- Author: Hermann Hesse
- Publication: 1922
- Genre: Philosophy
Siddhartha, the name is made up of two Sanskrit words “Siddha ( to achieve )” and ” Artha ( meaning )”. The fusion of the two means, “one who has achieved the meaning of existence/ his life “. The book was written by German author Hermann Hesse in his native language and in a simple lyrical fashion in 1922. In US, it was first published in 1951 and became popular during the 60s. The story is about a character by the same name and his quest for self-discovery, and is set during the era of Lord Buddha himself.
The book is not a routine philosophical tome. Instead of preaching the readers, the author lets them live the life of Siddhartha, the central character, who is born as the son of a Brahmin. He gives up his family life to join “Samanas ” ( all lives are equals ) who are wandering hermits, abstaining from materialistic pleasures. He is joined by his best friend, Govinda and in search of enlightenment they fast, spend time meditating and even has audience with Lord Buddha himself. Both Siddhartha and Govinda are influenced by the teachings of the enlightened one. Govinda decides to follow the path chalked out by Lord Buddha, however Siddhartha feels a void that he feels, can be filled by his own trials and tribulations, and decides to wander further in the search for enlightenment.
It is from here, that the story actually allows the reader to portray the character of Siddhartha, to gain self-realisation. After his meeting with Gautam Buddha, Siddhartha decides to further seek and experience knowledge, and for that re-joins the society. He comes across several different people from all walks of life that eventually mould his thinking and perception of life. There is the wise ferryman “Vasudeva “, the beautiful courtesan ” Kamala “, a cunning businessman ” Kamaswami ” and his son, borne from his marriage with Kamala. All this characters represent the virtues and vices of human lives. It is also a stark reminder that as humans we seek are never satisfied with what we have achieved thus far or what we already have. Instead, the greater part of our lives are spent chasing things, which we can easily do without.
The strength of the book lies in the fact that the reader never feels overwhelmed by the subtle philosophical underlining’s that are omnipresent throughout the book. It gives him that one rare chance to dwell deep within and search for the greater motive of his existence.