I was always curious as to why I was named so - my mother tells me that my father started reading this book two to three months before I was born. He finished it a week before my birth - and it made such an impression that I was named Siddhartha after the book's central character. This book, for this reason, has a permanent place in our bookshelf. I picked it up on a whim, and was absolutely blown away. This book is truly timeless - Hesse expresses simple and pure ideas with magnificent elegance.
In Buddhist mythology, Siddhartha Gautama is a man who realises that the world is meaningless, if lived either fully in desire or asceticism - after achieving enlightenment, he becomes the Buddha, and spreads the concept of a ‘middle path'. Hesse takes this concept even further, and separates Siddhartha and Gautama - in his work, Siddhartha is the son of a Brahmin who longs to rise above his mortal shell, and Gautama (stylized as Goutama) is the Buddha, who has already achieved enlightenment by the time Siddhartha steps to find out meaning in his life.
The journey of Siddhartha never stops - whether sinning, repenting or at peace with himself, Siddhartha never ceases to be static. And yet he would not trade these experiences for anything in the world - because they are what has moulded him. Learning that money, love, cowardice and avarice exist - and learning to experience them, while rising above them, is what Siddhartha learns through the course of the novel.
In a sense, Siddhartha is the ultimate existentialist. He loves everyone and everything, warts and all, simply because they are - thus freeing himself from both human and material attachments, and achieving enlightenment. He can be easily dismissed as something to be read about, absorbed and dismissed, because of his philosophy's seeming naïveté.
However, the central theme of Siddhartha is not the protagonist's teachings per se, but his unwavering belief that introspection and self-taught lessons are always better than what a teacher may impart, because secondhand knowledge can be dangerous. And that is a belief that is as valid in a utopia, as it is in ours. This, and other such concepts scattered around the work, makes the book stay with you long after you've read it.