Oct 24, 2014

7 Secrets of the Goddess [Book Review]

Title: 7 Secrets of the Goddess
Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
Reach the author at
Website: http://devdutt.com/
Twitter: @devduttmyth 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DevduttPattanaik

Buy this book from Flipkart here.

There is always a sense of fulfilment when you read a book by Devdutt Pattanaik.  He delivers what is promised. Be it Jaya, The Pregnant King or Sita (for the most part), there is a lot of research that has gone into getting the material for the book and it is presented in a way that is easily consumed. While the author’s thoughts and comments on various social practices come as a part of what is presented, it is mostly logical and not forcibly fit into the premise.

Devdutt’s latest book ‘7 Secrets of the Goddess’ is no different either, from what I mention above. Part four of a series called the 7 Secrets, this book is the first one I read in the series.

The book, in typical Devdutt style, has a lot of illustrations. However, the illustrations are artwork and photographs from various sources including temple sculptures and calendar art, in lieu of a hand drawn sketches like in Jaya or Sita. Every page of text is accompanied by a page of artwork with sufficient captions. This artwork serves as a good precursor to what may be coming in text that follows it.

The book talks about the secrets of Gaia, Kali, Gauri, Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswathi, and Vitthai. It is interesting to see how Devdutt starts off with the Goddess Gaia from the Greek mythology and weaves in the tales of corresponding Indian counterparts into the chapter. In almost every chapter, particularly the first, there is a mention of the gender ‘inequality’ and the co-existence of male Gods and female Goddesses. This is exactly where Devdutt brings up a lot of the logical reasoning based arguments on certain practices.

The book has significant borrowings, in terms of characters, from his earlier works including Jaya, Sita, Shikhandi and other stories they don’t tell you and the Pregnant King. The mythological value addition in terms of stories/anecdotes is limited compared to these earlier works, since this is more of a book that describes the existence of various goddesses, the practices related to them and the way we perceive them has changed over the centuries.

Following the first chapter, the chapters on Kali, Gauri, Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi were particularly very strong, while the last chapter on Vitthai did leave a lot to be desired. For some reason, it did seem forcefully fit into the scheme of things.

My favourite part of the book, all along the book, is how Devdutt visits every practice that were not favourable to women and mostly says it out aloud. One of my favourite lines from the book is on human ego and how it originated from ‘Aham’ and how we have modified to suit our requirements just to appear superior. Another noteworthy thing in the book is that Devdutt does talk about the misdoings of Brahmanas with respect to preserving the vedic wisdom and the superiority shown by that sect. And he does that without the cliched brahmin-bashing.

Overall, Devdutt Pattanaik’s 7 Secrets of the Goddess is a wonderfully educative read as his earlier books, but from a different perspective.

PS: One thing that bothered me initially about the book was the size of the book and the font sizing/spacing. It seemed like a workbook that we had in school, and a little difficult to hold. But once I saw how the artwork on the pages effectively added to the reading, I realised why the book was designed that way. 

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