Sacred India – William Dalrymple
Sacred India is a close-focus view of spirituality in India with a very God-is-in-the-details approach. Lonely Planet tackles a bafflingly large subject with admirable grace in this loosely structured, accessibly sized coffee-table book. A florid painting of Ganesh, a hundred capped heads bowed in prayer, weather-beaten flags whipped in the Himalayan wind: all are diverse glimpses of India’s spiritual cultures. India’s four major religions–Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, and Buddhism–are gathered in an impressionistic collage of vibrant photos and text. Christianity, Jainism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, as well as tribal religions and gurus are also covered in smaller sections. The book’s photos are lavish in color and pungently evocative–but decidedly not opulent. They excel at the intensely personal (a lotus flower, a turban-swathed camel trader, a Muslim woman reading the Quran), but their zoomed-in style sometimes falls short of capturing the sense of awe and grandeur we like to associate with religion. Sacred India offers brief glimpses of a wide-ranging and multicolored land; but unlike the fable of the blind men and the elephant, the picture formed in the mind’s eye from these richly textured details will be greater than the sum of its parts.