Ten Books You Should Read To Understand Hindu Religion

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The universality of Hinduism- the culture of ancient Indian sages, ascetics, and great beings stems from its messages which are powerfully relevant in every context. This is one of the major reasons why books on Hinduism have a worldwide readership, a trend that has seen an increase in modern times. People looking to enhance their knowledge of the ancient religious tradition continuously look for authentic and profound literary sources. We are here with a carefully chosen list of ten books that you should read to understand the Indian religion and experience the depth of Hinduism.

  1. The Ramayana by C. Rajagopalachari

The epic story of Sri Rama lives in the soul of Indian society. The legend and its characters are archetypes or examples for Indian people to follow and learn from. Rajagopalachari or Rajaji was a great Indian philosopher, political thinker, and close companion of Mahatma Gandhi. He worked on the original work of Valmiki and translated it into lucid and poetic language which lets the reader witness the greatness of Rama and Ramayana beautifully.

2. The Mahabharata by C. Rajagopalachari

 

A predecessor to the story of Sri Rama, Rajagopalachari’s Mahabharata captures his abilities to tell a story brilliantly. The gigantic literature of Mahabharata, the battle of Kurukshetra, and the message of Sri Krishna which is an integral part of Indian social and religious life are presented in this book in a simple yet imaginatively rich manner.

3. Srimad Bhagavatam from Gita Press

 

Published by the popular Gita Press Gorakhpur, Srimad Bhagavatam is a book that is read, narrated, and remembered by many devout and practicing Hindus. The concept of devotion, austerities, dharma (duty), and the relationship shared between a god and his followers are some of the major portions of the Bhagavatam. These ideals live in the collective visions of religious Indians, who subconsciously follow the teachings of Srimad Bhagavatam to ensure a fulfilling and virtuous life. 

4. Gita by Swami Chinmayananda

 

Gita or Srimad Bhagavad Gita is one of the most widely read and translated Indian texts in the world. Its messages resonate in the quotes and thoughts of great world leaders and its contents are the basis of the modern Hindu religious system. Bhakti, as the complete self-surrender to the divine, seeing oneself as a tool in the hands of the Lord, and performing one’s karma without worrying about its Phala (fruit) are some of the timeless teachings the Gita has taught the world. Translated by Swami Chinmayananda Saraswati, a set of 15 books contain the message of Sri Krishna as heard by Arjuna.

5. Shiva Purana from Gita Press 

 

A seminal text from the Hindu Puranic corpus, not only for the Shaivas (followers of Shiva) but for anyone who seeks to find the Shiva-tattva (supreme divine essence), the Shiva Purana is a must-read if you wish to understand the greatness of Indian religion. The Gita Press Gorakhpur version comes with readable paragraphs, along with explanations and exquisite pictures that lead one straight to the feet of Shiva.

6. Srimad Devibhagavat Purana from Gita Press

 

Devoted to the powers of Shakti- the primordial energy or Devi- the great goddess, the Srimad Devibhagavat Purana is an influential text and an authority on the origin and development of Devi-Puja (worship of the goddess), in Indian society. The Purana by Gita Press contains all the major themes related to the great goddess- from her origin as the united forces of all gods to her numerous forms to protect Dharma, in easy-to-understand language, which lets you comprehend the incomprehensible powers of Shakti and her omnipresent popularity in Indian religious sphere.

7. Sri Ramacharitamanas of Tulsidas from Gita Press 


Written in poetic Awadhi by Mahakavi Tulsidas, the Ramcharitmanas is a more popularly read version of Sri Ramakatha in India. Besides the original story told by Valmiki in his Ramayana, the text in Awadhi displays an excellent connection to the folk culture of India, bringing Sri Rama much closer to his worshippers, in a much simpler language. Owing to the lucidity and enchanting flow of Ramacharitamanas, its content is not only widely read and narrated, even in rural India, but also performed in regional plays. Published by Gita Press Gorakhpur, Ramcharitmanas is another pious book; one should read and re-read it to understand Indian culture.

8. Any Biography of Adi Shankaracharya

 

Born in Southern India, Shankara who is devoutly addressed as Shankaracharya is credited with having united the various sects, cults, and practices within India under the umbrella of Smarta Hinduism, which is the most popularly practiced form of Hinduism in India today. The biographical sketches of Sri Shankaracharya and texts on his literary works offer a magnificent look into his journey across India, which concluded with the unification of Hindu dharma. A majestic path followed by one of the greatest beings to have ever graced the land of India, the life of Shankaracharya is also the history of modern Hinduism as well as a map to be followed by anyone who wishes to achieve greatness.

9. Narada Bhakti Sutras


Devarishi (divine sage) Narada is credited with the creation of these sutras on Bhakti or devotion to the Lord. Narada muni is one the most famously talked about characters in Hindu culture, acting as the messenger and devotee of Sri Vishnu. 84 sutras (sutra means thread), were created by Narada, and each one of the leads the devotee and the reader on a trail that ends in seeing the supreme truth- Param Brahama. Encapsulating the essence of Indian devotion, Narada Bhakti Sutras are indispensable to our understanding of the Indian religion.

10. The Manusmriti 

 

Manusmriti is essentially a socio-legal text, written in ancient times by Manu, one of the primary law-givers of Hindu society. The contents of this text carry the route to understanding the orthodox and elementary beliefs of Hindu society, in terms of social relations, religious practices, and economic structures. Though not a religious or spiritual text like the rest of the works listed here, reading the Manusmriti will provide you with a complex perspective of how Indian society became what it is today.

The list of books that are crucial in helping you understand India and its religion is in no way exhaustive. Indian religion is oceanic in its length, breadth, and depth and these 10 books can be looked at only a few dockyards where you can anchor your boat to explore the area. Each one of these books is an individual sea of wisdom, which you can get from Exotic India Art, along with thousands of sources of India’s culture, religion, art, society, and people, to enrich your knowledge and love for this awe-inspiring country. 

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