Supernatural is a genre that attracts the attention readers worldwide. Indian folklore is richly blessed with tales of supernatural galore. There are many rituals and customs in different parts of the country which cannot be judged by the metrics of modernism.
‘Dance of the Spirits’ by Sanjai Velayudhan is a book which deals with one such ritual from coastal Kerala. ‘Theyyam’ is a ritualistic dance theatre that dates back several eras. ‘Theyyam’ involves ritualistic worship of deities in the open-air, and includes supernatural elements, mythical figures and men dressed in the form of animals. The dancers go into a state of trance during the performance and thus come closer to God.
This mystical dance form sort of sets the mood of the story. In the backdrop of ‘Theyyam’ the author gives us a message that one must always pay for their actions. This intriguing thought is explored in the 300-odd pages where we come across Krish and Maria.
Maria is a research scholar from the US who comes to India to study ‘Theyyam’. In course of time she meets Krish, who is also in town to write a book on the ancient dance form. They are both attracted to each other and the association takes a turn – for better or for worse, is for you to find out in the book.
Instead of the ‘whodunnit’ mystery format, the author went for the thriller mode, which makes the book more endearing. It is more engaging to read a narrative when you know the end but want to find out how events unfold leading to the ultimate climax.
The book gives us an insight into the myriad cultures and rituals that are still practised in the country. It allows us to delve deep into the traditions, alive for centuries, and finally delivers the message that it is not possible to change one’s destiny.
The language is simple and lucid, packed full with emotions. The beautiful descriptions of the ancient traditions will surely captivate the reader. The pages turn fast as the narrative moves at a brisk pace. It is indeed a fascinating work in the domain of supernatural writing in India.
Overall, ‘Dance of the Spirits’ by Sanjai Velayudhan qualifies as an apt book to read on a long train journey, or on a lazy Sunday afternoon, for a fantastic experience.
My Rating: 3/5 stars
P.S. I received a review copy of the book from Leadstart Publishing
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