Review of The Land of the Seven Rivers – A Brief History of India’s Geography; Sanjeev Sanyal; Penguin Books 2012; Rs 399; pp 331
– Shana Susan Ninan
A non-fiction book that looks into the history and geography of a sub-continent, across centuries, across cultures and times. An author who passionately weaves history, geography into the readers’ urge to discover more about the past – especially that of India, Pakistan and other areas of the sub-continent.
Sanjeev Sanyal does the work of a historian, presents his book with details and nuances, and leaves the reader with much enthusiasm to read up more on the topics covered. And this isn’t your average history tome I’m talking about. In fact, there’s a lot of veiled history, details that were never taught in school history lessons, and quite a bit of humour. But what excited and appeased me the most was the fact that Sanyal has personally visited several historical and religious sites across the Indian sub-continent. He didn’t just Google information and images for the Asokha Pillar and then include the same in his book. Such dedication from an author’s side shows he or she isn’t just looking at publishing a book that people will read, but in making sure the facts in the book are at least close to the truth, and also that the author is passionate about the topic he’s chosen to write about.
Heavily touching upon the history of India’s geography, her civilizations and her cities, the ancient trade systems and routes, the appearance and vanishing of animals, motifs and peoples across the nation, conquerors and the conquered, gene pools in India, India’s influence in Southeast Asia, the changing cityscape of the country, etc. Sanyal gives you more than just a bird’s eye view of India.
Irving Finkel’s book, The Ark Before Noah: Decoding the Story of the Flood deals with The Flood that finds plenty mention in Sanyal’s work. Sanyal explains several possibilities of the myth and also how it came to be included in the Bible, the greatest propounder of the event. Another issue that piqued my interest was the presence of ‘beef-eating culture’ in the Rig Veda, common among the early Hindus of the Indus area.
This is a book that a contemporary traveller across India would find useful on his trips. Neat chunks of history that’s palatable and lingering.