Land of the Seven Rivers: A Brief History of India’s Geography – Book Review

Book:Land of The Seven Rivers
Author: Sanjeev Sanyal
Publisher: Penguin
Language: English
Pages: 330
Price: Rs 399

A book that says on it’s cover page that it’s going to talk about the history of your country’s geography is enough to send you a clear signal – either you want to read about it or you don’t. Now I was the worst ever History and Geography student throughout my student life. I could never get the dates right, the innumerable wars, civilizations, and the maps! But history is interesting if you don’t have to sit for an exam at the end of it. And hence, I grabbed with both hands the opportunity of reading this book and making up for my poor knowledge.

Working with a set of questions — Did the great flood of Indian legend actually happen? Why did the Buddha walk to Sarnath to give his first sermon? How did the Europeans map India?
Combining scholarship with sparkling wit, Sanjeev Sanyal sets out to explore  how India’s history was shaped by its geography – answering questions you may have never thought to ask. Moving from geological and genetic origins to present day Gurgaon, Land of seven rivers is riveting, wry and full of surprises.

Land of the seven rivers moves through the Indian sub-continent and along the way are the major landmarks like the Harappan civilization, the Vedas, Ramayna, the Mahabharata and further along the British and the Mughals. The book covers over 6000 years of Indian history about cities, landscapes and its rivers. It tells us about the world before Pangea happened and how India was once very close to Madagascar in Africa. That explains the similarity in the elephants and the genetic code. It also talks about how the various cities came into being, which rivers had flown there, how they were central to the existence of that civilization, how trade routes were created and so on and so forth. It has a lot of information about ancient and medieval India and the book covers historical as well as the geographical parts of it like plate tectonics etc to validate its logic.

I liked the book for it’s never ending information. More so for a historically and geographically challenged person like me. But after a while, the book seemed just like my history text book. Overflowing with dates and names of civilizations and information. When I had read the words “Combining scholarship with sparkling wit”, I had thought may be the book would not be just pure veggies, but a nicely done salad with the thousand island dressing 😉 That was the only thing that was a bit of a disappointment. Otherwise the book is a store house of interesting and (I think) never-before-read geographical aspects of Indian history and vice versa.

My rating : 3.5/5

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The Krishna Key – Book review

Book : The Krishna Key
Author : Ashwin Sanghi
Publisher : Westland
Price : Rs. 250

The day I received this huge book, and thought about the review that I needed to do in the next 7 days, I looked and felt doubtful. This is an almost 500 page thick book, and a mythological book at that, a genre that I have been known to not enjoy so much! But so much for normalcy!

I sat down to read the book and couldn’t stop myself from wondering out aloud on almost every page about the kind of research that that author must have done to write the kind of material that he has! And even though he does state that this book is a mix of fiction and mythological reality, the facts in the book made me go Ohh and What and Really and I never knew this all the time.

The plot is pretty simple. Historian Ravi Mohan Saini is out to put together the clues that have been gathered from different archaeological excavations around Dwarka that will reveal and answer a lot of unanswered questions about the existence of Krishna, Vishnu and their other incarnations. But there is some one else too who is out to get this information and leaves no stone unturned and even turns into a serial killer believing he is the tenth and final incarnation of Vishnu i.e. Kalki. The simplicity of the plot has been covered up by the applause worthy blend of mythological history and fiction that’s impossible to tell apart.

The book is very fast paced and it is almost impossible to put it down. I really liked the way every chapter begins with an excerpt from the Mahabharata that loosely relates to the story. I kept assigning the characters from the book with the Mahabharata characters, but turns out that was never the author’s intent! The material in the book made me aware about a lot of mythological myths, facts and the knowledge that they were so much more technologically advanced than us! While reading the book, I almost felt like leaving all these cob webs of life and heading for Mount Kailash! But then, the book was over in 5 days flat! Yeah, its that gripping! And i headed backwards to writing the review 🙂

The content of the book is a winner, even though the long conversations between the protagonists about the history is very linear, almost like a sermon – delivered like a lecture. But it’s all so good that one doesn’t mind reading it. I will definitely recommend this book to everyone who loves a hardcore thriller, or mythology, or religion, or knowledge, or history, or any and all of the above!

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