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article imageMeghnad Desai seeks the author of Bhagavad Gita in new book

By Sravanth Verma     Jul 29, 2014 in World
Meghnad Desai or Baron Desai, the Indian-born, British economist and Labour politician explores the question of the Bhagavad Gita's authorship in his new book "Who Wrote The Bhagavad Gita - A Secular Enquiry Into a Sacred Text."
Desai explores in brief, the background to the text and its historical and contemporary importance. He elaborates on how the Gita was used as a uniting force during India's freedom struggle against British occupation and as an anti-colonial weapon in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. He quotes briefly from the commentaries on the scripture by Swami Vivekananda, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi and B.R. Ambedkar. Desai also writes about the historical development and evolution of the Mahabharata story, within which the Bhagavad Gita is contained.
After this brief background, Desai explores the question of the Gita's authorship. Basing his research primarily on G.S. Khair’s Quest for the Original Gita, Desai looks at changes in style and context across the work to conclude that the Gita was written by three different authors at different times. He also idenitifies which verses were written by whom, and claims that of the total 700 verses, the first author wrote 126 verses, the second author 119 verses, and the third author 455 verses.
The book is however criticized by reviewers for its limited and selective choice of research sources. The Book Geeks reviewer says, "Meghnad has used very few and selected works for his research. In fact, most of the conclusions drawn by him are based on Khair’s research. A little more independent inquiry would have better helped in answering this interesting question."
Harper Collins, the publisher, describes the book in its blurb: "For Meghnad Desai, Gita is a secular text, a result of human creation over several centuries. He also contends that some themes in the Gita reinforce social inequality and lack of concern for the other and to that extent he finds Gita to be toxic."
The Bhagavad Gita, with the Vedas and the Upanishads, constitutes the major scriptural work in the Hindu way of life. Hinduism is quite vast in its scope and variety of practices, many of which may not necessarily include reading or much involvement with scriptures at all. In fact, the Bhagavad Gita quotes Krishna: "Just as a reservoir is of little use when the whole countryside is flooded, scriptures are of little use to the illumined man or woman, who sees the Lord everywhere." However, for many Hindus, the Gita is one of the most important texts. The Gita is part of the larger work of the Mahabharata, which tells the story of the Kuru clan of princes. The Gita is said to have been imparted by Krishna to the warrior Arjuna on the battlefield, just before the calamitous Kurukshetra war began.
Harper Collins is selling the 232 page book in its paperback edition, for INR 299 (4 USD).
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