BOOK REVIEW

from the blurb

Growing Up and Away— Narratives of Indian Childhoods: Vijayalakshmi Balakrishnan; Oxford University Press, YMCA Library Building, 1, Jai Singh Road, New Delhi-110001. Rs. 695.

The phenomenon of childhood in India has been formed, altered and transformed in different ways and degrees by political decisions. Documents related to pre-Independence years suggest that children were seen at once as a vulnerable section of society and as rights-holders, a view that was lost in subsequent decades. This book traces the evolution of the child rights discourse, arguing from the premise that it is filtered through the memory of Partition. Divided into three parts, it begins with an analysis of the effects of Partition, showing how the historic event framed the child-state relationship and goes on to examine the ways in which the multiplicity of discourses during the nationalist struggle gave way to a singular view, seen in later conversations on children and their rights. The concluding part explores the narratives of continuity and change, and also maps the departures of memory, history, and identity. The author notes, in the chapter on “future narratives”, that the relationship between the state, society, and family, when it came to improving the experience of childhood in children's lives, has been “uneasy at times, but rarely confrontational. The Indian state thus has a relationship with the child that is distant and yet familial.”

Mantravalli— An Anthology of Sacred Chants: Pub. by Media Garuda, Krishnamacharya Healing & Yoga Foundation, New No. 6 (Old No. 5), Stone Link Avenue, (Off) Canal Bank Road, R.A. Puram, Chennai-600028. Rs. 495.

In many cultural traditions, sound constitutes a significant aspect of spiritual practice. In the Indian tradition, sound, especially as embodied in the Vedas, is exalted to a status second only to the Supreme One. The Vedas, believed to have been revealed to the Rishis (sages) of yore while in a state of deep meditation, form the basis of Sanatana Dharma and the fountainhead of several important schools of Indian philosophy. They are the source of mantras (sacred chants), which when pronounced in the correct, traditionally prescribed way and with the right intention, produce vibrations in one's body. These vibrations are known to influence positively one's state of mind. This anthology contains select mantras drawn from the Vedas, the Upanishads and other scriptures, as also popular hymns, and they are presented (in Devanagiri, with transliteration in Roman script) in a calibrated way, moving from the simplest to the most complex. In addition, it provides descriptive introductions to the chants.

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