Tag Archives: Hindu mythology

Quest for Sita

Quest for Sita by Maurice Collis, with illustrations by Mervyn Peake, a 1947 hardcover from John Day Company, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Maurice Collis Mervyn Peake Quest for Sita from John Day

“Of Hanuman and the Divine Vultures, Jatayus and Sampati—of Ravana, the Dark Angel, and his Paradise at Lanka: Here is the central section of the Sanskrit epic, the Ramayana, as seen through the imagination of two master craftsmen.” — front cover

“Sita, the Helen of Sanskrit epic literature, who was carried off by the Dark Angel, Ravana, was also the cause and object of war. But the war for Helen of Troy was a war of mortal men; this epic struggle takes place among the immortals of a reincarnate world.

Following the course freely taken by many of his predecessors of Asia, Maurice Collis has here vivified the central section of the ancient classic narrative, the Ramayana. By passing it through his own lively imagination, he has brought about a delicate rendering of one of the world’s great myths. Told with an art of narrative which, though perfected in the West, is adapted to its eastern theme, he has preserved in the main the outlines of Rama’s quest for Sita.

The drawings of Mervyn Peake, whose interpretations of the episodes are no less subtle than Mr. Collis’ own adaptation, are less illustrations of the text than they are his own quest to make Sita vivid to us.” — flap copy

Arjuna in the Mahabharata

Arjuna in the Mahabharata: Where Krishna Is, There Is Victory by Ruth Cecily Katz, a 1989 hardcover in the Studies in Comparative Religion series edited by Frederick M Denny from University of South Carolina Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Ruth Cecily Katz Arjuna in the Mahabharata from University of South Carolina Press

“This book is a thorough study of the great Indian hero, the Achilles of India, Arjuna, as portayed in the epic poem Mahabharata, including its world famous subsection, the Bhagavadgita. Attempting to portray Arjuna as ‘a Hindu, involved in Hindu culture, might see or have seen him on the basis of the epic as passed down through the centuries more or less in its current form,’ the discussion focuses in turn on three ‘levels’ of Arjuna’s character, tracing their ebb and flow throughout the text: Arjuna’s semi-divine heroism; his humanization in the face of debilitating dilemmas; and his transcendence of the human condition by way of devotion to the god Krishna. In consideration of earlier and contemporary scholarship regarding the Indian epic tradition, in particular the respective works Georges Dumézil and Madeleine Biardeau, this study locates the Mahabharata, and Arjuna with it, in the context of two thousand years of Indian religious texts, from the Vedas to the Puranas. More broadly, Arjuna is compared with Indo-European/Semitic heroes from outside the Indian tradition, such as Achilles himself, Gilgamesh, Rustam, Cuchulainn and, finally, Jesus. The complete Mahabharata story is retold for the reader’s convenience as the discussion proceeds. An appendix on the names (epithets) of Arjuna concludes the study.” — back cover