The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan—that Institute of Indian Culture in Bombay-——needed a Book University, a series of books which, if read, would serve the purpose of providing higher education. Particular emphasis, however, was to be put on such literature as revealed the deeper impulsions of India. As a first step it was decided to bring out in English 100 books, 50 of which were to be taken• in hand almost at once.
It is our intention to publish the books we select, not only in English, but also in the following Indian languages: Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati. Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam.
This scheme, involving the publication of 900 volumes, requires ample funds and an all-India organization. The Bhavan is exerting its utmost to supply them.
The objectives for which the Bhavan stands are the reintegration of Indian culture in the light of modern knowledge and to suit our present-day needs- and the resuscitation of its fundamental values. in their pristine vigour.
Let me make our goal more explicit: We seek the dignity of man, which necessarily implies the creation of social conditions which would allow him freedom to evolve along the lines of his own temperament and capacities; we seek the harmony of individual efforts and social relations, not in any makeshift way, but within the framework of the Moral Order we seek the creative art of life, by the alchemy of which human limitations are progressively trans- muted, so that man may become the instrument of God and is able to see Him in all and all in Him.
The world we feel, is too much with us. Nothing would uplift or inspire us so much as the beauty and aspiration which such books can teach. In this series therefore, the literature of India ancient and modern, will be published in a form easily accessible to all. Books in other literatures of the world if they illustrate the principles we stand for will also be included.
This common pool of literature it is hoped will enable the reader eastern or westem to under- stand and appreciate currents of world thought as also the movements of the mind in India which though they flow through different linguistic channels, have a common urge and aspiration.
Fittingly the Book University’s first venture is the Mahabhara, summarized by one of the greatest living Indians, C. Rajagopalachari: the second work is on a section of it the Gita by H.V. Divatia. an eminent jurist and a student of t philosophy. ’Centuries ago, it was proclaimed of the Mahabhara: ''What is not in it, is nowhere.'' After twenty-five centuries, we can use the same words about it. He who knows it not, knows not the heights and depths of the soul: he misses the trials and tragedy and the beauty and grandeur life.
The Mahabhara is not a mere epic; it is a romance, telling the tale of heroic men and women and of some who were divine; it is a whole literature in itself. containing a code of life, a philosophy of social and ethical relations, and speculative thought on human problems that is hard to rival; but above all, it has for its core the Gita, which is, as the world is beginning to find out, the noblest of scriptures and the grandest of sagas in which the climax is reached in the wondrous Apocalypse in the Eleventh Canto.
Through such books alone the harmonies underlying true culture, I am convinced. Will one day reconcile the disorders of modem life.
I thank all those who have helped to make this new branch of the Bhavan’s activity successful. Foreword
In this hand-book, Shri V.A.K. Ayer has given in a succinct and useful form the highly desirable information about Hindu scriptural authorities and the Samskaras. Manu has mentioned four sources of Dharma — Shruti, Smriti, custom of good people and that which appeals to one’s good conscience. Yajnavalkya has added Samyak- sankulpajah-karmah and also stated the fourteen Vidya- sthanas. Menu also states that the best authority is the entire Veda i.e. Veda with all ifs six Angas. Smriti also includes in a broad sense, Itihasas, Puranus, Upa-puranas, Tantras and Agamas. Shri Ayer has given des- criptions of all these authorities.
He has also treated the subject of Samskaras in Section II. Maximum number of Samskaras which are purificatory and religious ceremonies of the Hindus are counted as 48. Sometimes the number is reduced 40; 25 to 16 or even 8. In modern times, Upanayana, Vivaha, Antyeshti are the minimum that are performed. All to them are described in a brief but vivid manner.
This hand-book is bound to be widely appreciated and Shri Ayer deserves compliments for marking this useful subject available to public at large in an interesting manner.
Back of the book
Author, journalist and scholar, Shri Ayer is given to by aptitude and training, a wide range of studies extending from astrology to Vedic researches. Starting life as the Editor of a Music Journal in the early thirties, he was a school teacher for two years. The lure of the pen drew him again to the editorial department of daily newspapers of Ceylon, Madras and Bombay successively. Changing the area _of his activities in the forties, he joined the staff of leading booksellers and publishers where for over a decade he had ample opportunities of slaking his literary thirst over a wide field and learning the abracadabra of the publishing world. He served simultaneously as the literary editor of two popular journals.
He joined the Bhavan in 1952 and served as Associate Editor of the Bhawan’s Journal since its inception for 15 years till 1968, when he went over to Bangalore as the Director of .Bhavan’s Bangalore Kendra. He was later engaged in producing Culture Course Readers and other literature for children at the Bhavan.
His published works include a book on astrology and a couple of books on palmistry, besides Stories of Vikramadityo. (Simhasano; Dwatrimsika), Stories of King Madana Kama and Untold Stories of King Bhoja, published by the Bhavan. Shri Ayer passed away in 1991 at the age of 80.
|Preface to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Editions||ix|
|Section I – Hindu Sastras|
|3.||The Upa - Vedas||15|
|Section II – Hindu Samskaras|
|6.||History and Sources||25|
|8.||Pre – Natal Samskaras||29|
|9.||Post – Natal Ceremonies||32|
|Appendices: Table of Vedas and Their Branches||44|
|2.||Symbolism in the Hindu Pantheon||51|
|3.||Summum Bonum of Life||60|