Myths and Legends of the Hindus & Buddhists/PREFACE

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Myths and Legends of the Hindus & Buddhists
Sister Nivedita and Anand K. Coomaraswamy


SISTER NIVEDITA, to whom the present work was first entrusted, needs no introduction to Western or to Indian readers. A most sincere disciple of Swami Vivekananda, who was himself a follower of the great Ramakrishna, she brought to the study of Indian life and literature a sound knowledge of Western educational and social science, and an unsurpassed enthusiasm of devotion to the peoples and the ideals of her adopted country. Her chief works are The Web of Indian Life, almost the only fair account of Hindu society written in English, and Kali the Mother, where also for the first time the profound tenderness and terror of the Indian Mother-cult are presented to Western readers in such a manner as to reveal its true religious and social significance. Through these books Nivedita became not merely an interpreter of India to Europe, but even more, the inspiration of a new race of Indian students, no longer anxious to be Anglicized, but convinced that all real progress, as distinct from mere political controversy, must be based on national ideals, upon intentions already clearly expressed in religion and art.

Sister Nivedita's untimely death in 1911 has made it necessary that the present work should be completed by another hand. The following parts of the text as here printed are due to Sister Nivedita : Mythology of the Indo-Aryan races (pp. 1-5) ; pp. 14-22 of the Introduction to the Ramayana ; the whole of the Mahabharata (except pp. 186-190) ; part of the section on Shiva (pp. 291-295) ; the comment on Kacha and Devayani (pp. 339-342) ;

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and the Story of Dhruva, Shani, Star-Pictures, etc. (pp. 378-3^8). The present writer is responsible for all else rather more than two-thirds of the whole. The illustrations are reproduced from water-colour drawings executed specially for this book by Indian artists under the supervision of Mr. Abanindro Nath Tagore, C.I.E., Vice-Principal of the Calcutta School of Art, who has himself contributed some of the pictures. The stories have thus the advantage, unique in the present series, of illustration by artists to whom they have been familiar from childhood, and who are thus well able to suggest their appropriate spiritual and material environment.

It may be well to explain briefly the principle on which these myths and legends have been selected and arranged. My aim has been to relate in a manner as close to the original as possible, but usually much condensed, such of the myths as are more or less familiar to every educated Indian, with whom I include all those illiterate but wise peasants and women whose knowledge of the Puranas has been gained by listening to recitations or reading, by visiting temples (where the stories are illustrated in sculpture), or from folk-songs or mystery-plays. The stories related here, moreover, include very much of which a knowledge is absolutely essential for every foreigner who proposes in any way to co-operate with the Indian people for the attainment of their desired ends nowhere more clearly formulated than in mythology and art. Amongst these are, I hope, to be included not only such avowed lovers of Indian ideals as was Nivedita herself,

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but also civil servants and missionaries. The Indian myths here retold include almost all those which are commonly illustrated in Indian sculpture and painting. Finally, they include much that must very soon be recognized as belonging not only to India, but to the whole world; I feel that this is above all true of the Ramayana, which is surely the best tale of chivalry and truth and the love of creatures that ever was written.


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