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Ka: Stories of the Mind and Gods of India

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  755 ratings  ·  65 reviews
With the same narrative fecundity and imaginative sympathy he brought to his acclaimed retelling of the Greek myths, Roberto Calasso plunges Western readers into the mind of ancient India. He begins with a mystery: Why is the most important god in the Rg Veda, the oldest of India's sacred texts, known by a secret name--"Ka," or Who?

What ensues is not an explanation, but an
Paperback, 464 pages
Published November 2nd 1999 by Vintage (first published September 1996)
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Rishab Katoch I would suggest to keep going because it gets considerably simpler after the initial chapters which are dealing with many mythological characters and …moreI would suggest to keep going because it gets considerably simpler after the initial chapters which are dealing with many mythological characters and complex ideas of origins of the world. (less)

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James Murphy
Jun 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
What Calasso did with western classical mythology in The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony he also does with Indian mythology. I was aware that Kali represents death and that Ganesha has the head of an elephant. A few years ago I read The Mahabharata. I have a basic familiarity with the life of Buddha. But that's a weak foundation for understanding the complex nature of Indian mythology. As a westerner I doubt I can properly appreciate in one reading the nuances and richness of their mythic traditi ...more
Feb 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
“A bloody, feverish story has embedded itself in the sky. It reminds us that it will go on happening forever.”

Fitting, that in this retelling of what are some of the oldest stories known to man that Ka translates as ‘the space between,’ or ‘Who?’ For it’s the mystery that we are after in this existence. “Now I know that this question will haunt us forever, until time itself dissolves.” Calasso’s book accounts the gods, as if, in their doings, our own plight is revealed. “So many things happening
Neha Asthana
May 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Ka is a work of art, no less by the very brave Roberto Calasso. To bring to book, Indian mythology, ANY mythology, really, is a daring attempt to pick & prod through a dangerous territory of the book keepers of religion, the overlords of cults, the gardeners of religious doctrine & breeders of creeds. Calasso has somehow managed to paint this vast canvas with hues that complement the real picture, and woven a tapestry with many threads converging & diverging to create a regaling picture of the H ...more
May 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: awareness
Some of the most beautiful prose I have read, let alone in what appears to be a non-fiction book, though that is an impossible qualification considering it is exploring the origins of Hindu mythology. Reading this made my brain feel effervescent, and I often had to put the book down after a paragraph simply to savor what I had just read. And sometime this would last for weeks before I could return to it.
Chitranjan Tyagi
Mar 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Ka is a great book about the gods and religious practices of ancient India. I read this book in Hindi and in a day. It was great to read the interpretation of an outsider. I do not know if anybody has said so much in such brevity on this topic. Although, it covers only minuscule section of Indian myths and stories, still it makes a great reading.
Rishab Katoch
"Fullness drawn from fullness: this is the Vedic doctrine. Emptiness drawn from emptiness: this is the Buddha's doctrine. The transition from the Upanishads to the Buddha is one from fullness to emptiness. But the shape is the same."

A journey through ancient Indian mythology right from the early vedic gods like Prajapati to the Buddha himself. If you have studied even the basics of Indian philosophy I think this read will interest you, as one can see the evolution of certain ideas told through t
Brooke Everett
Nov 02, 2012 rated it it was ok
Sometimes I force myself to do things that I don’t necessarily want to do because I perceive them as being “good for me.” Recently, I wouldn’t allow myself to leave my own dining room table until I finished a giant salad from Sweetgreen. It took me over an hour to finish that salad and I may or may not have cried a little bit.

I tend to reach for a book I think will be good for my brain to counteract a feeling I get every now and again that the Internet and my life are making me stupid. I’ve refe
Avisek Bandyopadhyay
Damn if I understood it all! I was chasing to understand the rubric of Hinduism better and I came across this highly acclaimed book. The book is an encapsulation of Hindu scriptures from pre-Veda days spanning to the days of Buddha, the 9th avatar of Vishnu.

As exciting as the premise sounds, the book is dense. Hindu scriptures, Veda, Vedanta, Upanishads and Geeta have been admitted as containing all the wisdom one must have to lead a meaningful, purpose-filled life. And, true as that is, what no
Gopal MS
Nov 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Simply brilliant. Most Indians would have heard almost all the tales that are mentioned in this book. But this book strings all the mythological tales together very intelligently and with a perspective that only someone with a wider perspective of human nature and thought processes can give.

There is also something different about Italian writers. They write in a rich and often difficult language that takes time to get used to. But once you are comfortable with the translation, you will realise
Dr. M
Feb 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I recommend this book to Indians who have had no exposure to Hindu scriptures. The author takes you through the mystic world of Indian scriptures, the origin of human life and the relationship with gods, the subtle interpretations of intrigues starting from the awe-struck Vinatha in the majestic presence of her son Garuda. The book reads like poetry. I was amazed by the breadth and depth of the author's understanding. It takes time to complete the book, but assure you it is worth every minute of ...more
Harish Balan
Dec 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ka decodes Hindu myth in a style that might be scandalous to the fascists. However, the book reasons out a lot of stories in Hindu myth with a very original idea. Roberto's complex and erotic style of writing might not make the book a terrific page-turner. And still it's probably te best book about Hindu mythology that anyone has ever written.
Sep 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I can't say that I learned anything; mostly I let his books seep in over a period of years, kind of like Milorad Pavic. Mostly I just jot down anytime he raises a question, such as "But how did it all begin?"
Sep 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Less wonderful (for me) than Marriage of Cadmus & Harmony but still great. Perhaps the problem was my lesser familiarity with Hindi mythology / cosmology etc. ...more
Benjie Deford
Jun 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I don't remember but I know it was read, need to re-read.
Hiran Venugopalan
Aug 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: is-missing
Contemporary reading of Indian Myths and Epic, KA is a wonderful experience. A prose classic than poem !
Jee Koh
Dec 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The Parasite of Consciousness

Calasso retells the Indian myths in this book, and makes them gripping, probing and mysterious. In the first story, Garuda, the eagle, is born to save his mother from slavery to her own sister. The method of the myths and of the retelling is described by Garuda himself: "So many things happening, so many stories one inside the other, with every link hiding yet more stories . . . And I've hardly hatched from my egg."

After freeing his mother, Garuda decided to devote h
Nikolas Alixopulos
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
An absolutely beautiful book- though has some moments I feel could have been condensed. Many favorite moments but in between the dramas of these modern retellings have great lines reflecting our philosophical nature:
"if the waters are the weft on which all things are woven, on what weft are woven the waters."
Oct 22, 2019 rated it liked it
This book is a work of art. And thus, where it scores on beauty, it misses in precision. The author errorneously places the Buddha as part of the Hindu-Vaishnavite universe. One is tempted to forgive a literary genius like Calasso this tresspass, but no.
Apr 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Not as much of the beautiful stories of the gods of India as I was hoping, windy and twisting and demanding attention, but sharing tales, some familiar, some not.
Feb 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Beyond explanation.
Nidhi Verma
Aug 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
It definitely is one of the most wonderful books I have ever read.
Marts  (Thinker)
May 26, 2012 marked it as shelved  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
I got this description of this book from Amazon,

"A giddy invasion of stories--brilliant, enigmatic, troubling, outrageous, erotic, beautiful." --The New York Times Book Review

"So brilliant that you can't look at it anymore--and you can't look at anything else. . . . No one will read it without reward."
--The Boston Globe

With the same narrative fecundity and imaginative sympathy he brought to his acclaimed retelling of the Greek myths, Roberto Calasso plunges Western readers into the mind of anci
Oct 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ka is both exhilarating and exhausting to read. Exhilarating, to see retelling of lesser known stories from Hindu mythology. Exhausting, to digest and experience the prose. I couldn’t read the book at one sitting. I had to go back and forth, re-reading parts of it, pondering the meaning of it while ensuring I’m not missing the subtleties.
This happens to me when I do not want to finish the book and after 6 months I am finally done. And craving for more.
While I enjoyed the journey, a part of me
May 20, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Rating books on a 5 point scale is seldom easy, but this book takes the cake. As far as readability goes, it deserves a one. There is hardly any flow between consecutive paragraphs. The language is extremely dense and author has freely used metaphors and interrogatives, causing a near soporific effect. There have been occasions when I have used this book as a remedy for my insomnia.

Having said that, I feel the fault partly lies with me (the reader), because the author has definitely done his hom
Calasso has undertaken the mammoth task of going through classical Indian mythology and effectively boiling it down to "sound-bites". An excellent introduction to Vedic myth made even more interesting because it is written by an author so proficient in Greek myth -so the parallels he draws between the two are insightful.

The book is divided into parts starting from the beginning of creation and ending with the life of the Buddha. Each chapter can be read as a stand-alone story which could make t
This book is going to be difficult for me to review because it's not what I was expecting or wanting. I was hoping for a book that would take me through some of the stories of Hindu mythology, an area in which my knowledge is woefully inadequate, being limited to hazy childhood memories. However, it turned out to be more a setting out of some of the principles of Hindu philosophy, using some of the stories to hang that on to. This is a noble aim in itself, but it's not what I was looking for.

Namrata Jain
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
I should have waited a few more years to read this.
I really believe in reading the books at the right time in life to really enjoy them, and this got in a little early.
I really enjoyed the stories, especially about how amrta was procured and of Krishna, Buddha and Mahabharata.
Mahabharata is my favorite epic!
But there's just so much philosophy and so many second meanings, sadly I don't think I absorbed it all that well. Call it impatience or just a dis-interest in thinking of things to a depth I
Oct 12, 2012 rated it it was ok
It started out well, but very quickly became dry. It seems like the author has attempted to mimic the storytelling style of the originals: running narrative descriptions bordering on stream of consciousness. Almost like Alice in Wonderland, but less enthralling.
I would've like to see something with richer characters and more stable, if blossoming sense of time and space. This is magical realism spoken like realism, but the story is all magical and I don't care.
I'm probably reading the U
Jan 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mythology
Beautifully poetic. My expectation (or hope?) that it would unravel the overlapping, intertwining, irreducible complexity of the vedas, upanishads, mahabarata, and buddhism was not destined for fulfillment ... but could I trust anything or anyone that irons flat such essential wrinkles?

Calasso is part of that astounding pool of Europe's poetic essayists, bringing unbelievable, polymathic erudition to the level of high-art ... think Michel Serres, Elias Cannetti, Claudio Magris, etc.
Jul 05, 2015 rated it liked it
Insightful reading about mythology ranging from Shiva to Buddha from a Western perspective of philosophy. Really liked the characters narrating stories in first person rather than analytical approach to religion. Covers far too much and tough to relate one chapter to another although there are connecting themes. Story of Buddha was most interesting as I am currently attending teachings on Buddhism.
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Roberto Calasso (born 30 May 1941 in Florence) is an Italian publisher and writer. He was born into a family of the local upper class, well connected with some of the great Italian intellectuals of their time. His maternal grandfather Giovanni Codignola was a professor of philosophy at Florence University. Codignola created a new publishing house called La Nuova Italia, in Florence, just like his ...more

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