In 1897, an Indian yogi named Bava Lachman Dass exhibited himself at the Westminster Aquarium in London, demonstrating forty-eight yoga positions to a bemused audience. Four years earlier, Hindu philosopher Swami Vivekananda had spoken at the first World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, where theosophist Annie Besant rhapsodized about 'his inborn sense of worth' and the 'exquisite beauty' of his spiritual message.
The Victorians had conflicted views on the religious beliefs and practices of the Indian subcontinent, blending fascination and suspicion. But within two generations, legions of young Westerners would be following the 'hippie trail' to India, and the Beatles would be meditating at the feet of the guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Journalist Mick Brown's vivid account charts the eccentric history of the West's evolving love affair with Indian religion through a curious cast of scholars, seekers, charlatans and saints.
From Edwin Arnold, whose epic poem about the life of the Buddha became a best-seller in Victorian Britain, to the occultist and magician Aleister Crowley; and from spiritual teachers Jiddu Krishnamurti, Meher Baba and Ramana Maharshi to the controversial guru Rajneesh, The Nirvana Express is an exhilarating, sometimes troubling journey through the West's search for enlightenment.