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Nine Lives

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  5,869 ratings  ·  576 reviews
From the author of The Last Mughal and In Xanadu, comes a mesmerizing book that explores how traditional religions are observed in today’s India, revealing ways of life that we might otherwise never have known.

A middle-class woman from Calcutta finds unexpected fulfillment living as a Tantric in an isolated, skull-filled cremation ground . . . A prison warder from Kerala i
Paperback, 284 pages
Published 2009
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Aomame* I loved the first three stories (the jaina who starves heself to death, the teyyan dancer and the sacred prostitute Rani). Sadly I found stories to…moreI loved the first three stories (the jaina who starves heself to death, the teyyan dancer and the sacred prostitute Rani). Sadly I found stories to become less and less engaging as the book moved on: to me, it was as if Dalrymple played his ace card at the very beginning. After that, reading became kinda tedious...(less)
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4.03  · 
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 ·  5,869 ratings  ·  576 reviews

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'For three months of the year we are gods,' he says. 'Then in March, when the season ends, we pack away our costumes. And after that, at least in my case, it's back to jail.'

Hari Das is no criminal - he works as a (terrified) jailer at the weekends, which involves walking round the prison with a lathi, trying to avoid getting knifed. His week-day job is digging wells, trying to avoid getting caught if one collapses. But from December to February, the length of the season, he becomes a theyyam ar
Flevy Crasto
Aug 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I picked up this book I thought I would be enhancing my knowledge on religion in India and what it means to (or how) these nine individuals are influenced/relate to it. I expected it to be diverse…..considering its about India, but wow! was I pleasantly surprised…..a very simple yet powerful book more about spirituality, truth, belief, complexity, hope, faith, principles, values, conviction and less about religion. I loved it, and would highly recommend it to anyone, even if you are not rel ...more
Jan 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It is easy for an armchair reformist to say, "..superstition, savages…" in between his indigestion and gastric troubles. It is even more easier for a desk job junkie to 'like' a shitty article named in the lines of 'Uncredible India' and add a comment, "Oh man!, brutal customs, we are going backwards…" To be fair, these 'pseudo intellectuals' are not entirely at their fault, given the circumstances of 'syndicated Hinduism' in urban middle class, as part of the Rama-fication movement in recent ye ...more

Description from the Dust Jacket: A Buddhist monk takes up arms to resist the Chinese invasion of Tibet-then spends the rest of his life trying to atone for the violence by hand printing the best prayer flags in India. A Jain nun tests her powers of detachment as she watches her best friend ritually starve to death. A woman leaves her middle-class family in Calcutta, and her job in a jute factory, only to find unexpected love and fulfillment living as a Tantric skull feeder in a remote cremation
Asha Seth

Nine Lives is a book you need to be sure what you're signing up for, when you plan to read it. It is not your regular book, nor is it something that will let you off the hook any time soon. It is the distressing unveiling of paradigm shifts in the lives of few people the author has encountered over a span of 25 years; people who left such a strong enough impression that he felt compelled enough to immortalize them in his words.

What does faith mean to an Indian and how far would one go
Cornelia Funke
Nov 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Unforgettable, haunting, enchanting, deeply moving...questioning Western concepts and goals, confronting our materialism with a spirituality that challenges everything we were brought up with
Jan 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to dely by: Dhanaraj Rajan

This is a must read for everyone fond of India and interested in the many religions, rituals and traditions that we can find there. The subtitle of this book is „in search of the sacred in modern India“ and this is excatly what the author does with his nine stories. India manages to keep alive, despite its progress, religious rituals and very often sacred and profane are mixed and accepted by people. The various cults in India are very complex but also interesting and it’s a country fu
Jan 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: india, tibet
This was a great text, especially for a must needed introduction to India. There is so much to cover that I think it is almost impossible to really cover, but Dalrymple's style gives individual flavor that helped it seem more real and personal instead of a giant conglomerate, "India."

There were a lot of things that I had a difficult time coming to terms with. The life of the Jain nun for instance, and especially the chapter about devadasi's (religious prostitutes from my interpretation). I am no
In this book Dalrymple provides nine stories, of nine very different people, all following the rituals and traditions of different religions in modern India (2009). The author explains in the introduction that he has ”kept the author in the shadows, so bringing the lives of the people I have met to the fore and placing their stories firmly centre stage,”

As the reader, we are drawn into the complexities of modern India – a country advancing in an economic boom, in dealing with ancient superstitio
Tamara Leontievova
Laskou k indii ma nakazila este v detstve moja mama. Jej hipisacke ponorenie do indickej kultury bolo samozrejme primerane k vtedajsim zdrojom, trocha zjednodusene, no zato odusevnene. Zabavne na tom je, ze odvtedy sa stala india temou, o ktorej ma asi nikdy neomrzi citat, ale absolutne neuvazujem o cestovani. Netusim preco. Alebo mozno tusim: mozno pre ten nekonecny bordel, ktorym je tato kniha presytena a ktory sa ovela jednoduchsie vnima z odstupu obyvacky, kde si mozem kazdu neznamu vec gugl ...more
Sara Jesus
Feb 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: espiritismo, viagens
Neste livro é contado a história de nove vidas. Vidas que buscam atingir a espiritualidade, que buscam encontrar a felicidade plena e encontrar a sua missão.

Através da história de uma monja que abandonou sua família para viver em prol do budismo, de um dançarino que é transformado num Deus, do contador de epopeias que preserva a literatura oral na Índia, do fabricante de ídolos que cria esculturas que são veneradas como Deuses e do trovador cego que encontrou no canto o meio de sobreviver.

A Ín
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.5/5 This book is the story of "Nine Lives" - 9 religious people of different (Indic) sects. Dalrymple has let the people speak and the stories have come out wonderfully well.
This was my first book by d author and I think I will be reading all by him. He puts to shame Indian authors/columnists who write quick, shallow books on India.
Sameen Borker
May 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One consumes one’s life in narcissistic and even egoistical ways. That travel can make us leave behind our cocoons of self-examination and indulgence is proved in two ways – by actually travelling or letting one’s mind travel when one relishes art in any form. In the land that is a mixed bag of cultures and religions, it is almost Herculean to distill the fundamental characteristics of what constitutes an Indian. Is an Indian an Aryan? A Dravidian? Or both? A woman in a saree? A man in a Dhoti? ...more
Apr 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I picked up Nine Lives yesterday afternoon, planning to read one story from the nine in there. I had finished the book a few hours later! That itself ought to speak volumes about the writing. I may add that this is my first reading of Dalrymple's work.

Dalrymples's writings on India weave together the religious, the historical, the political, the spiritual,and the humane, making for a fascinating read. His grasp on the comparative religious and secular history of Europe and South Asia, makes his
Sep 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016-re-read
A glimpse back to a time when all religions were local

The religions most of us are familiar with have been largely standardized and homogenized, but obviously this wasn’t always so. Like languages before the advent of writing, earlier versions of even the same religion had local accents, traditions and emphases that varied substantially from place to place. That early world of indigenous religions still exists in parts of India, and in Nine Lives author William Dalrymple sensitively chronicles t
Kitabi Keeda
Oct 22, 2018 rated it liked it
As the name suggests, this book is about the lives of nine Indians, a Buddhist monk, a Jain nun, a prison warden from Kerala, a goat herd from Rajasthan among others, as documented during the author’s travels in India.

The book is a mix of journalism, culture and history and talks about two subjects, India and Religion. But these religions are not the cosmopolitan and standardized versions that we are aware of. These are traditional religions that are still observed in parts of the country by so
May 31, 2016 rated it liked it
I received this book when I joined the Armchair Travelers' Group. We are reading books that take place in India this month. Since I not only love to travel, but also love to learn about peoples and cultures around the world, this group is very intriguing to me.

Actually, I would give this book 3.5 stars. It's a nonfiction book by William Dalrymple. In it he writes nine separate stories about nine individuals living religious lives in India. It is obvious that Dalrymple researched the book meticul
Jan 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel, non-fiction
A book entirely out of my comfort zone, when I picked it up I had great doubts whether I would really complete it. But once I started, I was pleasantly surprised- the book just didn't interest me- it drew me in completely and left me enchanted. In this book, the author magically weaves together nine real life stories of nine different individuals from different parts of the country, in what he calls in the title as the ' search of the sacred in modern India'.
I had mixed emotions while reading ea
Ritika Gupta
Jun 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Khushwant Singh very aptly said that William Dalrymple writes about India better than any Indian author. The detailed research is incredible, but it is the poignant writing style that makes you admire the beauty of this book and the people he talks about. There were so many facts about my own country that I did not know. Covering stories from Kerala (Theyyam dancers) to Tibet(The Monk's Tale), from Rajasthan (Singer of Epics) to West Bengal (The Lady Twilight), from Karnataka (Daughters of Yella ...more
Nov 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: saggistica
L’India diverse volte ha abitato i miei sogni, il mio inconscio la conosce bene.
Mentre a livello conscio da brava occidentale, e questo libro ne é una nuova conferma, la percepisco quanto di più altro ci sia da me.
Questo vivere nella carne lo spirituale, il divino, é, per me, materia oscura, comprendo certo quello che leggo, ma non lo sento, ha scarso eco in me.
Inoltre conosco pochissimo il pantheon indiano così come le loro sacre scritture, mentre Darlympile ne sfoggia una conoscenza invidiabil
Nine distinct lives from different parts of modern India - a forlorn Jain nun, a devoted dancer, an exploited devdasi, a singer of epics, a Sufi nun, a militant Buddhist, a skilled sculptor, a tantric monk and a blind Baul singer.
All unique in their own ways. All have different beliefs. Different Gods. Different philosophy.
One common thread that combines all - Faith.
Each one of the tales - Fabulous.
Exquisite writing.
Aug 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
When i first saw this book, it was like any other book, Simple. once i started reading it.... Wow it was amazing. 9 lives, 9 stories, 9 places, 9 belief's, everything written in simple words yet without loosing its essence..... I hail from a place called Kannur, when i read the story about THE DANCER OF KANNUR, i never thought such hardships were behind such an artist.
There are still many things unknown to us, and just by being an Indian or a Keralite doesn't make me understand the true meaning
Anil Swarup
Jul 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Dalrymple's understanding of India has always amazed me. It has been on account of his understanding of historical events. This book, however, explores contemporary India, its traditions and splendour through significant experience of insignificant individuals. He takes you to the length and the breadth of the country in a manner as never before. The conversations with unusual people in remote places are quite revealing. The narration is taut.A must read for even those that claim to know India. ...more
Dec 12, 2009 rated it it was ok
I found this book quite interesting and enlightening. I am always amazed that people have such strong faith regardless of the difficulties they face in their daily life.
Jun 09, 2010 rated it liked it
Nine Lives: in search of the sacred in modern India

One knows William Dalrymple as a highly accomplished writer of travelogues and historical non-fiction. Over the past two decades, the author with his passionate quest to understand and explore Indian society, culture and history has given us some very fine works like The White Mughals, The City Of Djinns and The Last Mughal. Even his other books, In Xanadu and From the Holy Mountain that plunge into the di
Sahil Pradhan
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: exclusive
A Buddhist monk takes up arms to resist the Chinese invasion of Tibet – then spends the rest of his life trying to atone for the violence by hand printing the best prayer flags in India. A Jain nun tests her powers of detachment as she watches her best friend ritually starve herself to death. Nine people, nine lives; each one taking a different religious path, each one an unforgettable story. William Dalrymple delves deep into the heart of a nation torn between the relentless onslaught of modern ...more
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this book, William Dalrymple explores nine facets of South Asia's threatened, non mainstream religious traditions, and the lives of some of their most faithful practitioners.

The nature of the subcontinent's various peoples, communities, and faiths allowed, since the beginning of time, for highly flexible, heterodoxic belief systems, many of which featured syncretism and influences from many sources. More often than not, these belief systems actually hold greater sway over the hearts of South
Mack Hayden
May 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world
I stumbled across this book by pure happenstance and am so glad it found its way into my life. Dalrymple makes clear in his introduction that he wants to let his subjects tell their stories themselves, removing himself and his Western biases from the narrative as completely as possible. In my estimation, he succeeded admirably. Through these nine profiles, India seems a place alive with vibrant diversity, heartbreaking, unjust ironies, and spiritual curiosity. That's the big picture view at leas ...more
Jozef Melichár
Mar 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Táto kniha mi sadla, lebo ma nikam netlačila. Autor rozpovedal príbehy ľudí, ktorí reprezentujú zanikajúcu Indiu, a vysvetlil, čo treba. Nehovoril mi, čo si mám o tom myslieť a ja to vlastne doteraz neviem. Náboženstvo nechápem, ale tie príbehy boli fajn.
Izabela Mizia
Nov 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Zbiór dziewięciu świetnie skonstruowanych reportaży, w których autor usuwa się w cień i pozwala przemówić ludziom żyjącym dla wiary. Tak. Każda z historii jest inna, momentami mroczna i przerażająca, a przy tym nieustannie pasjonuje. W dalszym ciągu nie mogę wyjść z podziwu, jak wiele ludzie są w stanie poświęcić, aby wejść w owianą tajemnicą sferę świętości. Te wszystkie rzeczy dzieją się teraz, a ja jedynie mogę przecierać oczy ze zdumienia i mieć nadzieję, że, tak jak autorowi, uda mi się kie ...more
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Sufism of Sindh 1 4 Jan 09, 2018 03:44PM  
The Armchair Trav...: * Nine Lives * discussion 31 12 Jun 11, 2016 06:39AM  
  • A Journey in Ladakh: Encounters with Buddhism
  • No Full Stops in India
  • India: A Million Mutinies Now
  • The Hall of a Thousand Columns
  • In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India
  • Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity
  • An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World
  • Chasing the Monsoon
  • Travelers' Tales India: True Stories
  • Slowly Down the Ganges
  • Empires of the Indus: The Story of a River
  • Being Indian: Inside the real India
  • Tibet, Tibet: A Personal History of a Lost Land
  • Last Seen in Lhasa: The story of an extraordinary friendship in modern Tibet
  • Karma Cola: Marketing the Mystic East
  • The Beautiful and the Damned: A Portrait of the New India
  • Capital: The Eruption of Delhi
  • Calcutta: Two Years in the City
William Dalrymple was born in Scotland and brought up on the shores of the Firth of Forth. He wrote the highly acclaimed bestseller In Xanadu when he was twenty-two. The book won the 1990 Yorkshire Post Best First Work Award and a Scottish Arts Council Spring Book Award; it was also shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize.

In 1989 Dalrymple moved to Delhi where he lived for six years
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“One day Lal shahbaz was wandering in the desert with his friend Sheikh Bhaa ud-Din Zakariya. It was winter, and evening time, so they began to build a fire to keep warm. They found some wood, but then they realised they had no fire. So Baha ud- Din suggested that Lal Shahbaz turn himself into a falcon and get fire from hell. Off he flew, but an hour later he came back empty handed. "There is no fire in hell," he reported. "Everyone who goes there brings their own fire, and their own pain, from this world.” 4 likes
“because we have two legs and travelling on foot is the right speed for human beings. Walking sorts out your problems and anxieties, and calms your worries. Living from day to day, from inspiration to inspiration, much of what I have learned as a Jain has come from wandering. Sometimes, even my dreams are of walking.” 4 likes
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