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HindustanTimes Sat,20 Sep 2014

City of war and peace

Pooja Vashisht Alexander, Hindustan Times   December 20, 2012
First Published: 11:07 IST(20/12/2012) | Last Updated: 11:09 IST(20/12/2012)

The battleground of dilemma, the soil of surrender, the sermon of cosmic, the fire of remorse, the conflict of conscience — Kurukshetra, the metaphor of metaphors!


Author Vijai Vardhan’s latest book, Kurukshetra – Timeless Sanctity, maps the myth and history of this ageless city joined by the dots of Indian spirituality and mysticism.

“Kurukshetra is older than the Indus Valley civilization, it is the cradle of Rig Veda, the centre of Buddhism and Sufism… it is like Jerusalem,” says Vardhan, who first visited the place in 1987 as a probationer of the Indian Administrative Service, and feels he was ‘destined’ to write this book.

“It was surprising not to find a single book on Kurukshetra at bookstores in India and abroad,” says the officer who has been a student of history and is now posted as principal secretary, department tourism, cultural affairs, archaeology and archives and is also the chairman of Haryana Tourism and Corporation.  

Though this is his third book in two years (others being the poetry anthologies, Ibadat, the breath of my soul, and Beyond the Great Beyond), Vardhan had been researching this book for the last six years.

“I researched extensively; since there was not much of an archival resource, I read the primary sources of information, travelogues. I read the original Mahabharata, its umpteen versions; Vishnu Purana and other Puranic literature and read at least 40 versions of Bhagwad Gita. Kurukshetra has myriad facets to it and this book has been creatively fulfilling. It has humbled me; the more I read the scriptures, the more I realised how little I knew.”

In this 115-page delightfully designed book (with remarkable pictures taken by author’s childhood friend, Atul Sharma), Vardhan has woven the many threads, even the open ends, not through the eye of a “sceptic’s” needle but a “compassionate” weft and warp of faith.

“I did not visit Kurukshetra as a historian but as a man of faith,” says the author who feels various worlds can exist side by side in a civilisation. “Myth is not a contradiction for someone who understands that,” he says.

“The real challenge, however, was to put the essence of the millions of pages I read in a few words,” says Vardhan who has inked the 15 chapters – spanning The Kurus and Krishna to Sikh and Sufi splendour, the Uprising of 1857 at Thanesar — with anecdotal quality in a book that merits credentials of both a coffee-table volume and a non-fiction.

“I have tremendous respect for authors who can spill stories, I wish I could write fiction,” says the poet who is “drawn to the mystic” since he was a child and his next venture could be called a ‘period fiction’. “I am going to write about the intense mystic Hazrat Amir Khusro and Nizamuddin Auliya in the backdrop of 12th century AD Delhi. It will be a racy novel-like book with historic facts,” Vardhan’s voice polishes another bit from the past.

The radiance of the timeless city, which may be a dusty district today, did permeate sunny Wednesday where Vardhan’s love for Haryana and Indian philosophy laid bare a treatise on the metaphor of metaphors.

Kurukshetra – Timeless Sanctity (published by Wisdom Tree, priced at R495 for paperback and R995 for hard cover) will be released by chief minister of Haryana Bhupinder Singh Hooda at Bal Bhawan, Sector 23, today evening. 

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