Three brothers from a remote village in the Himalayas are driven by poverty to become monks. One becomes a famous masked dancer; the second an accomplished player of the Tibetan temple trumpet; and the third a great Buddhist scholar.
A Jain nun tests her powers of detachment as she watches her best friend ritually starve herself to death. A woman leaves her middle class family in Calcutta and her job in a jute factory, only to find unexpected love and fulfillment living as a tantric in a skull-filled hut in a remote cremation ground. A prison warder from Kerala becomes for two months of the year a temple dancer and is worshipped as an incarnate deity; then, at the end of February each year, he returns to prison.
An illiterate goat herd from Rajasthan keeps alive an ancient 200,000-stanza sacred epic that he, virtually alone, still knows by heart. A devadasi - or temple prostitute - initially resists her own initiation into sex work, yet pushes both her daughters into a trade she regards as a sacred calling.
Nine people, nine lives. Each one taking a different religious path, each one an unforgettable story. Exquisite and mesmerizing, and told with an almost biblical simplicity, William Dalrymple's first travel book in a decade explores how traditional forms of religious life in South Asia have been transformed in the vortex of the region's rapid change. Nine Lives is a distillation of twenty-five years of exploring India and writing about its religious traditions, taking you deep into worlds that you would never have imagined even existed.