There can be few more discussed countries in the world today than India. In recent years it has shed its popular image as a poor, tradition-bound backwater to stand poised on the threshold of super-power status, rivalled only by China as the greatest winner in the post-Cold War world order. In "Vishnu's Crowded Temple" Maria Misra has written the essential history to allow us to understand the fascinating historical trajectory of this emerging third-world super-state. The book dramatizes the dynamic counterpoint between the resilient Indian people and a succession of ambitious, if flawed visions of the nation. This is an extraordinary story and Misra tells it charismatically with wit and style. "Vishnu's Crowded Temple" is the history of a wholly contemporary state, an India shaped both by western and eastern ideas, but the slave of neither - the harbinger of a resolutely post-modern democracy, at once wholly new and yet steeped in its past.
Maria Misra is Lecturer in Modern History at Oxford University and a Fellow of Keble College Oxford. She presented a television series, called An Indian Affair, which was broadcast on Channel 4 and is the author of Business, Race and Politics in British India.