Review of commentary on the BHAGAVAD GITA

New on my website is a review of
‘Gita: the Song Extraordinary’, a commentary
on the BHAGAVAD GITA by Professor Damodar Thakur:
Damodar Thakur, "Gita: the Song Extraordinary"
(Mumbai: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 2005,
ISBN 81-7276-362-X)
The volume under review is a new English-language commentary on the
Bhagavad Gita, from the hand of Dr Damodar Thakur, Professor and Chairman
of the Department of English at the University of Sana’a, Yemen. Dr Thakur
is indeed qualified for such a task, both intellectually and spiritually.
He is a disciple of the spiritual master Sri Sri Thakur Anukulchandra, and
has been lecturing on the Gita for over two decades. He is also an eminent
linguist who did his Ph.D. under the celebrated UK scholar David Crystal
and has been Director of the regional centres in Shillong and Lucknow of
the prestigious, Hyderabad-based CIEFL (Central Institute of English and
Foreign Languages). The book comes with a foreword by Karan Singh, Rajya
Sabha member and former Indian government minister. All in all, the reader
is entitled to expect a study drawing on a lifetime’s expertise. Dr Thakur
has chosen not to offer a complete line-by-line commentary, thus taking a
different approach from, for example, Swami Prabhupada in his Bhagavad Gita
As It Is: his approach to the Gita is selective and thematic. The
quotations throughout follow a threefold formula: first the Sanskrit
original in Devanagari script, then the same text transliterated into Roman
characters, and finally an English translation, made by Dr Thakur’s own
The first question that today’s reader will expect any study of this kind
to answer will surely be: What is the value and importance of the Bhagavad
Gita for our day? Non-Hindu readers will also ask what this text has to
offer to those coming from another belief-system. Dr Thakur thus takes as
central the question "whether its message is valid in the context of the
ideological concerns and the rational and scientific temper of today" (5).
He stresses the high value that has been laid on the Gita in recent
centuries, and in our day, by poets, philosophers and novelists (William
Blake, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Aldous Huxley), political
figures such as Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, and, significantly,
scientists too, among the most prominent being Abdul Kalam, the nuclear
physicist who is today President of India. Dr Thakur, following in the wake
of these figures, argues strongly for the living modernity of the ancient
text, affirming it as a "powerful message for millions and millions of
students studying in scientific and technological institutions, farmers
working on their farms, workers working in factories and scientists working
in their laboratories" (30).

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