Visnu holds a divinity of highest rank among the Hindus. In the present work, the author has made an attempt to sketch the main features in the character of Visnu as they appeared in different ages.
The book is divided into three chapters, each running into several sections.
Chapter 1 opens with the description of the origin of Visnu, his character, emblems, attributes, incarnations, comparative status etc. The author has endeavoured to present a faithful portrait of the god with reference to the time-honoured Indian interpretation. Visnu's omnipresence, his ruling, protecting and supporting activities, his interest in human welfare, his ascent to the high position of a Saviour are some of the points which hold an important position in the god's history. The author has described how Visnu has been looked upon in various circles and by men of different cultures and education as god whose qualities are described with fervour and imagination by poets of devotional literature, with subtlety and intellectual acuteness by philosophers and theologians.
Chapter 2 deals with Sri who has been interpreted variously as prosperity, abundance, welfare, or the goddess or Visnu's female partner. Successive stages in the meaning from the Vedic to the Puranic period-have also been traced.
Chapter 3 describes some of the salient features of Visnu's cult such as Vaikhanasa rites held on Visnu's festivals.
The book has an enlightening introduction, a list of abbreviations, four indices and detailed footnotes.
About the Author:
J. Gonda, born 1905, was professor of Sanskrit and Indology, Utrecht University, The Netherlands, 1932-76. he is the author of many books and articles on Sanskrit, Indian religion and literature, among them Aspects of Early Visnuism (2nd ed., Delhi, 1969); Sanskrit in Indonesia (2nd ed., Delhi, 1973); Die Religionen Indiens (two volumes, 1963 and 1987); The Duel Deities in the Religion of the Veda (Amsterdam, 1974), Triads in the Veda (Amsterdam, 1976); Vedic Literature (Wiesbaden, 1975); The Ritual Sutras (Wiesbaden, 1977); and Medieval Religious Literature in Sanskrit (Wiesbaden, 1977). He was honorary member of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute and other Indian Academies and Institutes of the Royal Asiatic Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, etc.