From The Telegraph:
As several commentators have observed, the rapid economic growth of modern India is hugely impressive but has so far had little effect on a large percentage of the country’s population that live in still impoverished rural areas. Karl Marx’s complaint that religion was the opium of the people also recognised that those who have nothing in the material world inevitably seek solace and meaning in a spiritual one, a circumstance that certainly applies to the millions whom India’s economic boom has bypassed. Each of the nine lives William Dalrymple describes in his absorbing book is “intended to act as a keyhole into the way that each specific religious vocation has been caught or transformed in the vortex of India’s metamorphosis during this rapid period of transition, while revealing the extraordinary persistence of faith and ritual in a fast-changing landscape”.
The popular Western notion of Indian spirituality is bound up with asceticism and meditation, but religious experience in the subcontinent takes many forms, and for every self-denying sannyasi there are numerous devotees who find a path to god through singing, dancing, whirling, sex, drugs and storytelling.