Whenever I get the opportunity to read a book penned by Anuja Chandramouli I never let go of it. She is not only a bestselling author but has added a unique touch to retelling tales from Indian mythology. I have been her fan ever since I read her debut novel ‘Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince’.
The most striking facet of her books is the mainstreaming of lesser known characters – whether it is Kamadeva or Yama’s Lieutenant, Ganga or now Mohini. Anuja always gives a voice to the marginalised. And after the feminist touch in Shakti, and Ganga, Anuja brings us a forgotten LGBT character from the mythology – Mohini.
We are all aware of the legend of ‘Samudra Manthan’ and how ‘Amrit’ emerged from the sea. The Devas and Asuras were on the verge of another war over it, when Vishnu took the form of an enchantress and hoodwinked the Asuras. Set against this celestial quest for immortality, Anuja Chandramouli brings to life the tale of Mohini.
Mohini – the name itself means enchantress. We all imagine her as a seductive woman, blessed with extraordinary charm. She is a part of Vishnu, and yet she is independent in her meanderings. She enjoys her autonomy. With her beauty, she can easily enchant the mightiest of kings. She is desired by all, yet she is elusive.
With her lyrical prose, Anuja takes us on a journey of love, lust, desire. She explores the binaries of gender, bringing to light hitherto lesser known tales, which had got lost in the sands of time. Through her magical imagery, we get a fresh glimpse at stories, which we were all so acquainted with. One can always enrich their vocabulary while reading Anuja’s works.
Overall, ‘Mohini – The Enchantress’ is a fitting addition to the rich series of Indian mythological fiction that Anuja Chandramouli has created. It is worthwhile to revisit our rich culture, sans the dogmatic approach, and enjoy soaking in the tales of strong, independent characters, who refuse to be reduced to mere bystanders in the grand scheme of events.
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
DISCLAIMER: The Review Copy of the book was provided to me by the author
As per the myths, Ganga is the daughter of the mountain God Himalaya. Some ancient scriptures also say that the water of Ganga was created from the sweat of the feet of Lord Vishnu. Hence, a dip in the holy Ganga bestows helps attain salvation.
The need to bring Ganga to earth arose because of a curse on the dynasty of King Sagar. Kapil Muni, whose intense meditation had been interrupted by the sons of King Sagar, cursed them and reduced them to ashes. Only the holy water of the Ganga could free them from Patal and help them attain salvation.
King Bhagiratha, a descendent of the same dynasty, made it his mission to help his ancestors attain salvation. He underwent rigorous meditation and finally managed to bring Ganga to earth. As per the Hindu mythology, it is believed that when Ganga was flowing down to the earth from the heavens, the pressure of the water was so high that Gods feared that the entire earth might get destroyed by floods. So, Lord Shiva held Ganga in the lock of his hairs and released the water on to the earth in a controlled manner.
Ganga is then led by the Bhagirath to Rishikesh, Haridwar, Prayag, Varanasi, and finally Ganga Sagar, where she meets the ocean, reaches Patal, and saves the sons of King Sagar.
The beauty of Anuja Chandramouli’s book ‘Ganga: The Constant Goddess’ is that she humanises the Gods and Godesses. They are not bereft of human emotions. So, despite being a form of Shakti, she is jealous of her sister Parvati, who becomes the consort of Lord Shiva.
We are all familiar with the story of Ganga’s marriage to King Shantanu, which sets the ball rolling for the sequence of events in the Mahabharata. However, thanks to Anuja, now we know Shantanu was a reincarnation of King Mahabisha, and also gain knowledge about his history with Ganga.
More than anything, what keeps me hooked to Anuja’s books is the writing. The striking prose, luscious description – for example, “the silvery river wound its way sensuously through the peaks, glistening and lustrous as a string of pearls against the blackness of the rocky terrain” – and the free-flowing narrative will never let you lose focus.
Anuja Chandramouli’s Ganga is not just the one-dimensional Ganga Maiya whom everyone worships to cleanse their sins. She is a woman – a free-spirited goddess, who has her way. She is a prolific lover, a fighter and survivor and above-all, Ganga refuses to fit in. That is why Anuja touches upon the recent controversies surrounding #MeToo movement in her own style in this mythological fiction.
The deep philosophy inherent in this book makes it stand out. This is not just a ‘fresh take’ on mythology. No. Anuja Chandramouli, in her own style, has gifted us a new manifesto of feminism. It is also a spiritual guide to life – to keep moving, despite hurdles, come what may, beyond all setbacks. Just like the free-flowing water of the Ganga.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
P.S. The review copy of the book was provided by the author
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