Book AUTHOR : Raksha Bhatt

Book review by Abhishek Shandilya

There are few places in the world that can claim to have nurtured human civilisation since its inception and that their soils have been impressed by generations of men and women; that their clays and rocks have been morphed (and re-morphed) into variety of structures which remain erect as witnesses to the origins of traditions; and that they still cradle societies of the present while retaining the colours of the past. Gujarat is one such ancient land.

It is important to understand the play between tradition and modernity. Although, these two terms are used as polar opposites yet there are few cultures, which have retained their original flavour, as they have made their efforts to stride with the developments of the world. It has been proved that tradition and modernity can co-exist and this book shows that Gujarat can be the epitome of this dual interplay between its pristine old colours and its efforts to march towards a modern future.

A Pictorial Pilgrimage to a Legendary Land by Raksha Bhatt, as the name suggests, is a brilliant collection of photographs depicting the essence of Gujarat, undiluted by its agenda of development.

Composed on the occasion of 'Swarnim Gujarat' celebrations, the book is divided into five sections. The first four chapters are on Archaeology, Folk Culture, Fairs and Festivals and Traditional Dances of Gujarat. With the last chapter representing the contemporary development that Gujarat has seen in the past one decade, the author has made a successful attempt in connecting the dots of the rich heritage with those of the current trends of development.

A coffee table book, the 'landscape' layout ensures that the photographs represent the spirit in which they were clicked; the left-side pages contain full page photographs while the ones on the right-side depict the tales associated with these beautiful canvases.

While Lothal and Dholavira are “Windows to the Past”, the shrines and temples are presented as “mythological marvels”. From Modhera Sun Temple as “Jewel of Golden Era” to the ornaments from Kutch; from the spacious abodes of the Royale to the mud-cladded houses of Meghwal; from the celebrations of monsoon to the festivities of the desert, the book is a peek into the vibrancy of Gujarat.

The unique feature of the book is that while most of the coffee table books on culture and tradition limit themselves to the past, this book goes ahead and tells the tale of the contemporary trends in the state. By connecting the pride of the past to the hopes of the future, it shows how Gujarat has been able to progress while holding onto its roots.

The last chapter firmly establishes Gujarat has a historic place with a modern outlook. The sudden transformation in this section of the book will make one understand how Gujarat has created developing models without corrupting its roots (represented by the earlier chapters). It gives a unique representation of some of the best-known policies that were implemented under the guidance of Chief Minister Narendra Modi. It shows Gujarat's 'Panchamrat' model in a fascinating depiction of how people of Gujarat are reaping the benefits of a positive, growth oriented environment of the state.

Rich in knowledge, the coffee table book is highly recommended to those who want to have a quick lesson in what one means by the phrase – 'Vibrant Gujarat'.

The article is originally published in The Gujarat (Magazine), Vol-III, Issue-4.

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