When I think of India, I think of rich colours, ancient civilisations, classical Indian art forms, a vast landscape and a burgeoning population, an emerging India developing at a rapid pace – new skyscrapers of glass standing next to spralling shantytowns. One day I won’t just think of India. One day I hope to see it with my own eyes and take it all in.
India has a long tradition of storytelling; merchants, travelling men, professional storytellers even, moving from place to place, telling, singing or performing stories. And Tales from India by Jamila Gavin reflects this ancient craft beautifully. Gavin has given a new voice to the Hindu stories of Creation and the Cosmos and to hear these stories is, as Gavin believes, to “gain a glimmer of understanding of this ancient time“, a time before the written word, when the earliest forms of these Hindu tales were created and passed on by world of mouth. So, for example, “‘How the River Ganga Came to Earth’ somehow makes geographical sense, this very river flowing down as it does from the Himalayas into the Bay of Bengal, its tributaries spreading out like Lord Shiva’s hair” and “the sea of milk being churned into butter at the start of creation helps us to appreciate why the cow is a holy creature to Hindus”.
The stories included in this beautiful book are: How the World Began; How Lord Shiva Became Blue-Throated; Manu, the Fish and the Flood; How the River Ganga Came to Earth; How Ganesh Got His Elephant’s Head; The Birth of Lord Krishna; Hanuman, the Greatest; The Choosing; The Battle of Eighteen Days; and Three Steps to Save the Universe.