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The Light of Asia with Jairam Ramesh

'The Light of Asia' is an epic poem by Sir Edwin Arnold that was first published in 1879. It is a narrative of the life and message of the Buddha. Rajya Sabha MP and former Union Minister, 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.

The Light of Asia, by Sir Edwin Arnold, introduced the Buddha to the world. The poem captivated an Indian monk who remains an iconic personality РSwami Vivekananda. At about the same time, it deeply moved a young man in Colombo who has become famous in history as Anagarika Dharmapala. It caught the attention of an aspiring Indian lawyer in London in 1889. This man later became immortal as Mahatma Gandhi. A few years hence it impacted a teenager in Allahabad who would, in 1947, become the first Prime Minister of India-Jawaharlal Nehru. Two copies of the book adorned the bookshelves of B.R. Ambedkar, the prime architect of the Indian constitution.

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.

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. His last book, A Chequered Brilliance: The Many Lives of V.K. Krishna Menon won the Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize 2020.

Here’s the recording of the LIVE session which took place on 18th August.