3 out of 4 stars
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As the World Churns is a combination fable and historical text by Dr. Deepak Shimkhada. The fable is based on the Hindu legend of how the Cosmos was created from the churning of the ocean of milk. Churning milk to make butter was a common task in Indian households.
The story introduces an angry neighbor approaching the mother of a mischievous child. The child has been stealing butter from the neighbor’s kitchen. To appease the neighbor, the mother tells the story of how the gods lost their strength and needed to churn amrita, the elixir of immortality, from the ocean of milk to restore themselves. Because of their compromised state, the gods required the help of the danavas (demons) to churn the ocean. However, they also needed to be sure that the danavas did not drink the amrita, because then the demons would conquer the cosmos and all good would be gone from the world.
I give As the World Churns three out of four stars. I greatly enjoyed the story. I have always enjoyed learning about various mythologies, and Hinduism contains a wealth of wonderful myths and characters. I loved the pictures in the book, which came from the 1648 Bhagavata Purana manuscript. This manuscript was, unfortunately, damaged beyond repair in 2004 when a violent mob broke into the library of BORI (Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute) and destroyed many irreplaceable works.
I believe that the book was professionally edited as I found no errors in the text. However, I found the formatting problematic. There were multiple blank pages at the end of the book. I kept expecting there to be other stories or pictures but there was nothing. The pages from xxxv to ccxxi were blank. This is my one complaint about the book.
Scholars of culture and mythology, particularly those who study Indian culture and Hinduism, will appreciate As the World Churns. The book offered interesting information that I was previously unaware of. The loss of the Bhagavata Purana is a tragedy. I am pleased that the author was able to obtain photographs from this treasure. I would certainly be interested in purchasing a volume of these photographs.
The book is appropriate for readers of all ages as there is no profanity, overt violence, or erotic descriptions. Young children might be upset by the concept of demons or by the scene where the demon Rahu is beheaded by the god Mohini, but the scene is not detailed. Readers who are looking for an in-depth discussion of Hindu mythology might be disappointed, but those who are interested in a closer look at a well-known myth with illustrations from a lost antique manuscript will be pleased with this little book.
As the World Churns
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