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
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
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