Category Archives: Mythology

The Code of the Manavas by Arpit Bakshi – a book review

  • Language: English
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Publisher: Rupa
  • Genre: Foreign Language Study
  • ISBN: 9789353041205, 9353041201
  • Pages: 295

The author in this first of the series has tried to go into sci-fi mode with the background of mythology and it looks like reading the past into the future. Ideally as we are looking into an uncertain future, take the Mars Mission for example, it makes it imperative for humans to look for new vistas of emigration if I may use the word.

Here it’s the same with Krishna and team trying to save the world Bhoomi while there is big hack happening to destroy the earth. The pace could have been better and its gets more technical and things like that for sometime, that the story could have been faster is obviously at the end.  Ofcourse even for the protagonist the time is of the essence.

As the story gathers pace we are waiting for some real happenings that could change the way for the better. There is a lot of things which could have sped up the pace of the read.

A good attempt but lags behind in pace and somewhere is a retelling of some of the Mahabharata instances straight with names so similar its hard to negate that feeling.

Look forward to a tighter leash in the next edition of the trilogy.

Senthilkumar

RAMAYANA VERSUS MAHABHARATA – My Playful Comparison by Devdutt Pattanaik – a book review

RAMAYANA VERSUS MAHABHARATA – My Playful Comparison

  • Language: English
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Publisher: Rupa Publications India
  • Genre: History of Religion, Hinduism, Theology and Philosophy of Religion
  • ISBN: 9789353332303, 9353332303
  • Edition: 2018

This is a laborious exercise ideally because the context is different. The other side of the comparing these two works is tough because they are totally having different approaches to target segment. It also is important to understand the length and breadth of the story are widely different. The fact that the characters continue to Mahabharata from Ramayana is also a pointer to the similarities and how they are a continuous set of instances that make this grand story come alive.

I read with interest the snippet like comparisons by Devdutt Pattanaik where he has put it as My playful comparison, (still wonder why it’s playful) there are enough and more comparisons you could take away right from the childless fathers in Dasaratha to Shantanu to sorrowing parents in Dasaratha to even Pandavas after the war.

We also get to see quite a few instances in terms of geography and history or the narration by rishis, etc.

But given that author has taken liberty for the time of the authorship of both the epics, I would have loved to differ. For example, the Big Temple in Tamilnadu is over 2000 years old and the devotional movement in their time was as big as anything that is covered elsewhere.

One more I noticed was the Greek and Buddhist comparisons, that are totally different and the context in which those thrived also makes for comparisons.

I was also not able to see the Ram vs Krishna connect or comparison here. That would have made it all the more interesting since the author has given very few instances of the comparison in a perspective of things. Those are the celebrated characters in the whole scheme of things. That Mahabharata has a Bhagavad Geetha in it has not be taken into consideration.

I think a body of work of such grandeur and vastness in both cases inspite of being in Sruthi mode thats hear say to being written so well after long, will constitute similarities with human beings and Gods in an intersection of game of life.

That women in both the epics have cast a shadow is irrefutable, that of Sita and Panchali, but then when you see these as just stories it would get you to this connect only. These are imageries for spiritual existance and at some places the author puts them concretely.

That there are multiple versions that have made these epics into a reckoning literature in their own right, this will also have its way of reflecting the time that the authors lived in.

Infact this is also happening now as we see multitude versions of Mahabharat and Ramayana from different authors and different perspectives from different characters than being rendered by Valmiki or Vyasa.

This is quite a study of contrast and yes you could open any page and read this in case you want to because like I mentioned earlier these are snippets and there are almost 56 instances that the author takes us through and they are small but important to note.

I am only cautious about some issues like Vedic period and Brahminism that the author takes undue liberty with. It’s like saying there was no gravity or something till Newton discovered it. One instance he says this is because of the Panini’s work of grammar came in at one certain point in time. I am unable to understand if that were the case would everyone be using the language without any sense till then. I think that is wrong way to reference the language part. Sangam literature in Tamil is far older in that case going by inscriptions.

Anyway an attempt in bringing the similarities which will continue to exist even today. You write a plot and then you can be sure that was there in Mahabharata or Ramayana.

One thing I have noticed is from giving the stories its due to now getting to liberal interpretations Devdutt Pattanaik has come a long way. Well you cant find fault with this its the way the epics have allowed itself to be retold.

Thank you Flipkart for sending in the copy and you can buy this here.

Senthilkumar

Vishnu by Subhadra Sen Gupta – a book review

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  • Language: English
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: RUPA
  • Genre: Fiction
  • ISBN: 9788129147370, 8129147378
  • Edition: 1, 2017
  • Pages: 48

So this is the second book in the series after Ganesh which has already been reviewed earlier.

Now I can foresee many more stories being told to kids this way and they don’t disappoint, and imagine the story telling with telling illustrations for kids and the setting is going to get better and enjoyable.

So here the author presents three different stories we normally identify with Vishnu the protector of the trio, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

In this land of India if you want to achieve seriously powerful weapons and sometimes even immortality there is an way to go about it and quite often the asuras or the opponents of devas as we know them, do it with finesse that they will end up with some of the best wishes granted to them.

So in the first story titled How to fool an Asura is that of Bhasmasura as his name suggest the asura with ashes, invoked Shiva and got his prayers answered and in that he wanted anyone he touches  with his hand to become ashes.

This as usual was a problem for the Devas led by Indra and they take refuge of Vishnu to somehow defeat Bhasmasura.

Vishnu takes the form of Mohini a beautiful girl and get to teach Bhasmasura and he being very happy about it continues to dance following the steps of Mohini,  till he puts his hand on his head without realising that he would burn to ashes.

The second story Sea of Milk  is that of churning the milk ocean and how Vishnu became the turtle and held the mountain for them to continue churning the milky ocean. He takes the form of again a beautiful maiden to get the advantage to the Gods.

The third story of Vamana is also a great one with the King Mahabali who is also an asura who gets to rule the world with his powers. But then it has to be stopped or else there might be a problem for the devas. When asked for three foot steps of land from Maha Bali, Vishnu covers the earth and sky with two steps and Bali offers his head for the third step.

So we have some nice stories that will enliven the kids during sleep time or when they are seeking fun.

The author has taken liberty to interpret things for kids and in a way it seems it suits the adult audience too. As for me, the kid at home seems to like it with the interesting illustrations and pictures that they identify with.

Tapas Guha has done a commendable job with his illustrations and the cover looks very nice.

Click on these links to pick the copy from Amazon / Flipkart.

Senthilkumar

The Story of Hanuman – Mala Dayal #kids #bookreview

the-story-of-hanuman-original

  • Language: English
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Publisher: Rupa Publications India
  • ISBN: 9788129137173, 8129137178
  • Edition: 2016
  • Pages: 76

Hanuman is an endearing character for all of us. Much to the delight of the kids his avatar has been retold with the kid like Hanuman or the Hanuman who is kiddish overflowing with innocence.

The story which we all know is vastly enhanced in presentation by the illustrations that are beautifully rendered by Taposhi Ghoshal.

The illustrations add the charm to the character that is already a lovable one, I must confess this pictures actually make Hanuman an adorable cute little God.

This book is a art manifestation of the story and the texts compliments the illustrations at times so well that you keep to the page. The kids also love the way the baby Hanuman starts flying into the sun to everything that’s been pictured so beautifully.

You can read this to the kids and also attest the same with the pictures.

For little grown up kids there is a test of what they have got to know of the story in the pages in between. I know its tough to put the whole story into such a small session but the author has been successful in bringing out the Hanuman that we all cherish from the kid to the one who helps Lord Ram rescue Sita from Ravana’s Lanka.

You will be happy having this copy and for sure this will be an entertaining retelling of one of the most loving stories ever heard for us. Being a parent now has made this book a must have / wonderful collection.

You can pick a copy of the book here at Flipkart / Amazon. Am sure you will thank me for this reco.

4 ½ stars out of 5 🙂

Senthilkumar Rajappan

Lanka’s Princess by Kavita Kane a book review

lanka-s-princess-original

 

  • Language: English
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Publisher: Rupa Publications India
  • ISBN: 9788129144515, 8129144514
  • Edition: 2016
  • Pages: 280

Lanka’s Princess is a tale of Meenakshi, the Surpanakha as we know her. The name sticking to her because of her nails or claws that she had on her fingers. The story is an exhaustive one which tells you about the troubled childhood. I could easily see the Kaliyuga version being played in teleserials and I am sure these guys can’t match to the cunningness and thinking that Meenakshi had.

This is a fantastic effort by the author, I am reading her for the first time. Mindblown by the intricacies and exhaustiveness of the narration, she dwells so deep into the psyche of the character called Meenakshi aka Surpanakha.

The scenes with her mother and her doting the father are real emotive ones that sets it in a contemporary age and it might look like the story of our neighbourhood. I am sure the Saas Bhau serials cant even come anywhere near in terms of cunningness that sets the tale across ending with Ravan.

What an intricate family relationship that Ravan and his family had across the spectrum including Vishnu as much as his Adhi Sesha being a part of Ravan’s clan. Its also a story that feeds on ambition and self praise and towering on the self and ego of one person Ravan and abetted by his sister Meenakshi who feels neglected since childhood.

Revenge is a kind word here to be used since we see how the flare up from small incidents take shape of a ill feeling that can destroy the person and all those around her. Its about the poison tree that people water forgetting things and eating its fruits later.

The characterisation of all the people in this tale is such an astonishing feature, be it Ram, Ravan, Lakshman or the heroine of this saga, Meenakshi. The story is a rivetting one and the language is very addictive in a sense that its easy to read and turn pages.

I loved the research behind this book and a new Ramayana played out in front of me, much to the discomfort that Sita wasn’t the primary reason for Ravan to wage a war. Quite often we do take the face value of the stories thats been given to us. The magic of the mythology that we have inherited is beyond compare especially because the characters of Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Bhagvatham have some common time travelling and relationships beyond their ages when they happened.

We see some of the best of Ravan, and the worst of Ravan and many many worsts of Surpanakha.

Some nice narrative on Kumbha who we hardly give the space he deserves. All we know was his six month sleeping / eating.

Absolutely a nice work in total, threw open some new perspective and changed the way you look at what happens when a woman thinks of revenge!

Thanks Rupa Publications for your copy and thanks to the Kavita Kane for this wonderful work and hope to read many more stories that needs to be told.

PS: The author Kavita Kane specialises in telling the stories of some of the important women in the epics thorough their first person account or through their eyes.

The Girl Who Chose – Devdutt Pattanaik

the-girl-who-chose-a-new-way-of-narrating-the-ramayana-400x400

 

  • Language: English
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • ISBN: 9780143334637, 0143334638
  • Edition: 2016
  • Pages: 112

I always say this, India is a land of charming story tellers and we will never get tired of telling them. The beauty of this land is the assimilation of the different cultures in the respective retelling of the biggest and impactful epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Devdutt Pattanaik comes again as a winner this time with the tale of Sita and how she chose five things for herself in her lifetime with Ram the prince of Ayodhya. It might have gone unnoticed why the story came about unless we think about it and see the reason around why Sita decided to go the forest with Ram and Lakshman, especially when she was just married and she has been the princess after all. She could have been sending off Ram to deliver the promise that his Dad made.

Again it was Sita during her days at the forest, who chose to cross the Lakshman Rekha, to give food to the ascetic who had come begging. It was a choice that had repercussions again simply because Lakshman had thought about it and drawn a line.

There are three more instances when she chose, get the book to read them and it is a delightful read the way it is presented. The story extends to the time of Luv and Khusha the twins of Sita when she is asked to leave the kingdom due to the way the gossip mongers have a field day.

The time she choses to make an entry into the fireplace is also a reminder of how the character has had an impact in terms of image being built around the royals vis a vis the rules and the fredom to choose.

Ofcourse the rishis and scriptures wanted us to see the characters in us as much as the story was told, here again the author has rekndled the efforts in us to reach out to the Ram, Sita and the Ravana inside us

Beautifully illustrated and narrated with short notes on the sidelines this is a wonderful book to introduce Sita as a woman who should be celebrated equal to Ram and Lakshman.

You will love this book to the core, enjoy it reading it loud to the kids too. Go ahead and take a plunge, there is subtlety in this and there is spiritual offering if in case you want to see it that way. Enjoyed reading this, and Devdutt Pattanaik has recreated the charm of introducing the characters with such conviction in story telling.

This is a part of Flipkart Sponsored Review Program. To buy your copies go here : The Girl Who Chose

Senthilkumar

Silent Valley – the reservoir of everything pristine…

This has been on the list and not that am a heavy traveller but I take the road leading to Silent valley whenever I am driving through the Palakkad Mannarghat Road. That has made me look through where I want to go.

This coupled with tales from friends have always had me in charm especially the way, the place is still intact or so they claim and I just want to witness the serenity and the overflowing green wetness they describe in just walking through the forest or getting your toes wet with small rivers across the valley.

Imagine this picture and I am sure you can imagine what I was trying to convey..

FOREST_BY_NIHAL_JABIN

Pic Courtesy By NIHAL JABINOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31595034

This is a no-mans’ land literally making it one of the most green spaces in the country with little to zero human imprint. The flora and fauna of the place are rich and some of them are in the list of endangered species.

It is one of the best case studies of human intervention and human might to conserve the forest and will remain so for times to come.

I would like to trek those accessible areas and places where we can just be the self. I am sure this place has the affinity to make you change the perception of life. Being in the midst of nature in a way that you cannot imagine.

It would be a great trip in the lap of nature and immerse yourself with the surroundings. I think this would be the real nirvana for a traveller who can see himself in the nature around him.

Imagining, I can actually feel the warmth flowing out of the wetness of the water and the music flowing through the rustle of the wind and brushing of the clothing against those green shrubs and twining climbers on the trees.

So its like I should get on this before I make the next trip on the Palakkad road which will not just be seeing the Silent Valley on the direction board but all the way ending up there in the lap of mother nature.

Ofcourse you need to check when you could visit and the ecosystem there is fragile as a glass you hold on a tight rope walk. But kudos to the project and people behind making this a one of a kind.

As a mythology fan this place has a Mahabharatha connect too. Well its the place where Panchali or Draupadi as we know her was in exile in the last year of their exile.

I am hoping to see the Macaque an endangered species, some antelope / deers and more of fauna and flora only at the Silent valley.

Pic Courtesy: http://www.nikhilchandra.in

I am sure this will happen sometime soon.

I am blogging about my dreams and passions for the Club Mahindra#DreamTrails activity at BlogAdda. You can get a Club Mahindra Membership to own your holidays!

Senthilkumar

Ancient Chants for Modern Living by Aatmanika Ram #bookreview

ancient-chants-for-modern-living-400x400-imaehphuebdh9hjz

Publisher Westland
ISBN-10 9385152602
Number of Pages 168 Pages
Publication Year 2016
Language English
ISBN-13 9789385152603
Binding Paperback

These are fast times and when you have ancient and modern in one single sentence you have a challenge. Here in this book Ancient Chants for Modern Living the author Aatmanika Ram takes us through a thoroughly and easy to digest research of Sholkas of the Ancient times and how we can leverage the same in modern day.

Personally for me, it was a memory down the lane, esp of the shlokas the ‘sahanavavathu’ as we chanted them at the start of every class in school, to the ‘thrayambagam yajamahe’ whenever we had someone have health issues.

It is to the credit of the author that she has deftly wielded the subject with finesse and clearly marked them as topics that would have an immediate connect with the readers.

The shlokas are from the ancient texts to the C Rajagopalachari’s Kurai Ondrum illai, all that have an impact even just by listening and the experience is elevated by having them chanted with proper pronunciation and at the right times.

You also have the yoga postures that you could add to your way of life to maximise the impact of these chants. The suggestion on the audio or video makes for a practical aspect of the book, but I think as a suggestion those should have been added as a reference in the chapters for the readers so it’s easy to follow. You never know our modern habits of skipping things for want of time.

These experiences as I see it has to be tested by individuals by following it very diligently so that they have a real healing effect, since these are always about the faith and the result will be there for all to see.

The challenge of the book is in its ability to cover a wide range of issues and presenting it succinctly, since I am sure the vastness of the ancient text given to its interpretations and commentaries are so huge. A great attempt has actually crystallised into a nice readable form and presented in a manner that its easy to read and easy to implement.

The temple visits could also be generalised since the same form of the God and Godesses are present across the terrain of our country though I am sure those mentioned will have more of spiritual benefit too.

A very concise presentation in what is supposed to be a big set of texts and easy to digest form, the chants should work magic in whatever endeavour you are trying to master or get in.

All in all a nice effort to introduce the importance of chants and the purpose led definitions for the common man who otherwise would be just looking at it from a third man’s perspective as an alien Sanskrit shloka.

For starters this is a very inspiring book that has the magic of healing in truest sense.

Senthilkumar

Ganesh by Subhadra Sen Gupta #bookreview

Ganesh

Welcome to the land of stories, the land which presented the Mahabharata the longest epic ever written. It has so many stories that we know of and so many stories that we don’t know of. Quite incidentally the book that we now are reviewing is of Ganesh.

Ganesh the son of Shiva and Parvathy is the celebrated God in Indian mythology and has expressions in being the remover of all obstacles and we know how grand is the celebration of Ganesh in Maharashtra which has come to symbolise the way Ganesh is celebrated.

The best facet of our Indian storytelling is you could have many an interpretation and many a twist and take in the way the story is presented. That’s the reason we have so many interpretations of Ramayana and Mahabharata.

In this book the story of how Ganesh lost his head is an endearing one. In south it was believed that Shiva was not allowed entry to see Parvathy by Ganesh since he was keeping a watch firmly doing what his mother told him to do. Never let anyone inside till I am done with my bath. Ganesh took this seriously and Shiva has no inkling that the child was Parvathy’s making and he when obstructed to see his own wife, cuts the lad’s head off in anger, only to be told by Parvathy that it her kid and he has done total injustice to the boy.

Now the elephant with its head towards the north was the alternative that we have as common. In this narrative we do have a big ceremony to celebrate and then there is the Shani coming and looking at Ganesh and he gets the head burnt. Therein lies the interpretation of Shani being a part of the story.

A classical story for night read for the kids and the way its has been illustrated makes for interesting read aloud stuff for the kids.

A new story and a new interpretation is always welcome. The kids I am sure will relish this illustrations and storytelling through the pictures.

Each of the four stories are embedded with nice instances that are easily assimilated by the young audience. The illustrations deserve a great appreciation that has the comic effect and also a story telling way.

The story of Mahabharata is also a nice one wherein Ganesh decides to pull off his tusk to keep writing on the palm leaves.

The illustration by Tapas Gupta add a very nice touch to the already fascinating story of Ganesh.

I enjoyed this book for kids and i tried keeping this book around kids and saw they were pretty involved because of the format.

The author and the illustrator deserve every praise for the work that they have done and it sure will be a great way to introduce them to Ganesh with stories that make for fun reading.

Stone or Statue

A stone lay there on the roadside,
None would care to look,
Nor was there any sculptor who took;
It to his imagined world aside.

It lay still for days unseen,
A burden for the earth it had been.
For all who saw it black and hard,
Had never tried to become a bard.

Time did pass, till one day a man;
Saw this large stone as everyone can.
But he saw something more in,
That into his dream world he took the stone in.

Then day and night he worked on,
Till he felt tired and torn.
And for days did he toil,
Like a farmer who does for his soil.

He carved and carved till,
It did his picture fill.
Then, one fine day when he finished-
The people gathered there were astonished.

All gazed and gazed, yet one
Curious, and worthy of none,
Asked the sculptor how he had been,
Able to see the form in the rock hardly seen.

Answered the humble sculptor “I see,
Also the Almighty Lord in thee”.

Senthilkumar R

(Based on stories – Circa 1993)