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What happens when an Indian Revenue Service officer decides to pursue his passion for travel, writing and photography? The result is an incredible book that will give many travel writers a run for their money. Filled with inspiring stories about East Asia and its deep-rooted linkages with Indian civilisation, Deepankar Aron’s latest is a sublime study of how civilisations nurture strong ties with each other in terms of sharing religion, philosophy and culture.
As an avid traveller, I have seen my share of Buddhist sights across India and reading Aron’s accounts of his sojourn through 98 destinations across East Asia has only lengthened my bucket list.
The book introduces the readers to ancient India that has been beautifully preserved in the art, architecture and cultural traditions of China, Japan, Korea and Mongolia. Aron starts with Xinjiang’s erstwhile capital Karakhoja and then takes his readers through ancient cities along the Silk Road that connects China with Mongolia. The writer also traverses through Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar from Sichuan in south-western China, followed by Hong Kong, Shanghai, Taipei, Taiwan and Kaohsiung and finally takes us to Luoyang, the birthplace of Chinese Buddhism. The writer also visits a site dedicated to an Indian monk, who is believed to have taken the south Indian martial art of kalaripayattu to China, where it took the shape of kung fu or wushu. Aron’s competitive photography deserves a special mention. From breathtakingly magnificent landscapes and imposing temples to rare artefacts and the lovely people he met, he’s spoken a lot with the lens.
The prime takeaway is that India was much liberal and way too welcoming of other civilisations than the times we live in. The same can also be observed in prominent Vedic scholar Lokesh Chandra’s introduction to the book, an engaging read in its own right. At a time when the bilateral bonds between India and China are going through a rough patch (to an extent where we are renaming fruits), the book talks about the special relationship that we’ve always enjoyed with the dragon.
On the Trail of Buddha by Deepankar Aron, Niyogi Books Rs1,995
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