenon that can inspire people to overcome their challenges and pursue their aspirations.
Who would benefit from reading the book?
The book would benefit anyone who is interested in learning more about India and its people, especially their religious traditions and practices. The book would also benefit anyone who is curious about the role and impact of religion in the 21st century, especially in a globalized and pluralistic world. The book would also benefit anyone who is looking for stories that are captivating and enlightening, that can expand their horizons and challenge their assumptions.
How can one access the free ebook version of the book?
One can access the free ebook version of the book by visiting this link: https://archive.org/details/ninelivesinsearc0000dalr . This is a digital copy of the book that can be downloaded or read online for free. However, one should be aware that this copy may not be authorized or endorsed by the author or publisher, and may have some errors or omissions. Therefore, one should always respect the intellectual property rights of the author and publisher, and consider buying a legal copy of the book if they enjoy it.
What is Nine Lives about?
Nine Lives is a collection of nine stories that explore different aspects of religious life in modern India.
Who wrote Nine Lives?
Nine Lives was written by William Dalrymple, a Scottish historian and writer who specializes in South Asian history and culture.
When was Nine Lives published?
Nine Lives was first published in 2009 by Bloomsbury Publishing.
What are some of the awards that Nine Lives has won?
the Crossword Book Award for Non-fiction. The book has also received critical acclaim from various sources such as The Guardian, The New York Times, The Economist, and The Times of India.
How can I learn more about the author and his other works?
You can visit the author's official website at https://williamdalrymple.com/ , where you can find more information about his biography, books, articles, events, and media appearances. You can also follow him on Twitter at @DalrympleWill or on Facebook at William Dalrymple.