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The "Bhagavad Gita"


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Table of Contents

List of illustrations vii Acknowledgments ix Introduction 1 Chapter 1 The Bhagavad Gita in the Time of Its Composition 10 Chapter 2 Krishna and His Gita in Medieval India 43 Chapter 3 Passages from India 72 Chapter 4 Krishna, the Gita, and the Indian Nation 115 Chapter 5 Modern Gitas: Translations 154 Chapter 6 The Gita in Our Time: Performances 178 Epilogue The Bhagavad Gita in Great Time 204 Notes 211 Glossary of Sanskrit terms 227 Select English translations of the Bhagavad Gita 229 Further readings 233 Index 237

About the Author

Richard H. Davis is professor of religion at Bard College. He is the author of Lives of Indian Images and Ritual in an Oscillating Universe: Worshipping Siva in Medieval India (both Princeton).


Selected for WGBH News "Here are the books we read this year that we think you'll love" 2014 "In his masterful new biography of the Gita--part of an excellent Princeton series dedicated to the lives of great religious books--Richard Davis, a professor of religion at Bard College, shows us, in subtle and stunning detail, how the text of the Gita has been embedded in one political setting after another, changing its meaning again and again over the centuries."--Wendy Doniger, New York Review of Books "In the 21st century, The Gita continues to thrive. India's present Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, gives it out as a gift on his trips abroad. Discourses on The Gita by spiritual leaders are a part of the cultural life of every major Indian city. Some Indians disagree with its vision of ethics or consider it a relic of the past; but even they, too, must engage with it closely in order to refute it. Mr. Davis's book is an ideal introduction to the text, showing how the meanings of a book reside not just in its words but its life in history."--Chandrahas Choudhury, Wall Street Journal "Like all the great religious books featured in this superb series from Princeton University Press, the Gita has transcended the circumstances of its birth. Rival schools of Hindu theology have risen from various turns of Krishna's phrases, while Westerners have seen echoes of their own traditions. In modern India, Gandhi thought the Gita reflected the eternal battle between light and dark in every human heart, and in the drive for Indian independence, even secular nationalists championed it as a patriotic text. The Gita and the moral issues it raises are still alive."--Brian Bethune, Macleans "In The Bhagavad Gita: A Biography, the latest in the series Lives of Great Religious Books, Davis crisply summarizes this oft-quoted Hindu scripture, in which Krishna reveals his true identity as the 'imperishable Lord of All Beings.'"--Donna Seaman, Booklist "The Gita is one of the oldest and most fascinating texts ever written, and I love how its 'biography' comes to life in this new book. It's a living, breathing text that has constantly been in motion since its origin... I should mention this book is part of a new series (Lives of Great Religious Books) published by Princeton University Press. Next on my reading list are the biographies of The Tibetan Book of the Dead and Augustine's Confessions."--April Peavey, WGBH "Davis deftly traces the many reincarnations of this 700-verse poem over the past two millennia, both in India and in the West."--Fiona Capp, Sydney Morning Herald "[The Bhagavad Gita: A Biography] appears in the worthy 'Lives of Great Religious Books' series, which takes a novel approach to 'great books.' Davis's execution of this approach is superb ... Davis neatly organizes a great deal of material and he presents it in utterly accessible prose. This is an easy read - and a great one too."--Choice "Davis ... provides a comprehensive, detailed and lucid account of the ways that the Gita has lived over the centuries."--Cover Drive "A comprehensive, detailed and lucid account of the ways that the Gita has lived over the centuries."--Sudhirendar Sharma, Speaking Tree "This is a fascinating work; so much is packed in its 243 pages. Being thoroughly researched and documented this serves as a primer on Gita. And also a template for those who would like to study the impact of religious texts on the life and history of human race."--Paulson Pulikottil, Academia "So much in 243 small pages! Like the Sacred Books of the East in the nineteenth century, the Princeton series offers a fresh canon of global stature; thanks to Davis's superb retelling of the history of this powerful, influential, living classic, the Gita has its honoured place on that shelf."--Francis X. Clooney, Religions of South Asia "A highly enjoyable volume that will be of interest to a large educated audience, to religious specialists, and to historians of modern and colonial India, among others... This volume will undoubtedly and quickly become a classic introduction to the Bhagavad-G?t?, or even more generally to classes on Hinduism."--Pierre-Julien Harter, Journal of Religion

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