We, the readers, are constantly on lookout for new authors. With the Bookstagrammers or the book Instagrammers, Kindle recommendations and Twitter, the task has become very easy with plethora of options in the last few years. Earlier we had to rely on few book reviews in newspapers or magazines, recommendations from friends and one’s own instincts while browsing in the bookshop – the first two still happen, but the bookshop has given way to Amazon or Kindle.
I discovered Amish Tripathi while browsing at the Hyderabad airport bookshop on the way back to Delhi. It was the first book – The Immortals of Meluha – the story of Shiva. Connecting with the blurb because of being a Banarasi, made me buy the book. And I was hooked – by the story – retelling mythology with a twist – the book was like a breath of fresh air. Bringing the story of great Mahadev, casted as a human being with all his inherent imperfections to tell a story, which makes the youth fall in love with the character is the raison d’être of this book as well as the series. The stories of Shiva with its accompanying narrative of the places and people are something some of us have lived in the city of Shiva – Banaras – have heard in our daily lives but this was a telling in a new context. It is the story of Bholenath as well as Rudra; it is also the story of Nataraja and Neelkanth, he is the Yogi as well as Shankar.
The second book The Secret of the Nagas in the Shiva Trilogy series continues in the same vein, leaving the reader awaiting the third and the last one in the series The Oath of the Vayuputras. But here the book fails in my view – it is few pages too long and looses the momentum mid-way making the readers struggle their way towards the end. However, the Shiva Trilogy creates a new cool dude persona for the protagonist and makes him very relatable for the young readers of modern India.
Ram Chandra Series
The next series for Amish Tripathi has been the second God of the Trinity – an avatar of the Vishnu – Lord Ram. Visualised as a five-book series by the author, it follows a multi-linear narrative with stories hyperlinked in the first three books of the Ram Chandra Series. These three books tell the account of the main characters Ram, Sita and Raavan – tracing the journey of their lives from their birth till the intersection of their lives at the kidnapping of Sita.
The story of Ramayana is a tale most Indians are familiar with – it is a story that repeats itself in various ways and methods as you grow old – from the grandparents’ tales, to cartoons or serials on TV, as course books, retelling through movies or theatres and even by celebration of major festivals in the subcontinent. While the broad storyline remains the same, nuances differ because of various versions of the great epic existing in the regional culture.
The first book – Ram: Scion of Ikshvaku tells the story of the ideal man – Maryaada Purshottam – follower of rules and laws. But where the narrative differs from popular culture is the depiction of Ram as the one whose birth did not bring joy but heralded as bringing bad luck to the family and the country and its people. It is not an account of a pampered and loved child, but of an ignored and abused one.
The second book Sita: Warrior of Mithila was the surprising one – instead of the traditional depiction of a fair and a demure woman, the Sita here is a feisty and resourceful one who ruled her country. She is not afraid of confronting people or taking strong decisions. A woman all of us can relate to.
The recently released this book in the series Raavan: Enemy of the Aryavarta tells the story of the villain in the drama who is fierce and hated by everyone. It has been acknowledged that Raavan is an intelligent being, a musician, and a worshipper of Shiva. And these are reestablished again in the portrayal by the author. But the book tells the story of what made Raavan what he was.
All the three narratives talk about the difficult circumstances of their lives and it is their reaction which moulded the way they lived their lives and that made all the difference.
I recently read War of Lanka, the fourth book in Amish Tripathi’s Ram Chandra series, and while it had its moments, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.
The story still revolves around the familiar tale of the Ramayana, but Tripathi takes some detours along the way, which adds an element of unpredictability. I appreciated the attempt to explore different branches of the story, although it didn’t always feel cohesive. The book had its gripping moments, but the pacing seemed inconsistent, making it a bit of a mixed bag.
One aspect that stood out was the author’s intention to address relevant social issues. Tripathi’s exploration of leadership, societal welfare, and the concept of truth and duty in a modern context is evident throughout the narrative. These themes provide a layer of depth and provoke thought, highlighting the author’s intention to use storytelling as a medium for societal improvement.
However, I found the character portrayal of Ravana to be disappointing. The attempt to present a multi-dimensional version of the character falls short, resulting in a somewhat unidimensional depiction. While the aim might have been to show a balanced view of Ravana, it ends up diluting the essence of the character that has been traditionally known for centuries.
One issue that I encountered was the excessive repetition in the book. Certain sentences and phrases were used repeatedly, which became tiresome. Additionally, the writing felt disjointed at times, hindering the flow of the story.
It’s important to note that when authors reinterpret ancient epics, they have the liberty to interpret and retell the stories in their own way. However, this can sometimes make it difficult for readers to digest, especially if it deviates significantly from the traditional narratives. I appreciate the author’s attempt to provide a fresh perspective, but it didn’t resonate with me as much as I had hoped.
With the war of Lanka coming to an end and Rama and Sita being reunited, I am curious to see how the story concludes in the fifth and final book of the series.
Overall, War of Lanka had its moments, but it didn’t consistently maintain the momentum of the series. If you’re a fan of the Ram Chandra series, it’s worth reading to see how the story progresses. However, if you’re looking for a flawless retelling of the Ramayana, you may find some aspects of this book less satisfying.
Ram Chandra series like his Shiva Trilogy is re-telling the mythology in a way the modern reader can relate to. Mythology in India is still very popular inspite of modernisation and a successful story results in a huge fan following that we have seen in the acting and film world but was rarely seen in the writing and book world – Amish has managed to break that glass ceiling and made writing and reading mythology fashionable. He uses these narratives to raise philosophical questions as well as bring into forefront the ills that the modern society is facing. And interwoven in the narratives are the incidents that made the news – the brutal gang rape of Delhi, the Jallikattu or the Sabrimala controversies, engaging the reader to question or deliberate.
And amongst all this mythology what stands out is the first non-fiction book Immortal India by Amish Tripathi. The story of this timeless civilisation is brought alive through discussions on religion and mythology, social and political issues, as well as history and culture. I wrote about this earlier as well – it is a book that needs to be incorporated in our education curriculum – to make children think and discuss on why India is what it is and what they can do to make it better for future generations.
Dharma: Decoding the Epics for a Meaningful Life
Amish’s latest non-fiction book Dharma: Decoding the Epics for a Meaningful Life co-authored with his sister Bhavna Roy came with a lot of expectations.
These days I am ordering less and less through Amazon – this book was an exception. I was extremely disappointed as it turned out to be a pirated book. So while it was waiting for its return pickup, I managed to read it.
Though a non-fiction, the book delves into it its topic through a conversation between a family. It has been frequently argued that our epics are not just stories, but every incident has a deeper meaning that helps interpret life and it’s purpose. Discussions on karma and dharma, trust and loyalty, anger and control, against the backdrop of Ramayana, Mahabharata and Amish’s own Meluha stories is the subject matter of the book.
Needless to say, a quick read hasn’t helped me to understand the book or it’s concepts in its entirety. I am sure that even the name of characters chosen to tell the story have a deeper meaning in the book.
Like all his books, this book too is high on symbolism but with an attempt to explain them. But either it has been too simplified for masses or in an attempt to not overwhelm the readers it has been kept short and to the point, and thereby losing the gravitas. For an author with the caliber of Amish Tripathi, was expecting more depth something that comes across in his interviews but missing here.
For all the readers who love mythology, Amish Tripathi is definitely one of them you should read. You will mostly love his writings, though at times you would want a more fast moving and engaging storyline – but this is a challenge with long multiple book series where it is inevitable that drag comes in the narrative.
As a reader, my humble request to the author who has read the literature of India in its original form to share a reading list in both regional and English languages so that the readers also may be inspired to read!!