Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Prince of Ayodhya - Book One of the Ramayana

Author:        Ashok K. Banker
Published:  2005
Publisher:   Penguin Books India
Paperback: 534 pages


The story of  Ramayana takes me back to my childhood days when I  used to repeatedly hear it from my grandfather who was a great storyteller. His vivid narration had a deep impact on me and I myself at the age of 5 or 6 started telling the story of Rama to whoever cared to listen and appreciate!
Nowadays I prefer Mahabharata to Ramayana since I think the characters in the former are more realistically portrayed.  However  this book - Prince of Ayodhya : Book One of the Ramayana -  written by Ashok Banker has rekindled my interest in Ramayana enough to look forward to reading its sequels too.
I had always thought of Ashok Banker as a pulp fiction author and had not cared to read any of his books.  I could not have got to reading even this, had I found the book - The Immortals of Meluha by Amish Tripathi  - I was looking for in the library.  Tripathi's book has received good reviews for its contemporary treatment of Lord Shiva's story. But it so happened that  "The Immortals of Meluha "was not available so I picked up this book instead since it seemed to be of the same genre i.e. modern interpretation of a mythological figure.
The book begins with the Author's note where he tells us how Ramayana came to be written by Valmiki and subsequently by many others who followed him, each adding their own interpretations and embellishments so that  " there are as many Ramayanas as there are people who know the tale, or claim to know it. And no two versions are exactly alike". Then Banker proceeds to say what was his motivation to add yet another version of this great epic to the literature. 
This volume deals with princes Rama and Lakshmana  being sent with Sage Vishwamitra to protect the yagna (sacrificial rites) he is performing from getting disturbed by  the Asuras. The princes successfully accomplish this mission by killing the demons Taraka and Subhahu. 
Now this is a bare outline of this volume. Banker through his creative imagination and interpretations has added sub-plots and incidents not found in any of the previous versions of Ramayana and has described them very vividly. This has bloated the size of the book to 500 odd pages based on this outline. Yet  not in any point of time while  reading it I was bored. This itself speaks of the author's story telling prowess.
Visit the Wikipedia entry about this book where plot summary and a section on how it differs from the original Valmiki Ramayana is provided.

Recommend this book for a light and entertaining reading. But definitely won't  recommend it to highly religious and pious people who look upon  Rama as a God. 

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