About the Book :
"From the beginning of her history, India has adored and idealised not soldiers and statesmen, not men of science and leaders of industry, not even poets and philosophers but those rarer and chastened spirits...time has discredited heroes as easily as it has forgotten every one else but the saints remain," said the late Dr. S.Radhakrishnan, the eminent philosopher and our ex-President. Saints and ascetics have played an important role in moulding the religious history of India through the ages. The book attempts to examine how the holy men-seers and sages, rishis and munis, tapasvis and sannyasis, mystics and yogis-held a fasination to the Indian mind, as they do even now, as a symbol of holy life. In portraying their peculiar beliefs and practices and in investigating the genesis of their ascetic institution, the study takes a rapid survey of Brahmanical asceticism, Buddhist and Jaina monachism and their impact on the life and culture of ancient India. When the ascetic movement first made its appearance, it was the greatest intellectual and religious force of the time. It captivated the noblest minds and produced the finest flowers of the human spirit, of whom many known and unknown seers of the Upanishads, the Buddha and Mahavira were representatives. For many centuries, thereafter, the highest spiritual life of the land found for itself, in its discipline, a sufficient and a satisfying expression. The work is a noble endeavour to capture some fascinating glimpses of that great movement and, in doing so, presents a vast panorama of ancient India-right from its earliest dawn, that of the Indus Valley civilisation to the beginning of the Christian era.