The Hidden Glory Of India
by Steven Rosen
Posted November 28, 2002
The Hidden Glory of India. By Steven Rosen. The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 2002. 192 pages. Threadsewn softbound, full color. ISBN 0-89213-351-1
Reviewed by Graham M. Schweig, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Religion, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Christopher Newport University, Virginia, USA
The Hidden Glory of India is a feast for the eyes. This mini-coffee table book presents an overview of the Vaishnava religious tradition, part of the Hindu or Indic complex of religions. Specifically, this volume focuses on the Vaishnavism of Chaitanya, whose sect arose in Bengal and spread throughout northern India in the sixteenth century -- eventually reaching almost all countries beginning in the 1960s due to the work of the late A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada who established the Hare Krishna movement.
In splendid illustrative and terse explanatory richness, the reader can take a quick taste of diverse theological topics by merely turning each page quickly (much like one can sample diverse food preparations by ordering a "tali" plate at most Indian restaurants). In this way, the book facilitates a brief tour through various dimensions or themes. Or, if one prefers, one can gaze more intimately at the elaborate graphic arrangements and read more deeply into its introductory but developed words -- words that draw heavily from original sacred texts in translation. It is a book not merely to be read but a book to be experienced through both word and imagery. Steven J. Rosen has managed to "squeeze" into a small amount of space (the book is just several pages short of 200) precise and informative statements on the tradition of devotion (bhakti) to Krishna, seen by adherents as the supreme deity. Rosen represents the tradition well in its traditional forms and in its contemporary manifestations as well. And the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust has complemented his work with a lush visual experience that is rare to find in a book of this size. The combination is truly unique, and I know of no other work that effectively conveys the tradition in such an aesthetically pleasing way.
This book certainly serves as an excellent introduction to the tradition, especially for a popular audience, as it is thoroughly informative; but it also serves the seasoned reader, practitioner or scholar, by celebrating the aesthetic richness of the practice, thought, and cultural achievements of the tradition with a remarkable amount of comprehensiveness. Indeed, it could be used as a teaching tool for the college classroom, precisely because its presentation is so colorful and its themes so broad. The Hidden Glory of India is testimony that devotional India in all its cultural, spiritual, and rich practices and philosophical and theological visions, is very much alive within and far beyond its boundaries. Moreover, it is a testimony to those either on the inside or outside of this tradition that the world continues to be blessed with a vibrant religio-cultural movement that wholly celebrates the love of God.