Ashoka the Great (3rd century BCE) of the ancient Indian Mauryan dynasty (4th to 2nd century BCE) remains something of a mystery. He was emperor of one of the largest and richest kingdoms of the ancient times that covered Afghanistan, Pakistan, and northern parts of India. However, he was forgotten in India (while continuing to be revered in China and Southeast Asia, thanks to his appearance in Buddhist narratives) until the 19th century British scholars researching Indian antiquity discovered him as texts and inscriptions in the previously unreadable Brahmi script came to be newly deciphered.

There is more to festivals of India than commemoration of events rooted in Indian mythology—Diwali is a big one with Rama defeating the Ravana. Christmas celebrations in India are a testimony to the eclectic mix that the country is. In Indian Christmas: Essays, Memoirs, Hymns, editors Jerry Pinto and Madhulika Liddle have put together a sweet collection of reminiscences, poetry, photographs, and paintings to provide a glimpse of the Christmas spirit as it inhabits different neighborhoods in India.

Problems arising from the Internet are generally thought of in terms of misinformation, violation of privacy, addiction to gadgets, depression brought on by social media, and manipulation of personal data for advertising and political ends by the Big Tech. In Asia, these problems take on even graver proportions as governments play a greater role in regulating access to the content available on the web. 

A new anthology of Indian authors writing in, and translating into, English, Future Library: Contemporary Indian Writing creates a new sense of contemporariness on the Indian literary scene. This arrangement distinguishes the book from other anthologies of Indian literature which are for the most part organized around a linguistic binary: they are collections either of Indian writing in English or of Indian writing in regional languages English translation, while the project of anthologizing as a whole also seems to be restricted to English for it is difficult to recall any anthologies putting together regional literatures in a single volume.  

Long related orally, the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata is believed to have been composed in written form  between 300 BCE and 300 CE, the epic narrates the tale of greed and compassion between two clans, the Kauravas and the Pandavas, and has life lessons that transcend any particular civilization. The family feud over a kingdom speaks of sacrifice, love, lust, and enmity.

Indians take their gods and goddesses seriously, holding them extraordinarily close by means of innumerable festivals round the year, and striving to find every possible opportunity to pray to the divine, wish-granting beings in as many ways as humanly possible. As a result, everything from personal problems to social evils becomes a matter of divine intervention. In his 2014 novel Nireeswaran (recently translated from Malayalam into English by Ministhy S), author VJ James has dared to make a case for human intervention by floating the idea of an un-god. The single-word title is the antonym of Eswaran (God). 

Was Prince Siddhartha’s wife Yasodhara so awful that he felt compelled to renounce everything to get away from it all? So runs, at least, a misogynistic joke about the story of Buddha’s life and Enlightenment. The question remains, however, and in recent times, this story has been revisited in fiction to imagine the circumstances that could have led to his departure from worldly affairs.