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Laxminama: Monks, Merchants, Money and Mantra

Laxminama: Monks, Merchants, Money and Mantra
Item Code: NAQ699
Author: Anshuman Tiwari & Anindya Sengupta
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing India Pvt. Ltd
Language: English
Edition: 2018
ISBN: 9789387146785
Pages: 478
Other Details: 9.50 X 6.00 inch
weight of the book: 0.47 kg
About the Book
Three crucial forces that have been almost equally responsible for shaping human civilization so far. Yet, the politics of empire has dominated history and popular discussion. Irrespective of the political upheavals, however, India has always been an open market-welcoming traders from far-off lands, promising them a fair bargain. Indian entrepreneurs developed their own sophisticated institutions and wide community-based networks. This open, liberal and robust 'bazaar economy' thrived unhindered till the advent of European trading companies, who brought with them the notions of monopoly and state controls. Business in India blossomed in tune with liberal religious thought and Indian intellectual tradition always fostered the spirit of questioning.

Laxminama is an account of how the country's open market and its liberal religious outlook have nurtured each other throughout the centuries. Told through a medley of stories, this is the saga of India's socioeconomic power that has characterized not only the country's vibrant pluralistic society but also much of global history. Centering on the nation's geographies, products and pioneers, this is an unforgettable album of heroes who championed game-changing ideas at the intersection of faith and enterprise.

About the Authors
Anshuman Tiwari is the editor of India Today Hindi, India's most-read weekly news magazine. He belongs to that rare breed of journalists who can write on politics, economy and capital market with equal flair. Over 2,000 columns in Hindi and English have been to his credit across various media publications. He has worked with reputed media brands such as Dainik Jagran, Dainik Bhaskar and Amar Ujala in various editorial capacities.

His blog, Artharth (/), has been recognised among India's most popular blogs. He also blogs on, the widely followed opinion portal from the India Today Group.

Anshuman is a recipient of the prestigious Ramanath Goenka Award and WAN-IFRA International award for investigative journalism. He is a Chevening Fellow and has had brief stints with global media brands such as Financial Times, London, and Dayton News Chronicle, Ohio, USA.

Arthaat is his first book, a collection of his economic writings in Hindi. Anshuman has been involved in academics too. His published research papers include, "Economic Impact of Terror on South Asia", "The conundrum of Online Comments", and "India China Relations".

He has masters in Geography, Hindi, Mass Communication.

Anindya Sengupta studied History at Presidency College, Calcutta. He is a Civil Servant based in New Delhi. Interested about history and geography in equal measures, he loves to travel in search of stories, unknown and long forgotten.

From Gobekli to Globalisation

Gobekli Tepe (literally Potbelly Hills), situated in South-Eastern Turkey, near the Syrian border, is now acknowledged as one of the archaeological wonders of the recent times. As it sat for centuries overlooking a prosperous countryside, culminating in the city of Urfa (ancient Edessa), it concealed in its 'belly' perhaps the oldest known temple of the human history. Before we delve further into the history of Gobekli Tepe, it would not be out of place to recall that Urfa was the hometown of Abraham, who is regarded as the progenitor of three important religions-Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Gobekli Tepe was excavated for the first time in the 1960s, when the archaeologists, assuming it to be a vast medieval burial complex, abandoned the site. Around two decades ago, a German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt for the first time connected the limestone fragments scattered there with nearby Neolithic sites. But he and his team did not have the slightest idea that they have stumbled upon the earliest and one of the largest temple complexes ever built. Once they started clearing the site, they came across the first T-shaped stone pillar, reminiscent of Britain's Stonehenge. These pillars with an average height of sixteen feet and weight of more than sixty tonnes were arranged in a circular fashion, again like Stonehenge.

The largest pillar found so far towered at sixty-five feet and some of these pillars have carved images of dangerous beasts, vultures, and scorpions. These pillars were chiselled with the stone hammer and other stone tools, long before metal tools were invented. Scientific investigations have come to the conclusion that this gigantic stone cathedral is 6,000 years older than the Stonehenge-which means it was erected nearly 11,000 years back. A ground-penetrating radar survey revealed that the site, spread over twenty-two acres, has sixteen huge Stonehenges buried beneath it. It must have taken generations of workmen to complete this gigantic monument. If the archaeologists continue their dig at the present speed for the next fifty years without a break, then they would be able to unearth just a fragment of this humongous temple. Lack of tell-tale signs of human habitation (domestic fire, garbage dump, building foundations, etc) confirms that it was just a temporary meeting place for the nearby communities, most probably a temple or a place to leave dead bodies (motifs of carrion birds and venomous animals are possibly indicative of that) and subsequent ancestral worship. Archaeologists, however, found a large number of animal bones with signs of slaughter-perhaps sacrificed at the altar. This hints that the temple site most probably belonged to hunter-gatherers.

The wonder of Gobekli does not stop at its antiquity or its mammoth size. Within a few kilometres of Gobekli Tepe, archaeologists have found the earliest signs of domesticated wheat cultivation, which started at least 500 years after the temple construction begun (about 10,500 years ago). Within the next 500 years, they were able to domesticate pigs, sheep, and cattle. For a long time, it was believed that large man-made structures emerged only after primitive farming communities could gather enough organisational ability and produce economic surpluses to build and sustain such structures. Gobekli Tepe, located within the fertile crescent of human civilisation, stands testimony that massive food requirements for the laborers assembled there for many decades, if not centuries, directly led to the transition from foraging to settled agriculture. In other words, to paraphrase an archaeologist associated with the excavation at Gobekli, 'socio-culture led to agriculture'.

A third-generation priest of a large South Indian temple complex or a fourth generation Imam of an East Bengal Sufi digraph would have laughed at our ignorance-without even knowing the history of Gobekli. They would have asked who brought the farmers here. When my predecessor was granted this brahmadeya or inami iqta, this was a barren land.....they came and settled and prospered here because this temple/digraph showered its benevolence on them.

A Whole New Perspective

Are we God's creation or God is our greatest invention? Is it possible to think of organized, large-scale religious practices without an organized society and stable means of production? What is religion without its temples, rituals, texts, and icons? What are the contributions of major religions beyond their churches, mosques, and temples?

A human mind is immensely complex-it has a unique ability to conjure up images and concepts, which do not exist in the physical world. Researchers looking for an explanation of incredible human triumph over the last 10,000 years in defeating every natural challenge are increasingly converging on 'cognitive revolution'. Engaging simultaneously with anthropology, philosophy, and psychology on the one hand and analyzing religious beliefs, practices, and attitude on the other hand; cognitive science of religion is one of the millennial branches of knowledge. Amidst the vicious cacophony surrounding religions in today's world, it is difficult to imagine that the concept of religion itself had emerged from that same depth of human cognition from where our speech and language took shape. But this science tells us that to connect with others is an innate human tendency and religion itself was invented from man's constant urge to connect better with fellow human beings.

Monks who invented modernity

Often we tend to think of religion only in terms of icons, rituals, and sacred places. But for centuries, religion has played an important role in expanding our knowledge frontiers. If we could go back to a Christian monastery in Greece or Egypt of say, 400 CE, through a time machine, we would have been welcomed with freshly-baked bread, wines from its own vineyard and preserved food items, all grown and processed by monks of the monastery. Some of the oldest food preservation techniques are traceable to such monasteries. For today's travelers to the coasts of Northern Ireland, Nondrug Monastery is a place of scientific wonder-it was here the first known tide mill was built in the early seventh century CE to help the monks in their food processing. Cistercian monasteries of the twelfth century were no less than modern factories-the earliest-known blast furnaces were in operation in such monasteries of Switzerland, Sweden, and Germany. Some of the monks were expert metallurgists as some of their Greek counterparts were experts in glass manufacturing. In London's Science Museum, a giant mechanical clock from a church in Wales is preserved. This mechanical chime, which once used to call monks to prayer, is a precursor to modern mechanical clocks. During the medieval age, Catholic Church was the only repository of classical knowledge and its libraries preserved the works of classical writers such as Cicero, Virgil, Ovid, and Aristotle. The construction of huge church and monastery complexes-including the mandatory scriptorium (for copying books), herbarium and cellars for food preservation-led to the development of new architectural forms. The European classical music has evolved mainly from church music and some of the greatest works of Renaissance art and architecture, including paintings like The Last Supper of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo's Pieta, were created for the church. Church played a crucial role not only in developing medical knowledge but also in providing organized medical care and in fostering the rise of universities.

Book's Contents and Sample Pages

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