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Showing posts with label Indian mythology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Indian mythology. Show all posts

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Demons of Chitrakut by Ashok Banker - A Book Review




This book and the next book in the series (Armies of Hanuman) have been with me for over 4 years now. I don’t know what took me so long to read this one especially when I totally loved reading the first two books of the series. I get lesser time to read these days and after not reading a single page for days at a stretch, I started longing to read something. That’s when I decided to read the books that have been sitting on my shelf untouched for long.

Ashok Banker has weaved magic through his books on mythology. In his Ramayana series, he has taken the liberty to use his own imagination and innovative story telling in narrating the epic saga. So, prospective readers keep in mind that this is not the so-called original version but a somewhat spiced up version of Ramayana. The author has made the reading experience a lot more dramatic. 

The previous book of this series concluded with Rama using ‘Brahma Astra’ to annihilate the Asura army that were all set to attack the city of Mithila. In this book, the story progresses further. Rama and his newly wedded wife Sita are welcomed in Ayodhya in all pomp and glory. While the citizens are all jubilant there is something not right in the palace – Asura sorcery is at play and it will have damning consequences for Rama. The reader is likely to be transported right into the happening in the streets of Ayodhya as he leafs through the pages of the book. 

The problems of the prince Rama are going to get a new height – a scheming Manthara has got the lust-laden Keikayi in control and soon Rama would leave the royal palace and head to live in the forest in exile for 14 years. The beauty of the book is that even though most Indian readers already have an inkling of what happens in Ramayana, they look forward to see how the author is going to narrate it. There is so much action happening in the book that the reader in you would want to set aside all works and continue with book.

However, this book is not without its share of flaws. There are parts in the book, where it seems that the author has gone overboard in describing the details of an incident and there are parts which seems rushed upon. For example, the demise of Manthara has been written in details but the passing away of Dasaratha were described in a few lines. Also, at times the narration in the book faltered. I would have liked it better if the pace of storytelling did not vary too much. 

Another thing that kept me reading the book was to find out about the demons of the Chitrakut. As it is the title of the book, I was hoping that they would be central to this book in some way. However, it is only near the very end of the book does the reader get introduced to these demons. Where and how – it is something you will know when you read the entire book.

Even though I can go on and on about what await you in the book, I sincerely think that you should better read it to find out more. Even with all its flaws, it is a great read and will keep any mythology lover hooked.

I am also finished with the book 4 of the series – Armies of Hanuman and will write about it soon. So, stay tuned and happy reading.

Thank you for stopping by. Cheers!


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Rise of the Sun Prince by Shubha Vilas - A Book Review

I love reading books on mythology and books centering on Ramayana and Mahabharata are my favorite. There is something about these epic sagas that make them really interesting – you see they are never too old or out of date. Today, I am here with the review of yet another Ramayana centered book. It is ‘Rise of the Sun Prince by Shubha Vilas’.
 The cover is attractive, I must say.

This is another of those book reviews that should have been here months ago. But, give it to ‘the-so-many-other-things’ in life, it got indefinitely delayed. And finally today it is up here.

Title:  Rise of the Sun Prince, Book 1
Series: Ramayana: The Game of Life
Author: Shubha Vilas
Publisher: Jaico Publishing House
Publication Year: 2013
ISBN 13: 9788184955309
Binding: Paperback
Number of pages: 256
Price: Rs 250

The Blurb says:

“Ramayana: The Game of Life (Book 1), one of the world's great literary masterpieces, skillfully retold for modern audiences. Epics like the Ramayana have been recounted infinite times. Is there a need for another chronicle in the presence of so many? How is this one different? And is it relevant to our ever-changing modern lives?

Yes, there is a need, yes this is different and yes, it is relevant. This new series of books, each following one khand of the Ramayana, decodes the eternal wisdom of that poetic scripture through gripping narrative and thought-provoking instruction. In the time-honored custom of spreading wisdom through tales, every fascinating story in the epic is retold here and every character unfolded to captivate your heart and open your mind to life's deepest questions.

The narrative closely follows Valmiki's Ramayana, gently weaving in folk tales as well as the beautiful analogies of the Kamba Ramayana. The first of this six-volume series, Rise of the Sun Prince, takes you through the divine story of Lord Rama from His birth up to His marriage. Through these pages are revealed the tales of Dasaratha's leadership, Vishwamitra's quest for power and the intriguing story of a little-known stone maiden. Ramayana: The Game of Life has all of this and much more - food for contemporary thought drawn from an enduring masterpiece.”

Any author who aims to recount this epic saga must have tremendous courage, for this is a saga of epic proportion that has been retold several times by several authors in different ways. So, how does one present the same story to the readers in a new way and grab their attention. Tough job it is!

Keeping that in mind, I think the author has done a great job with his first book of the six book Ramayana series. This one deals with the Bala Kanda of Valmiki Ramayana. One gets to know how Valmiki starts to write the Ramayana, how Dasaratha came about to have three hundred and fifty three wives, how all his sons were named, what was Viswamitra’s role in Ramayana, the story of Ahilya and of course, every tiny bit details about the lives of Rama & Sita. There is so much to know and learn. When you read the book, you will realize that Ramayana is not just about Rama & Sita or Rama’s war with Ravana – there is so much more to it.

The author is not just recounting the story in this book; he is also revealing how the various lessons that Ramayana imparts is of significance in our lives today. There are foot notes on every page does the job. But, they are also the ones that often mar the flow in the story. I am not a very big fan of this style, but I guess the author was left with just this option. Sometimes, the foot notes were too long and detailed that I almost forget where I left the story! I guess, keeping them short, simple and to the point would be better.

Overall, it was a great read. If you are a mythology books fan, you can surely pick this one.

Some pearls of wisdom from the book.


- “The vessel that holds poison becomes equally poisonous. When you are angry at someone, remember, you suffer the most.”

- “a past incident is not what agitates the mind; it is the amount of attention we give it that unsettles us.”

- “The circle of indifference has the self at its centre. The circle of compassion has others at the centre. The former leads to apathy; the latter to empathy.”

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Thank you for stopping by! Cheers!

Monday, January 20, 2014

AJAYA - Roll of the Dice by Ananda Neelakantan



Ask any Indian about Mahabharata, he will tell you Pandavas were the heroes and Kauravas were the evils ones in this epic saga. That is what we have heard, seen in the Mahabharata TV serial that was aired on Doordarshan and that is what we have always believed. But, Ananda Neelakantan – the author of the book Ajaya – Roll of the Dice (the epic of the Kauravas clan) has other ideas. He in his book has switched the roles of both sides and has presented the epic Mahabharata in a new, never-thought-of light.

I have read Anand Neelakantan’s previous book Asura, so I thought that I had a fair idea of what to expect in this book. But, as I turned pages after pages, the author took me by surprise. I would not deny that the book intrigued me and kept me glued for all the time I was reading it. But, do mark my words of caution; the book is an epitome of radical and preposterous ideas that could even be dubbed as blasphemous by many. So, if you read it with an open mind, you will enjoy it more. If you mind what the author says about the heroes of the original Mahabharata in this book, you are likely to end up irritated.

To cut the long chase short I would quote the blurb from the book which gives an idea about the premise of the book.

The Mahabharata endures as the great epic of India.

But, while Jaya is the story of the Pandavas, told from the perspective of the victors of Kurukshetra; Ajaya is the narrative of the ‘unconquerable’ Kauravas, who were decimated to the last man.

At the heart of India’s most powerful empire, a revolution is brewing. Bhishma, the noble patriarch of Hastinapura, is struggling to maintain the unity of his empire. On the throne sits Dhritarashtra, the blind King, and his foreign-born Queen – Gandhari. In the shadow of the throne stands Kunti, the Dowager-Queen, burning with ambition to see her firstborn become the ruler, acknowledged by all.

And in the wings:
* Parashurama, the enigmatic Guru of the powerful Southern Confederate, bides his time to take over and impose his will from mountains to ocean. 
* Ekalavya, a young Nishada, yearns to break free of caste restrictions and become a warrior.
* Karna, son of a humble charioteer, travels to the South to study under the foremost Guru of the day and become the greatest archer in the land. 
* Balarama, the charismatic leader of the Yadavas, dreams of building the perfect city by the sea and seeing his people prosperous and proud once more. 
* Takshaka, guerilla leader of the Nagas, foments a revolution by the downtrodden as he lies in wait in the jungles of India, where survival is the only dharma.
* Jara, the beggar, and his blind dog Dharma, walk the dusty streets of India, witness to people and events far greater than they, as the Pandavas and the Kauravas confront their searing destinies.

Amidst the chaos, Prince Suyodhana, heir of Hastinapura, stands tall, determined to claim his birthright and act according to his conscience. He is the maker of his own destiny – or so he believes. While in the corridors of the Hastinapura palace, a foreign Prince plots to destroy India. And the dice falls…


The writing style is good. The plot seems well researched. However, there were points when I felt the author is trying too hard to portray Duryodhana in good light (He is called ‘Suyodhana’ by the author in the novel). It is not retelling of Mahabharata, rather a very different narration of the epic. 

I would not want to get into the details of how the story moves in the book; you have to read the book to know about it. Overall, I think the author has put his arguments and point of views about various incidents that takes place in the epic Mahabharata very deftly. That is why I was looking forward to read how he would explain the horrendous treatment to Draupadi after the Pandavas lose the game of dice. But, that is why the author stops and decides to narrate the rest of the story in the next book. After some thought, I realized he might have deliberated done so, to lure the readers into the reading the next book.


I definitely want to read the next half of the book – The Rise of Kali.

received this book from Lead Start Publishing in exchange for an unbiased review.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Seeds Of War by Ashok K. Banker

Indian mythology or mythological fiction caught my fancy ever since I read a few books in this genre after a few recommendations from a blogger friend. Ashok Banker is a prominent name when it comes to Indian mythology. I have read a few books of the Ramayana series by the author and I thoroughly enjoyed them. That is why when I got an opportunity to review the author's book 'The Seeds of War', I literally jumped at the opportunity. This is the 2nd book of his Mahabharata series, the first one being 'The Forest of Stories'. I haven't read the first book but, I am going to get myself a copy soon. I generally read the books in a series in its chronological order but, here I let go the rule as I am somewhat familiar with the epic.


Synopsis:

The Seeds of War, Book Two in Ashok Banker's MBA series, introduces us to the elder protagonists of the epic, as well as some of the great loves and lusts, friendships and enmities, politics and self-sacrifice that will lay the seeds that will eventually fester and erupt into the mother of all wars. At first it may seem that the journey is the reward,with seemingly unrelated love stories, fantastical tales of exploits in the heavenly realms, divine pacts and demoniac trysts. But it soon becomes evident that all these form a tapestry revealing the grandeur and glamour of the Kuru Bharata race itself, the growing descendants of the original tribe that established perhaps the greatest and oldest human civilization ever known in recorded history. Their loves and enmities are epic, their stories astonishing, their personalities mercurial. Every page you turn reveals magical new thrills and wonders. As one larger-than-life personality after another strides onstage, the drama ratchets up to thriller level, the arrow swarms begin to fly and conflicts turn ugly as the author of the Ramayana Series once again proves himself the master of epics.

When you pick up a Ashok Banker book, be sure that, you would be transported into the wonderful world of mythology with great characters and stories. If you pick this book, do read the introduction part where the author tells us what to expect from the book. In the words of the author:

“This is not an epic fantasy. This is not a sci-fi rendition. It is not a futuristic version. If you are expecting any of these things, you’re going to be disappointed. This is simply the Mahabharata of Krishna Dweipayana Vyasa retold by one man. That man is me, of course."

Disappointment is far from what you will feel after having read this book. You will be left wanting for more. The novel takes us through story of Devayani, the daughter of Sukracharya, and Kacha, the son of Brihaspati and then moves on to the tale of Yayati. From there it moves to the life of Shantanu and Ganga, leading to the story of Devavrata, later known as Bhisma. All these stories are greatly interconnected and in due time, their correlation will reflect on the Great War - Mahabharata. Unlike the Ramayana series where the author had taken creative liberties in narrating the epic, here the author says, he has reminded true to the original Mahabharata by Vyasa.

The best thing about the author's work is his narration style. It keeps you glued, interested and riveted. The characters comes live and you can picture every scene in your mind. In short, you are transported to that era! There are many stories or parts of it that I was familiar with, but not a single time I felt a dull moment. That is the beauty of the epic but coupled with the author's narration, it was simply absorbing and very much worth reading.

If you the slightest interest in Indian mythology, you can't miss this one. I am really looking forward to the rest of the series.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Reviews Program. for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books! Thank you Blog adda for giving me the opportunity.

Thank you for stopping by! Cheers!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Shiva Trilogy I - The Immortals of Mehula by Amish Tripathi


It has been over a month and a half since I read this book. The review has been long due. The problem in writing reviews after such a long gap is that I tend to forget the tiny details of the story. So, I have decided to make the task easy by quoting the synopsis at the back of the book followed by my views on the book.


Shiva Trilogy I - The Immortals of Mehula


Synopsis:



1900 BC. In what modern Indians mistakenly call the Indus Valley Civilization.


The inhabitants of that period called it the land of Mehula - a near perfect empire created many centuries earlier by Lord Rama, one of the greatest monarch that ever lived.




This once proud empire and its Suryavanshi rulers face severe perils as its primary river, the revered Saraswati, is slowly drying to extinction. They all face devastating terrorist attacks from the east, the land of the Chandravanshis. To make matters worse, the Chandravanshis appear to have allied with the Nagas, an ostracized and sinister race of deformed humans with astonishing martial skills.

The only hope for the Suryavanshis is an ancient legend: When the evil reaches epic proportions, when all seems lost, when it appears that your enemies have triumphed, a hero will emerge.

Is the rough-hewn Tibetan immigrant Shiva, really that hero? And does he want to be that hero at all? Drawn suddenly to his destiny, by duty as well as love, will Shiva lead the Suryavanshi vengeance and destroy evil?

This is the first book in a trilogy of Shiva, the simple man whose karma re-cast him as our Mahadev, the God of Gods.



On my India visit in 2011, I had seen this book on almost every book store, be it in Airport or Railway Station or at Crosswords. But, at that time, I was not really drawn to the title or the cover page of the book. So, I didn't buy it. Later, I saw the review of the book on blogs I follow and everyone was all praises for the book. That's when I was intrigued and decided to read it. I bought the two books of the series during my India visit this year. Before I start to shower my praises for the book, let me tell you, I am not very familiar with the actual Shiva and Sati story. So, the fictional take was all new and fresh for me.



I thoroughly enjoyed the book. The plot is gripping and kept me intrigued and engaged. The story has several layers, after every few pages something new is happening and the beauty of the whole thing is that it is intricately connected and it builds up towards the bigger picture. The author has done a commendable job in weaving mythological facts with fiction and has created a fantastic story. Kudos to his imagination! But, there are few things that I believe does not entirely suits the era the story is set in. For example, our country was not called India at that time. Many a times Shiva is portrayed as the cool dude which doesn't fit into my image of a mythological character.



The book is just not a fictional take on Lord Shiva, but has an underlying philosophical message - One's deeds decides one's destiny. It is an easy and fast read. The writing is simple and easy to understand. It has a good balance of mythology, fiction, suspense, adventure, romance, virtues and principles. The ending is quite a cliff hanger and compels you to read the next book of the series- The Secret of Nagas.


I will recommend it to anyone least bit interested Indian mythology.

Thank you for stopping by! Cheers!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Siege of Mithila by Ashok K. Banker




 Siege of Mithila by Ashok K. Banker 

One genre of books that I have started enjoying a lot recently is, without a doubt 'Indian mythology' or 'mythological fiction'. The two great epics of the Indian history are Mahabharata and Ramayana. I have already read two Mahabharata centered book – Jaya by Devdutt Pattanaik and Palace of Illusionsby Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, so my next choice of mythological book was Ramayana centered. One of my blogger friends suggested me to read the Ramayana series by Ashok K. Banker. That I did as I got the first book of the series from the local library here. I enjoyed the book thoroughly only to discover later that the library does not have any other books of this series and hence I had to wait for my India visit to get my hands on the rest of the series.

Synopsis:

The bestial demon hordes roar towards Ayodhya having swept all before them. Rama cannot return home to defend his family. He must journey to Mithila—a city lying directly in the path of destruction—to join a small band of heroes planning a valiant stand against the armies of darkness. Can Rama unearth a hidden dev-astra to help in his battle against his nemesis, the demon lord Ravana?

Of course, we all know that Rama will be able to defend the city of Mithila. That is the beauty of Banker’s writing, despite knowing (almost) what happens in Ramayana, the reader’s interest in the story doesn’t waver even for a moment.  The author’s has used his own imagination in sketching the characters and in describing the events that place during the course of the novel. The story builds on where it was left in ‘The Prince of Ayodhya’, so if you want to read this book, I would suggest you to read it as per the series.
For me that star character of this book was Sita, of course, apart from Rama and Lakshmana. She is introduced not as a delicate princess but, as a warrior princess who is well versed in the art of archery and swords play. The demon lord Ravana is depicted as pure devil whose only aim it to conquer Ayodhya. There is Manthara who to please Ravana plots one evil plan after another to poison the sisterly relationship between Queen Kausalya and Queen Sumitra. She even schemes to get rid of Rama. There is also the story of Ahalya and how Rama releases her from her husband’s curse. The story seems to pace slowly as by the end of the novel we only reach till the swayamvar of Sita. But, the novel is filled with numerous sub plots and stories that keep the novel interesting and enlightening. All the sub plots culminate toward the bigger picture and a momentous climax. 

Ashok K. Banker takes you on an amazing fascinating journey, from Ayodhya to Mithila. It is an enriching experience. You will feel drawn towards the world of Ramayana as you turn pages of this book, that is the magic of Banker’s writing. I am very looking forward to reading rest of the series.

Highly recommended.
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