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Anatomy of Love

Monika Varma

By Lee Siegel
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1978, Rs. 110.00

VOLUME III NUMBER 3 November/December 1978

This book by Lee Siegel has been sponsored by the Inter-Faculty Committee for South-Asian Studies, University of Oxford. On the first page is a verse which ends with the lines: ‘Sacred is this state of human fulfil­ment, which we find if ever.’ The Gitagovinda does not deal with the aspect of practical-cum-material ful­filment. The Gitagovinda deals with Radha and Krishna. The Indian tradition treats them not as humans but as some­thing apart and the humans listen, watch, and think of Radha and Krishna as apart from the mundane world of living. And it is thinking which makes something profane or sacred. Lee Siegel has read and studied a great deal, quoted with great insight from various texts but he has been unable to think along the lines of Indian trad­ition and then to analyse it and come to a conclusion. Any conclusion can be personal but according to Indian tradition it must be backed by some valid authority—in original and not from the inter­pretation of another. Admittedly, Dr Siegel is writing in the western tradition but, when dealing with the Indian tradi­tion, at least the thinking has to be on some factual basis. Dr Siegel has based his conclusions on the lines expressed by other western writers and thinkers, who have all translated the Sanskrit words and thoughts conditioned by their own west­ern milieu and thinking. The present-day western writers when taking up writing on Indian subjects and traditions seem inclined to begin from a premise of their own conception and then, instead of doing research with an open mind—with the question 'why is it not what I say it is', turn the Indian texts to fit in with what they say. Lee Siegel does not accept the answers given by a scholar and practising Vaishnavite of Puri who was asked by Dr Siegel to answer ques­tions and explain the Gitagovinda. Dr Siegel writes about what some tourist­-guide says—and then one is faced with the horror of an extract and illustrations from a Hindi 'comic,' something which is hardly ever read by any educated person as these are meant really for children and semi-literates, unlike in the West where the 'comic' is more a way of life rather than a way of reading. The Introduction ends with the lines: ‘Gitagovinda is a poem, a literary work and ...

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