Archive for September 26th, 2011

I doubt if any of us grew up without hearing our Epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. I don’t know if it makes me sound like a non-believer, I was never entranced by Ramayana, I thought Rama was a pretty lame God. Please excuse my verbiage,  I DO believe in one eternal God just that some of the forms do not appeal to me as the others.  Anyway I stumbled upon the author Ashok K Banker and his version of the Epic Ramayana written across 6 volumes.

They were awesome to begin with and the author very lucidly narrates the Epic in his own imaginative style and he definitely has taken some liberties in certain sections, but the entire epic appealed to me in ways it hadn’t before. Rama as portrayed in this is such a down-to-earth Prince unaware of his divine qualities, yet a stickler to Dharma  and Sita is a TOTAL surprise, a warrior princess who teams with Rama in all the fights in the Chitrakutvan. The romance between the divine pair is so beautifully expressed and the Brahman power of Sage Vishwamithra and that of the princes is scientifically articulated. The portrayal of Hanuman – his everlasting devotion to Rama and the characterization of Ravana and his race, the general traits as such of the Vanar race and the surprise wisdom of the Bear race  – all are very vividly explained by the author.

The books in the Ramayana series are

Book 1 – Prince of Ayodhya:

This book introduces us to Ayodhya kingdom and the royal family. Sage Vishwamithra makes a grand entrance into the epic and introduces the Princes Rama and Lakshman to Greater deeds taking them to Bhayanak-van  and empowering the Princes with Brahman power to defeat Demoness Tataka and her sons. The Queen Kaikeyi characterization is awesome, though it is the dark side alone that is exposed, it leaves  a strong  impression in the readers of her involvement in the shaping of the epic.  Also Manthra is depicted as a spy to Ravana who plans to overthrow the King and reign over the mortal world as well. The author talks about a portal in the Earth to the nether world through which Ravana gets his hordes of Asuras. Ravana gets introduced pretty early in this author’s version. The way I see it, the author tries to bridge the gaps in the original epic with reasonable explanation to make the story line more plausible to these day readers. Like explaining the Brahman power endorsed to the Princes who are just mortals and that explains how young 16 year old Princes fight the Asuras. And Ravana’s portal into the Narak – Hell, explains the incursion of demons into the kingdoms – The upsurge of the Ravana’s horde is explained right in the first book setting a pace for the rest. The best part was towards the end of the book when Sage Vishwamithra coolly tells the Princes they have to stop over at Mithila before going to Ayodhya to attend their own weddings! 🙂

Book 2 – Siege of Mithila:

The second book is as fast paced as the first one if not more! I liked how the author depicts Sita – the Sadhu Sita I knew of, as a warrior princess in his version! She is not a damsel in peril as we are used to seeing her in Ramayana. The hero and the heroine meet in very unorthodox conditions in the middle of the forest fighting with Bearface and his allies! Sita is in disguise as a male-kshatriya when they meet!  Ravana appears as a suitor in Sita’s Swayamvar – that is a twist from the original! Rama’s first encounter with Ravana as an equal in the war also happens in this part and Ravana’s army is overthrown by the Brahman power of Rama. You would imagine what else would remain of  Ravana and his power, after Rama decimates the entire Rakshasa horde. But the best is yet to come.. 🙂

Book 3 – Demons of Chitrakut:

If I could name one book that was a little bit of a dampener for me in this series, I would say this is it. This action-packed book talks all about the happenings during the major part of the 14 years vanavasam of the Prince and how he befriends Bearface and his hordes and fights with the demons and asuras.  The best part in the book to me was the meeting between Rama and Parashurama and the author just hooks you into the incident and you are as good as an audience to the actual event! The narrative skills of the author are awesome and he spins such wonderful tales around the original Ramayana. Again I was impressed by the author’s portrayal of Sita – the warrior!

Book 4 – Armies of Hanuman:

This book starts with an end to the war between the outcasts in Chitrakut and the Asuras. The fight is quite nail-biting and vividly described from the eyes of Hanuman who is a silent spectator to the wild battle. You have to admire the author for his excellent rendering of the fight and the soulful dialogues between Rama, Lakshmana and Sita. The abduction of Sita happens in this book and also the transition of Ratnakar into Valmiki is beautifully narrated. After the abduction of Sita, the society of Vanars is explained in detail laying the footwork for the rest of the Ramayana. I have always been unimpressed by the Vali episode in Ramayana, but this depiction in the book shows that Vanar society has its own rules and ethics quite different from the human race, hence if I judge their actions from the human point of view, it may only seem wrong! My Patti would be upset in heaven that it took AB to convince me when all she asked of me was unquestioning acceptance when she related the story to me!

Book 5 – Bridge of Rama:

This book reveals to Hanuman his true form and he takes it quite well, if you excuse my saying so! One of my college friends always used to say she is actually a Princess and one day it will be revealed to all! 🙂 Though it seemed funny,  I have always wondered what it would be to discover you are a super natural!! For Hanuman to know about his divine lineage and his untapped strength and power, my God, only Hanuman could have handled it the way he did with such humility! 🙂 Of all the divine characters in the Ramayana, Hanuman is my all-time favorite. I can never imagine someone having the kind of devotion he had for Rama, for anyone.  The making of the bridge by the Vanar force is amazing and the huge feat is accomplished by a smart idea from a simple Vanar and now they have less than a day to reach Sita before she is executed. The book is so enthralling you would not want to put it down.

Book 6 – King of Ayodhya:

The final book and I was really sad to pick this one, as I knew the magic was going to end… 😦 To say it was a rapturing read is the understatement of the century. I loved the author’s depiction of Pushpak Viman, the way the Brahman power in the celestial ride can take the shape it desires and also acutely sense the thoughts of those in it. You have to read this book to know what I am saying. In fact the Pushpak Viman’s power is explained even in the Bridge of Rama, when Sita finds out where she is being held captive, still it is in this book that the full manifestation of its powers is explained. And how can I do justice to the awesome rendering of the final fight and encounter between Rama and Ravana, and how Ravana seems to have known the end always and how he explains this is how it is meant to be. He plants the seed of doubt in Rama’s mind when he asks him to take care of the twins. Or as my hubby thinks, he just says that to point to Rama that he has indeed taken good care of Sita and the safety of the twins in her womb is his gift to Rama. Anyway the magic of the six books ended and I really would love to read the author’s Mahabharatha whenever it is published.

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