The Worlds of R. A. Hortz
The Legendary Past Series
By A. L. Dallapiccola
University of Texas Press, 2004
Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - Posted July 12, 2012
Hindu Myths is the newest edition to the Legendary Past Series. This is a series of books from the University of Texas Press that detail the mythology of various cultures from around the world. Other volumes in this series include, Aztec and Maya Myths, Greek Myths, Norse Myths, Russain Myths, and many more. In this newest edition to the series, Anna L. Dallapiccola presents a concise overview of Hindu Mythology - and its history.
Containing more than 35 illustrations, this volume explains the basics of the Vedic religion and the development of modern day Hinduism. She also explores the basic structure of the Hindu pantheon and provides short 'biographies' of the major deities, including Vishnu, Shiva, Devi, and Brahma. Dallapiccola also explains the evolution of Hindu mythology, and how it came to permeate the very fabric of Indian society.
Building upon this brief, but thorough introduction to Hindu myth, Dallapiccola devotes one full chapter to each of the "five divine activities," i.e., "creation, preservation, destruction, the power of delusion and the bestowal of grace, the five activities shared by all Hindu deities." (Pg. 15.) Each of these chapters begins with a brief discussion of the activity under discussion, followed by an investigation of some of the myths that illustrate various deities performing the activity. The book concludes with a section devoted to the application of Hindu Myth to modern Indian culture - including its use in film and on TV, the rise of new deities, such as Santoshi Mata who 'emerged' in the 1950's, and how Hindu myth is represented in modern Art.
Although only a mere 80 pages, this book manages to provide a detailed overview of Hindu Mythology. The narrative is compelling, and it will serve as a spring board to more detailed study in the area. The stories in this book will enthrall readers of all ages with their grandeur and fervor. Although written primarily for the general reader, it can be used successfully as a supplemental text in both high school and undergraduate classes.
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