When I received this book titled - 7 Secrets of Vishnu written by Devdutta Pattanaik from Flipkart at my office, two of my colleagues questioned me what my age was and if everything was fine, why was I reading this book? Devdutta Pattanaik's books are precisely the sorts that break this notion people have on books related to Hindu Gods and Mythology - that they are meant only for the older grey haired folks and the ones in neck deep trouble.
I came to know of the author when his book titled Jaya (an illustrated retelling of Mahabharata) made it to the top selling book brigade. There are other titles written by him - Myth=Mithya: A Handbook of Hindu Mythology, 7 Secrets of Hindu Calendar Art, 99 thoughts on Ganesha and 7 Secrets of Shiva that are immensely popular.
7 secrets of Vishnu, as denoted by the title, is split into seven chapters - Mohini's secret, Matsya's secret, Kurma's secret, Trivikrama's secret, Ram's secret, Krishna's secret and Kalki's secret.
The book on each page is marked by illustrations on the left hand side and written information on the right hand side. I captured a few images of the inside of the book -
Devdutta Pattanaik's 7 secrets of Vishnu is meant for all who have missed out on mythological tales, normally handed over by grandparents during one's childhood days, for all who love to know more about their favorite Gods and Goddesses. Tales of purpose and intent of each incarnation of Vishnu are discussed in very simple and easy to understand language. The font is bold and many illustrations with labels effortlessly explain the seemingly complex divine concepts. These aspects of the book broaden the audience it caters to. The book explains quite clearly many of the symbols and figures we see on temple walls and inside the sanctum etc.
The first chapter - Mohini's secret explains mutually exclusive but quintessential spheres of material and spiritual growth. Matsya's secret tells the tale of the avatar and explains how man alone, with a larger brain has the power to imagine, empathize and exploit. Kurma's secret reveals the act of churning of ocean. Trivikrama's secret deals with tales of Varaha, Narasimha and Vamana avatars of Vishnu.
The chapter on Ram's secret deals with understanding dharma based on one's Varna and Ashrama. Here, incarnations of Parashuram marking the end of Krita yuga, Ram marking the end of Treta Yuga, reasons behind their actions are explained in detail.
Krishna's secret emphasizes on thought behind an action. Many complex decisions are taken by this avatar to deal with changing times of Dwapara Yuga. The book ends with Kalki's secret where incarnations like Balarama and Kalki do not take an active course of action like other Vishnu's incarnations to root out injustice and evil but recede passively, allow things to wane so that a Kalpa or world cycle is complete and a new one can begin.
The book provides answers to why Brahma is never worshipped, explains how Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu were once the gate keepers Jaya and Vijaya of Vaikunta, why Lakshmi has an owl along with her in most pictures, why Narada triggers trouble wherever he goes, how Bhagavatha Purana came into being and many other interesting questions.
If you want to take a break from routine fiction and non-fiction related to travel/history - here is a good read. I am not rating this book on a scale of 5 or 10, I will just say, I enjoyed reading it thoroughly. The book is meant to be read slowly and details be assimilated carefully. It is not a one time read, I would love to get back to few chapters time and again to refresh some details/tales. I procured a copy of 7 secrets of Shiva by the same author, I am sure the book has many more interesting tales.
I could not find a better day than today (Vaikunta Ekadeshi - Jan 5, 2012) to write about this book. Well written, adequately illustrated and highly informative, 7 secrets of Vishnu helps one to gain better understanding of one's faith.