Sacred India (Lonely Planet Pictorial)

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9781864500639: Sacred India (Lonely Planet Pictorial)

Documents the four major religions in India, along with six minor religions through text as well as photographs

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Review:

Sacred India is a close-focus view of spirituality in India with a very God-is-in-the-details approach. Lonely Planet tackles a bafflingly large subject with admirable grace in this loosely structured, accessibly sized coffee-table book. A florid painting of Ganesh, a hundred capped heads bowed in prayer, weather-beaten flags whipped in the Himalayan wind: all are diverse glimpses of India's spiritual cultures. India's four major religions--Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, and Buddhism--are gathered in an impressionistic collage of vibrant photos and text. Christianity, Jainism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, as well as tribal religions and gurus are also covered in smaller sections. The book's photos are lavish in color and pungently evocative--but decidedly not opulent. They excel at the intensely personal (a lotus flower, a turban-swathed camel trader, a Muslim woman reading the Quran), but their zoomed-in style sometimes falls short of capturing the sense of awe and grandeur we like to associate with religion. Sacred India offers brief glimpses of a wide-ranging and multicolored land; but unlike the fable of the blind men and the elephant, the picture formed in the mind's eye from these richly textured details will be greater than the sum of its parts. --Jhana Bach

From Publishers Weekly:

Don't be fooled by the dazzling coffee-table format of this extravaganza or by the fact that it comes from one of the travel industry's major publishing houses. The photography is stunning, to be sure, but it is complemented by a perceptive, inclusive text. The first third of the book is devoted to Hinduism and its vibrant pastiche of religious beliefs and practices. The photographs illustrate various concepts of Indian beliefs (one two-page spread shows a corpse decorated for burial and a peacefully sleeping infant, to demonstrate samsara, the cycle of rebirth). The authors, all Lonely Planet writers, profile Hinduism's various deities and interview pilgrims and practitioners about their devotion. Readers meet, among others, a professional parcel packer who lights incense and blesses his tools in preparation for work and an elderly housewife who spends an hour each morning greeting and feeding the household gods. In addition to Hinduism, major religions such as Islam, Sikhism and Buddhism are well represented; nods are also given to other religions such as Christianity (whose 18 million followers are concentrated primarily in South India), Jainism, Zoroastrianism and tribal religions. A brief but fascinating section explores India's tiny Jewish community. (A Jewish baker declares proudly, "As long as there is one Jew, I'll continue to make challot on Friday. It is tradition.") The book offers gorgeous photographs of sacred buildings, such as an unforgettable night shot of the Sikh Golden Temple, its image reflected on the Pool of Nectar. Even more impressive are the representations of the "tangibles" of Indian religions: prayer books, shrines (including one in a taxi), figurines, foods, ritual clothing, holy books and body decorations. Sacred India is a feast for the mind as well as the eyes. (Nov.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Lonely Planet
Published by Lonely Planet Publications (1999)
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