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Of Past Dawns and Future Noons

Towards a Resurgent India

— Shonar

Price: Rs 650

Hard Cover
Pages: 535
Dimensions (in cms): 18x24
Publisher: AuroPublications, Sri Aurobindo Society, Pondicherry
ISBN: 978-81-7060-355-9

About Of Past Dawns and Future Noons

Ancient India achieved and contributed in almost every field of human endeavour in ways that were bewildering for her time. Although much has been written on Indian culture and history, an attempt has been made here at a fresh approach. Practically all areas of human interest – architecture, sculpture, painting, handicrafts, dance, theatre, music, education, literature, politics, war, science, agriculture, medicine, religion – have been studied and presented.

Historical, yet not burdened with facts and figures, Of Past Dawns and Future Noons goes beyond surface actualities to provide a deeper insight. It is lyrical in style and profusely illustrated.


There have been many books written on India and many more are yet to be written. And even after all the books have been written there would still remain something unsaid about the inexpressible Mystery and the inexhaustible fount called India. There is indeed no field of human activity wherein the Indian spirit did not leave its distinct stamp, — and yet one that is difficult to define in a nation that in its complexity is truly a miniature world. Naturally, it is no easy task to write a book on India; yet the author succeeds admirably. The result is not merely a book but a work of artistry, a rich tapestry of thoughts and feelings, a weaving together of the spirit and the form through a rare combination of sight and insight, wherein the soul of India fuses intimately with its intricate forms, creating in the mind of the readers a living presence of this great and ancient mother:

I am the One. I drop from above the clouds, into the glaciers. I melt and flow down the sinews of the broad shoulders that surround you. I plunge on all sides and drench the soil beneath you. I enter your fields and sit in the midst of the sunflowers. I enter your home and wink at your children. I move on to the valleys and plains, coursing snakelike through woods and sand...When you're hopelessly lost, I shine the torch into the side lanes....
I am the Man in the mirror. I make beauty Beautiful. I make perfection Perfect. I make man Divine. You become Me. I am the One...
I am One.

And her mystery:

Diverse we are, but it is diversity which overflows from within its own connotation, begging for a new word for it feels too small and too inadequate in the Indian context. Languages, dialects, customs, festivals, dress, codes, cuisine, conduct, religion, philosophies, art, craft, literature, politics — there is nothing that is the same and certainly nothing that can be held together by singing a national anthem. There has to be something more, something deeper...

The book is full of such wonderful passages, exquisite in beauty of style and delightful in substance. As the author herself admits, she is not so much a writer as an inspired soul who has felt the touch of the goddess called India throb within her heart. And inspired indeed she is, for how else can one bring the soul of India close and real to us, shining through the forms and formulas she has evolved over the ages? We begin to discover through the soul of India our own soul, the soul of Vastness, the soul of Beauty, the soul of Love.

What we live in and are surrounded by has more impact on our lives than we can imagine. Beauty is a force and has its own power.... It will shape [man's] thoughts, his perceptions, his attitudes, his gratitude. It is that which man must aspire for if he is to step out from the suffocation and into the open lands. But beauty is not enough on its own, by its own. It must also give birth to the awareness of the `something' that lies beyond. Without that insight, it lacks life and vigour; without life, it ceases to convey the message of its own purpose.
A sense of this beauty is what the ancients had, something which even lingered in our medieval vestiges, but unfortunately has suffered a blow in modern times.

Through these experiences we begin to discover another India behind the visible and the sensible India that we encounter in everyday life. Engrossed as we are in our own grossness we fail to fully feel and see. The book revives this lost feeling and sight as a sacred memory that refuses to die and lingers within our very bodies. The author fills our lungs with the fresh air of that memory and revives us in another world and another life, the life of our true Indian-ness.

The mother of rivers, the holy Ganga, dark and calm, barely utters a murmur as she swims past. Dawn, in a meditative poise, pauses before her descent. Agni, rests in earthen cups like open palms, supplicating the heavens above.
...The first of the flames is set adrift on the lap of the mother, dancing to the tune of its silent prayer. A day in the life of ancient Kashi. A day in the life of the thousands who live by the side of the holiest river. A day in the life of the millions who live in the ancient land of Bharata.

As one reads through the book, one gets the image of a great goddess grown greater by the touch of earth; whose love flows in its sacred rivers and whose calm strength resides on its high mountain peaks; whose unparalleled wisdom has been uttered through many immortal lips; and whose splendour and many-sided creativity can still be seen in its forms. As the author removes layer upon layer of dust from the deathless soul of India, we also begin to see an ageless face lit up by a timeless light, whose charm and grace is comparable only to her sweetness and warmth; whose wisdom and deep love yet can save the world from the darkness of blind commercialism and economic barbarism and all other "isms" that threaten to divide, defile and destroy the unity called earth. This is the dawn that Mother India holds back in the secret folds of her unfathomable heart, the dawn that shall and must arrive sooner rather than later, the dawn that the world awaits and hopes and prays for and that now sleeps in the silent spaces of our soul. It is this dawn that one begins to glimpse through the pages of this wonderful book:

And with that secret tucked safely in his heart, the Indian tackles his existence, learning as much as is allowed, enduring as much as he's capable, aspiring as much as he can. Death is only the beginning of a new birth and he takes the thread from where he left off, knitting away his own evolutionary garb, to be donned when it all ends, in the golden kingdom of heaven on earth. But before such a time arrives, there is still lots to be done, many feats to be accomplished, for it is becoming increasingly evident that this Existence as it exists, is not, and cannot be, the full story of Man's evolution, but, in fact, the first stumbling step of an infant. Brahman is not something for the abstract school of thought but a reality that is to be transformed into a living truth, such that a time will come when one would not club the Divine and God and Supreme into Unknowns Anonymous; no more karma or dharma to be had for all would be resplendent of Him; there will be no such word left in the dictionary as Mystery and all Earth would say `He am I.'

Set in twenty inviting chapters, this inspired and inspiring book draws information liberally from several resources, including the author's personal visits and direct familiarity with the topics covered. It is a rare combination of authentic information and deep insights in beautifully written, inspired prose that at several places verges on poetry. The cover painting of the golden figure looking majestically eastwards invokes a golden dawn that would fill every corner of darkness with the Light, whose symbol is the sun, and that seeks to express through the ages the Light that hides within India's bosom, the Light this book serves well to release through the power of words!

Through the chapters the author leads us from one door to another, giving us one glimpse after another into the many-tiered mystery mansion called India. She leads us to the threshold of the mystery and our hearts leap up in anticipation. But as the veil lifts a little and we stand wonder-struck at the ageless Beauty hiding behind the mask of age, the scene changes to yet another door and yet another wonder. These brief glimpses may signify the obvious constraints in a subject as vast as this. Or perhaps it is the sign of a great artist that he suggests but never imposes; leads us to the door but leaves us free to enter or not; gives us a glimpse of the eternal essence but lets our mind fill in the details; gives us luminous leads but does not deny us the joy of our efforts lest we lose the full delight of the journey. In short, the author initiates us into the mystery but leaves us to explore it fully and in all its depth.

Indeed this is not a book to be read and finished but a book that we would love to possess and gift to all who love and care to know about Indian-ness and India.

— Dr Alok Pandey

Dr Pandey, psychiatrist and philosopher, is a seeker on the path of Sri Aurobindo's yoga. He writes and lectures extensively on varied issues of life and yoga.

May 2006