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Arrow of the Blue-Skinned God: Retracing the Ramayana Through India

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  330 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
The three-thousand-year-old epic Ramayana chronicles Lord Rama's physical voyage from one end of the Indian subcontinent to the other and his spiritual voyage from Man to God. In Arrow of the Blue-Skinned God, anthropologist and journalist Jonah Blank gives a new perspective to this Hindu classic -- retelling the ancient tale while following the course of Rama's journey th ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published October 26th 2000 by Grove Press (first published 1992)
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Michael Austin
May 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
If Jonah Blank had come to me ten years ago and asked me if he should try to write a travel narrative through modern India using the 2500 year-old epic, THE RAMAYANA, as a point of departure for analyzing the landscape and the culture, I would have said, "don't be stupid--that's a lousy idea." The book is superb, so it is a good thing he didn't ask me first.
Dayanand Prabhu
Mar 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The book provides a social commentary of India relating it to India's most loved story, The Ramayana. Jonah Blank highlights Spirituality, Romance, Adventure, Cynicism, Hope and much more. Each of it of the right quantity, not too much nor too little. A brilliant read indeed.
Aug 31, 2017 added it
Shelves: review
If you read the book solely for the connection to mythology, you might come away disappointed. It happened to me for most of the book until I framed it as a travelogue which happened to connect to the Ramayana and its principal characters in quite a few ways. In that frame, barring a couple of questionable occurrences, ("feni in Kerala" made me wonder whether calling Bruce Lee a cricketer was actually sarcasm) it does a wonderfully lucid job.
The book was published in 1992 and it is always a ple
Christine Schmidt
Nov 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Although I had taught about the Ramayana superficially as a teacher of World History and had read excerpts, I had never gone into it more thoroughly. This epic is the heart story of so many people and this account fully shows that. Insightinful into the values of India and how different they are sometimes from those of the west.
Aravindan Srinivasan
May 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Nice dose of history and an attempt to understand India through the ramayana..
Robyn Hall
This book was recommended to me by the authors sister who is a bookclub friend. She knows I have read some novels about India and its people and I feel like it's an interesting "subject". This is definitely not a novel but for anyone who is curious about India, this is a good study about the history, culture, and religions of this vast country. The story of the Ramayana is intriguing but I found the book difficult to read in some parts because there are so many unfamiliar concepts!

some "favorit
Jan 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel-book
Excellent very personal travelogue reporting many extensive conversations with Indians of all castes he encountered in his travels tracing the Ramayana.
Very young when he wrote this, about 25, and occasionally he expresses highly idealistic views one expects at that age. Yet seems very learned about history of India, diversity of religion, castes [well explained, I never knew the ins and outs].
Does his best to explain Hinduism to us, its relation to Buddhism [being a sort of offshoot], and t
Feb 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I'm always skeptical when I read books about India, because I feel like there's so much that can be said about the country, the history, and the future and I don't know anywhere near enough about it to sort out useful information from total crap. This book acknowledged all of that, and in the end I felt like I had gained (at the very least) a much more varied set of ideas about the country. Told through the framework of the Ramayana, an ancient epic about the trials and tribulations of royal cou ...more
Jan 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Full disclosure: Jonah is my professor this semester for a class on South Asia Relations. I bought the book because it's on his syllabus, but he requested we try to find the cheapest version available because he didn't want us to spend money....and I found an autographed copy for $0.99. Best money I've spent in a long time. He's disarming, self-deprecating, and approachable. That aside, the man knows the entire region, India especially, better than most Indians I know, relatives included. Jonah ...more
Feb 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
I really liked this book, in spite of the fact that the organization was lacking. I believe it gives insightful commentary about the inner workings of India loosely wrapped around the story of Ramayana. I was impressed with Blank's ability to step back from interactions and dig for the deeper meaning from not only the perspective of an American but also seemingly from that of an Indian. Facinating insight into the fundamentals of religion and how it informs our political beliefs. While I kept lo ...more
Jul 31, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: travel, culture
A book that interweaves the Ramayana with a travelogue. Very insightful, and deeply flawed and frustrating in parts. I began to question whether I could trust the authors judgement when I read bits that I knew to be factually incorrect. For example, at one point the author claims someone is chewing banana leaves with their paan. Anyone who has been reasonably involved in India knows that people don't chew banana leaves. Similarly, at one point author says he was at a Dravidian (possibly Brahmin, ...more
Katja Vartiainen
Jun 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, novel
I really enjoyed this book. it's easy, to read, but intelligently written. there are many delicious anecdotes, and heart-braking stories, and the paradoxical coexistence of beauty, evil and serenity and of course spirituality. What bothered me at time sis the quite rough comparisons of Hindu traditions with Christianity, for example the 'sin' is essentially very different in the two.Some thoughts made me look back at my younger self- for example the end's reflections of life in marriage. But sti ...more
B Salazar
Aug 15, 2014 is currently reading it
I'm so thoroughly entranced by this book. It reads like a travel narrative, but weaves in historical and theological information seamlessly, giving the reader a chance to both see and understand the (then) present day conflicts happening between Muslims and Hindus in India (at least in the first chapter, where I am now). The Ramayana is the canvas of this tale, and the journey of Jonah Blank is the paint. I'm so happy I found this book and decided to open it.
Nov 29, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
I had begun the book expecting a travel narrative, which it isn't. Differences among the geographical areas of South Asia do come into play, but with the focus how modern Indian society got where it is now. At first, using a Ramayana episode to introduce each section seemed "gimmicky"; however, that approach soon made great sense.
Apr 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I think if you only read one book on India this might be the one. Jonah follows the story and path of the Ramayana epic throughout India and in the process touches on complex areas such as aceticism, Hinduism, reincarnation, race, caste, Bollywood and what modernity means in India today. His subject matter is scholoarly, but his writing is easy to understand.
Aug 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Mark by: Alex
Like many good books, this one took me a while to get into. The story-line of the Ramayana runs alongside the author's narration of his travels through India, and although what it most interesting is this thought-journey of the narrator, it's the Ramayana that's compelling. As a whole, it's an interesting and worthwhile read.
Jul 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite books on my bookshelf. It's charming, informative, humorous, and at times deeply touching. Having married an Indian, and lived in India for a time myself, I find it remarkable that an outsider can capture the vastness of India in a book. As skilled as Jonah Blank is with a pen, he is more brilliant in his grasp of the Indian psyche. A must read!
Lynn Buschhoff
Jul 09, 2012 rated it liked it
The background information in this book was excellent, but because it is 20 years old, it is a little misleading for someone who is visiting India now. It introduced a lot of the themes of the Ramayana and how they reflect the Indian character: it would be great if the author wrote another, more recnt take on India.
Aug 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
Very interesting.... it re-tells the Ramayana while giving a modern (outdated, since it's from the early 90s, but o well) take on Indian life and culture. I loved it, definitely fed my obsession with India further.
Feb 11, 2012 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. Have not read the Ramayana yet. Learned much about the epic as well as the Indian peoples. Encourages me to read further on the topics.

My India book for 2012 Around the World in 52 Books Challenge.
David Antoš
Jan 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Almost annoyingly in love with India. However, I envy author's journey and observations. It was also the first time someone really explained me Hinduism and one of its greatest epics in simple language.
Aug 28, 2014 rated it liked it
Tmi! I don't
Mind hearing the story of Rama broken up by modern India, so I don't fall asleep and learn the importance of the story to folk of today, but then add Sri Lankan wars and politics on top of it? Inhadbto skip and just focus on Rama for about half the book.
Feb 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
I discovered this wasn't a book I could race through. A delightful birthday gift that you need to stop and reflect on. Got me thinking and learning about my own religion..... goes to show, you can learn things everyday. Definately a book I will be revisiting.
The Tick
Apr 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, india, travel
This was a really ambitious book--part literary criticism, part history, part travel memoir--and the author did a really good job of making sure that all three components were well-represented. It's a little out of date now, but still very much worth a read.
Mar 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
A travelogue mixed up with bits of the epic and insights into the cultures of India.
Jul 19, 2007 rated it liked it
an american reporter travels the path that rama took in the ramayana. he braids this legend with his observations of contemporary india and ceylon to good effect. very interesting.
Steve Pearcy
Apr 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Read it before my first trip to India. Great background on what India is like today, interwoven with the tale that created what it is to be Indian.
Mar 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I figured I should contribute a little bit. This is one of my all time favorite books. A little bit anthropology, a little bit ancient myth, and thought-provoking too.
Jul 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: south-asia
One of the best books on India's past and present. Brilliantly juxtaposes the ancient Ramayana with contemporary India.
Jennifer Lance
Nov 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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