ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Lighting Asia, the Colonial Way

The Light of Asia: The Poem that Defined the Buddha by Jairam Ramesh, Gurugram: Penguin Random House, 2021; pp 457, 799 (hardback).

 

 

The story of the Buddha was an integral part of my childhood memories and originated from different sources—Amar Chitra Katha comics, Chandamama, and school lessons. Buddha’s story was like countless other stories of figures like Krishna, Rama, Jesus, as well as kings and queens across different ages. I had always thought that these stories were forever around. I had no reason to question my belief until I read Jairam Ramesh’s meticulous tracing of the influence of a particular poem on the Buddha titled The Light of Asia: The Poem that Defined the Buddha (TLA henceforth) by Edwin Arnold published in 1879.

Ironically, I did not hear of this book or references to it in my years of working on Buddhist philosophy as well as in the many conferences on Buddhism that I was part of. Even when I learnt that Buddhist philosophical texts had been rediscovered in contemporary times (post-independence in many cases), I did not imagine that the story of Buddha was absent in the consciousness of Indian society till the late 19th century.

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Updated On : 4th Dec, 2021

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