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Book Review: Sitayana by Amit Majumdar

Indian mythology is replete with stories; there are tales galore that are waiting to be told. Even when you think you have read a book and know it from cover to cover, there may be details that skipped your eye.

Our Indian epics – Mahabharata and Ramayana, with their voluminous takes on everything under the sky are not easy to master. Hence, with the new wave of writers trying to re-explore these centuries-old tales always fascinate me, and intrigue me.

And then there’s the problem of plenty – or should I say, too many? There’s a crowd out there – of writers and their own take on the epics. Some are good, some not worth the salt. To stand out in the clutter is a task that only experts can boast of. Amit Majumdar does just that in this book.

Sitayana stands out because of its simplicity. The story is not unknown, and the author does not intend to tread that path. It is the structure of the narrative and the use of language that sets this novel apart.

Sitayana tells the story of Ramayana from the perspectives of not only Sita but different other characters, from Hanuman to Mandodari, Lakshman and even the tiny squirrels. Although it is a refreshing change to hear the myriad voices in the epic, and how they would’ve viewed the events that occurred, it often came across as cluttered and break in the flow of the narrative.

Sita’s story begins in the Ashok Vatika, where she is imprisoned by Ravana. She is reminiscing her childhood when she lifted the might bow of Lord Shiva. The narrative fast moves to her Swayamvara. And suddenly we are introduced to Hanuman and Mandodari’s version of events.

For a book titled “Sitayana”, I was expecting Sita to be the ‘sutradhar’ for the entire story, which was not the case. While I did appreciate the hard work that went behind erecting this narrative from multiple perspectives, I fathom why Sita was denied the significance, she as the titular character deserved.

Apart from that disappointment, Amit Majmudar has not failed to impress the fan of Indian mythology in me. It is a herculean challenge to retell the story of Ramayana from the perspective of so many characters. And he has succeeded in his task. His creativity shows in the fact that the entire novel has the compression of a poem.

The biggest strength of the novel is in its language. Although simple, there are myriad little puns and references which are easy to miss. A careful reading, with care, would make even the mundane sentence appear magical. Therein lies the success of Amit Majmudar.

Sitayana, in the end, strikes a chord, not because it has a non-traditional world-view of a story well known, but because it captures the essence of Ramayana and places that before us without any pretence or rectitude.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

P.S. This review is part of the Flipkart Bloggers’ Affiliate Programme

 

DISCLAIMER: All Images Used In This Post Have Their Respective Copyrights

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Book Review: Ganga: The Constant Goddess by Anuja Chandramouli

River Ganga is the most sacred river of India. She is also worshiped as a Goddess in Hinduism and referred to as ‘Ganga Maiya’ in common parlance in north India.

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

DISCLAIMER: All Images Used In This Post Have Their Respective Copyrights

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