The western people have always been fascinated by India and Indian culture. The ancient and medieval Indian culture, stories and narratives have attracted several prominent experts to study Indology and write books. Some of them include Max Mueller, the German philologist who wrote about India in his multiple books. Alan Danielou was one such French scholar. He published, originally in French, ‘Le Polytheisme Hindou’, in 1960, a treatise on the (so-called) Hindu mythology. He later translated the book in English – “The Myths and Gods of India” describing the deities of the Sanatan Dharma.

For me the book was an eye-opener. I am from a traditional Hindu family, so we followed the prayers and rituals as enumerated by our ancestors. The deities were considered Gods, and the focus was on the outside. This book helped me to consider “God” in the form of energy and not exactly a known phenomenon of deities – figures made of stone and mud and other elements. For the first time I moved away from names and forms.

The book is divided into six parts:

  1. Philosophy – about polytheism and nature of the ultimate.
  2. The Gods of the Vedas – mentioning various Gods including the 33 types
  3. The Trinity – of Brahma, Vishnu & Shiva – also mentions their incarnations
  4. The Divine Power (Shakti) as the Goddess – mentioning the 10 maha vidyas
  5. Secondary Gods – Lord Ganesha and Shiva’s attendants (Ganas)
  6. Worship of the Deities

The book is dedicated to Pandit N. Ramachandra Bhatt, who supported the author in his research. The book refers to various Upanishads, Brahmanas, Vedas, Puranas and Samhitas to support its assertions. Below are some of the excerpts from the book:

  1. Everything in the work of manifestation is intended to create an illusion of multiplicity and to prevent the realization of the basic oneness of all beings, for this would lead to the destruction of the notion of I-ness (ego), which is the power of cohesion that holds together the individual being, the witness that gives reality to the cosmos. (33)
  2. The soul is not within the reach of the weak. It has to be conquered by going against all the forces of nature, all the laws of creation. (33)
  3. Nature is the expression of the Creator’s thought; it is the power that creates forms. It is also the power that prevents escape from the world of forms. (33)
  4. The word “linga” means a sign. The distinctive sign through which it is possible to recognize the nature of someone is called a linga. (222)
  5. Everything which our senses can perceive or our mind can grasp can be expressed in terms of kind, of category (groups of individual objects). All that can be counted or comprehended is a category (gana). The Lord of categories is Lord Ganapati. (291)
  6. Through the understanding of the inner significance of the mantra, we can realize the nature of which it represents. (334)

The book is fairly technical and has an academic flavor to it. It is a thick book with ~400 pages, so you must remain patient while going through it. The author’s research work is reflected in the contents of the book.

Lastly, I would like to quote one important statement from the book that kept my mind coming back to it, again and again – “All revealed knowledge is intended to keep man a manifest individuality.” We have been somehow brainwashed (rather conditioned over multiple lives) to look outwards only. It’s time to turn the direction of the gaze, and our senses to acknowledge the Witness Within!

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Vikas M

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