Former Union minister Jairam Ramesh’s new book will uncover and narrate the story of phenomenal poem The Light of Asia that has shaped people’s thinking of the Buddha and his teachings, announced publishing house Penguin on Wednesday.
The book, titled “The Light of Asia: The Poem that Defined the Buddha”, will be published under Penguin’s ‘Viking’ imprint in May next year, it added. Written and published by Sir Edwin Arnold in 1879, “The Light of Asia”, subtitled The Great Renunciation, is in the form of a narrative poem. The book endeavours to describe the life and time of Prince Gautama Siddhartha, who after attaining enlightenment became the Buddha. It presents his life, character, and philosophy, in a series of verses.
“For long I have been struck by why and how ‘The Light of Asia’, which was a milestone in Buddhist historiography, got translated into over thirty languages, impacted so many public personalities in different countries, inspired movements for social equality and incarnated itself in music, dance, drama, painting and film. I have been wanting to tell this story for quite some time and have finally got around to doing so,” said the 66-year-old author.
Sir Edwin Arnold, whose rendering of Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita was one of Mahatma Gandhi’s abiding favourites, is also the man who shaped Bodh Gaya as many know it today. According to Penguin, the book offers context to better understand why “The Light of Asia” became a phenomenon and “through his biography of Arnold, opens up an important portion of world history”. “The original ‘The Light of Asia’ by Sir Edwin Arnold took the literary world by storm… Well-researched and peppered with wonderful insights, Jairam Ramesh’s ‘The Light of Asia’, much like his acclaimed ‘A Chequered Brilliance’, will breathe fresh life into forgotten historical icons,” said Meru Gokhale, publisher, The Penguin Press Group.
Ramesh was recently declared winner of the 2020 Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize for “A Chequered Brilliance: The Many Lives of VK Krishna Menon”. The award was shared by the US-based academician Amit Ahuja’s book “Mobilizing the Marginalised: Ethnic Parties without Ethnic Movements”.