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Book Review – The Bhagavata Purana – Sacred Text and Living Tradition

The Bhagavata Purana – Sacred Text and Living Tradition is a collection of 12 essays by scholars on various aspects of the Srimad Bhagavad Purana. The book is published by Columbia Universtiy Press, New York and is edited by Ravi M. Gupta and Kenneth R.Valpey.

The book definitely is not for the reader who likes to read the stories in the Purana. This is for the student who is exploring the various aspects of Srimad Bhagavad Purana like the Time, Geography, Ethics, Cosmology, Love, Dance, Song, Recitation in modern day etc.

The essays in the book takes for granted that the reader is well aware of the stories and theme of Bhagavata Purana. The essays provide deep insight into the stories of the Purana by comparing it with other scriptures and literature from around the world. 

For example the first essay explores the story of Prahlad and Narasmiha Avatar of Vishnu: 
“Prahlada’s virtue is his ability to listen and to speak truth, but also to find strength in silence while being tortured by his father. This power of silence mirrors and complements the Bhagavata’s power of language to effect a vision of unity grounded in equanimity that opens readers and listeners to the world of Bhakti, in which word and meaning converge in transcendent devotional emotion.” Reading: Puranic Trekking Along the Path of the Bhagavatas – Kenneth R. Valpey – Page 31.
What is interesting about the book is that the essays are not for scholars only. The essays are not dry but engaging. There are quotes from various scholars on the particular subject and there are attempts to take certain aspects under the microscope and study in minute details which would have made the reader uncomfortable but this does not happen with this book as all essayists acknowledge and respect that Bhakti or Unwavering Devotion to Srihari Vishnu is the main theme of Srimad Bhagavad Purana.

The language is not pedantic. Easy to read and grasp. Most essays stick to the topic.

The Bhāgavata Purāna: Sacred Text and Living Tradition
Edited by Ravi M. Gupta and Kenneth R. Valpey
Pages 296
Price - $34.50

You can find more about the book here at Columbia University Press