Mythologist | Author | Speaker | Illustrator

First published February 12, 2011

7 Secrets from Hindu Calendar Art:

Hindu Calendar Art may be gaudy and kitsch, but it is the most modern and democratic expression of a mythic imagery that once adorned temple walls and palm leaf manuscripts. They speak a language that is indifferent to rationality. It is the language of a people’s faith. In this book, Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik, India’s renowned mythologist, translates this language and reveals an ancient Indian truth that will certainly impact your life.


  1. Ganesha’s secret –  Different people see God differently
  2. Narayana’s secret – What dies is always reborn
  3. Ardhanari’s secret – God is within, Goddess without
  4. Shiva’s secret – Withdrawal leads to destruction
  5. Devi’s secret – Desire and destiny create life
  6. Vishnu’s secret – Detached engagement brings order
  7. Brahma’s secret – Human life is an opportunity


The images in the book have been picked up from the street, from vendors who sit outside temples, and sell their wares to pilgrims. Art historians have explained their origin — how artists like Raja Ravi Varma and printing technology of the 19th century ensured these images reached almost every Hindu household across India, and came to dominate the visualization of the common man’s faith. In recent times, they have even caught the attention of foreign tourists who have been captivated by their fantastic content and gaudy colors. Fashion gurus have used this art on the catwalk, on apparels and accessories to get the attention of consumers, collectors and the media. But few have stopped to think about them — Wherefrom comes this imagery? What is it saying?

Attempts to explain the ‘fantastic’ imagery usually are either defensive or apologetic or chauvinistic, because they try to legitimize the content using logic, or they attempt explanations using yardsticks of other religions. To best appreciate Hindu art one has to enter a new paradigm and explore new notions of perfection and possibility, quite different from the more familiar, and more popular, Greek, Biblical or Oriental paradigms. This book is an attempt to introduce the reader to this new paradigm.

The book consciously uses black and white renditions of the art so that the colors do not distract the reader from the communication. Also, like all things Hindu, the explanations in this book are just one of the many ways by which this art can be looked at. Read this book, keeping in mind:

Within infinite myths lies the Eternal Truth?

Who sees it all?

Varuna has but a thousand eyes

Indra, a hundred

And I, only two.

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