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Jairam Ramesh’s new book to capture the history of a poem that inspired everyone, from Gandhi and Nehru to Churchill

New Delhi, 10 December 2020: Penguin Random House India announces the acquisition of award-winning writer, economist and politician Jairam Ramesh’s new book. Titled The Light of Asia: The Poem that Defined the Buddha, it will be published under the Viking imprint in May 2021.

The Light of Asia is an epic poem by Sir Edwin Arnold that was first published in 1879. It quickly became a huge sensation and has continued to resonate powerfully across the world over the last century and a half. Weaving together literary, cultural, political and social history, Jairam Ramesh uncovers and narrates the fascinating story of this deeply consequential and compelling poem that has shaped our thinking of an ancient sage and his teachings. He brings into this unusual narrative the life of the multi-faceted poet himself who, among other things, was steeped in Sanskrit literature. Sir Edwin Arnold’s English rendering of the Bhagavad Gita was one of Mahatma Gandhi’s abiding favourites. Sir Edwin was also in many ways the man who shaped Bodh Gaya as we know it today.

Commenting on his new book, Jairam Ramesh says, ‘For long I have been struck by why and how The Light of Asia, which was a milestone in Buddhist historiography, got translated into over thirty languages, impacted so many public personalities in different countries, inspired movements for social equality and incarnated itself in music, dance, drama, painting and film. I have been wanting to tell this story for quite some time and have finally got around to doing so.’

Meru Gokhale, Publisher, The Penguin Press Group, says, ‘The original The Light of Asia by Sir Edwin Arnold took the literary world by storm. Jairam Ramesh offers context to better understand why it became a phenomenon and, through his biography of Arnold, opens up an important portion of world history. Well-researched and peppered with wonderful insights, Jairam Ramesh’s The Light of Asia, much like his acclaimed A Chequered Brilliance, will breathe fresh life into forgotten historical icons.’

About the Author:

JAIRAM RAMESH, a Rajya Sabha MP, was Union minister between 2006 and 2014, holding several key portfolios including environment and forests. He is the author of several well-known books including Indira Gandhi: A Life in Nature and Intertwined Lives: P.N. Haksar and Indira Gandhi.