Friday, August 9, 2019

Arrow of the Blue-Skinned God by Jonah Blank

Arrow of the Blue-Skinned God
Retracing the Ramayana Through India
The three-thousand-year-old epic Ramayana chronicles Lord Rama's physical voyage from one end of the Indian subcontinent to the other and his spiritual voyage from Man to God. In Arrow of the Blue-Skinned God, Jonah Blank gives a new perspective to this Hindu classic -- retelling the ancient tale while following the course of Rama's journey through present-day India and Sri Lanka.
I've gotten a basic overview of the Ramayana from all the Indian movies I've watched. Including bits of holy day celebrations while acting out the story is highly cinematic, after all. Wanting to actually read it and see what Sita Sings the Blues skimmed over I came across this book which seemed like an easy way into the story.

What a wonderful, easy-to-read book. The author tells the story in pieces and then looks at an particular aspect of India physically, spiritually, and culturally. So you have topics like Fate, Kings, Caste, Rites, and Love and it works to show the reader about what it means to be Indian ... as much as anything can. This meshed really well with what I'd gleaned from Indian movies and the research we'd undertaken after viewing them in order to be sure we understood context.

I benefitted from it in practical ways as well as getting a good look at the Indian national character. Turns out wrestlers venerate Lord Hanuman. As did the main character in Bajrangi Bhaijaan - who was trained in wrestling! Just another little bit of cultural context.

I read it in four days and kept quoting bits of it to the rest of the family, who are now taking their own turns at it. Keep in mind it was published in 1992 because a few bits are dated (especially about war and terrorism), although they still apply to different parts of India these days. You don't have to care about Indian movies. It is an entertaining and interesting travelogue aside from all that. Definitely recommended.

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