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Ancient caste system not attributed to one’s birth: Amish Tripathi

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New Delhi: When India is still in agony about the Dalit research scholar’s suicide, the best-selling author Amish Tripathi is trying to convey the message that in ancient India the caste system was not rigid and was not attributed to one’s birth.

Tripathi, who deftly weaves in threads on women’s empowerment and the caste system in his interpretations of Indian mythologies, preferred to reserve his judgement on the Hyderabad University issue since it’s under investigation.

But he concedes that oppression continues despite the progress country has made in the last almost 70 years since independence.

Rohith Vemula’s death on January 17 in Hyderabad University after being suspended for allegedly assaulting an ABVP leader has resulted in mass protests across India.

“As far as specific incidents are concerned, learning from the Delhi church attacks and Ranaghat nun rape case (in West Bengal), it turned out the incidents were not how they were portrayed; so we should stay calm and wait for an investigation to conclude.

“At a broader level, there is no doubt oppression does take place. We have made improvements in the last 70 years but there is still a long way to go,” Tripathi, who burst onto the scene in 2010 with the popular Shiva trilogy, said in an interview during the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet.

The banker-turned-writer had some huge success like “The Immortals of Meluha”, “The Secret of the Nagas” and “The Oath of the Vayuputras”  based on Shiva trilogy. His latest “Scion of Ikshvaku” is the first book in the Ram Chandra series – his take on the Indian epic Ramayana. The second book is in progress and talks are on for movie adaptations.

“In my books, I actually speak about the caste system. If you see the genetic research that is coming out, it’s very clear the caste system was not based on birth. In ancient times it was not rigid,” the 41-year-old IIM-Calcutta alumnus contended.

As examples, he says Maharishi Valmiki who wrote the Valmiki Ramayana was not Brahmin born.

“The Maharishi who composed the Mahabharata, who compiled the Vedas, was not born a Brahmin, he was born to a fisherwoman. He became a Brahmin… not just a Brahmin… he became a rishi (sage),” Tripathi underlined.

In addition to the textual proof, he also lays strong emphasis on current genetic research.

“Research shows till around 1,900 to 2,000 years ago, there was heavy intermingling in India between all groups. That’s the first sign of caste system… there is no inter-marrying. Something happened between 1,500 to 2,000 years ago when the inter-marrying stopped. So some people assume that is when the caste system became rigid.

“In ancient times, most of the evidence points to the fact that the caste system was actually not rigid and that is what I am trying to bring out in my books. It was not based on birth. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna clearly says: I created the four varnas based on ‘guna’ and ‘karma’ based on your attributes and on your karma, not on birth.”

Ascribing his knowledge of mythology and scriptures to his family (his paternal grandfather was a pandit and taught at Banaras Hindu University, his maternal grandmother was also a teacher), Tripathi admits his love for India doesn’t mean he can turn a blind eye to issues that need to be dealt with.

“I am a deep patriot. I love my country but I also believe patriotism should not blind us to the things that need to be improved and, of course, one doesn’t like to be told about our country by Westerners, most of them likely have no love for our country; they just want to come and judge us.

“There’s a difference in the attitude of someone who deeply loves his or her own country and there are things which he feels needs to improve,” Tripathi signed off.(IANS)

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The Scion of Ikshvaku: A retelling of Ramayana by Amish Tripathi

The book is simple yet written nicely. It can get you engrossed right away. Everything is explained well, it is graphic enough for a reader to play it as a movie in their head.

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'The Scion of Ikshvaku' is based on Ramayana, though it deviates from the original epic. Wikipedia
'The Scion of Ikshvaku' is based on Ramayana, though it deviates from the original epic. Wikipedia
  • Amish Tripathi’s ‘The Scion of Ikshvaku’ is a retelling of Ramayana.
  • The book is a surprise to all the readers who think that it will follow the conventional story line.
  • The book has garnered good responses and has also built anticipation for the other ones in the series.

Amish Tripathi is famous for taking elements from Hindu mythology and adding his own imagination to concoct exciting and thrilling reads. His earlier books on Shiva got rave reviews. And now he’s back, and this time he is retelling us one of our favourite mythological stories. The story of Ramayana.

The first book of the Ram Chandra series by Amish Tripathi, The Scion of Ikshvaku, was released on 22 June 2015 after what seemed to be the most expensive promotional drive for a book, which even included YouTube trailers.

Akshay Kumar at the cover launch of 'The Scion of Ikshvaku.' Wikimedia Commons
Akshay Kumar at the cover launch of ‘The Scion of Ikshvaku.’ Wikimedia Commons

How much did Tripathi succeed in retelling us the story of Ramayana? 

Amish Tripathi knows how to mix mythology with his plots, but how accurate was his mythology this time around? For anyone who knows the Ramayana and expects ‘The Scion of Ikshvaku’ to be the same, must prepare themselves for a shock.

But for those who know how Amish Tripathi goes with his stories, the book will meet all their expectations, for Amish knows how to bend and create a story.

His literary style is nothing classic. Many people don’t even like it, but one cannot help but admire how Amish always manages to create new stories from old, rusty ones. He has an exceptional ability to keep the essence of mythological tales while spinning wildly deviant plots around them.

The narration in ‘The Scion of Ikshvaku’ is very good, with crisp dialogues and suspense which was aptly built up paragraph through a paragraph.

Amish builds upon the epic Rama, in a very un-Ramayana like manner (He never used the word ‘Ramayana’ which is very clever of him). The differences with the epic tale are apparent right where he lists the major characters. Ram is just another human hero and the story is devoid of any magical elements.

The first and greatest difference between the Ramayana and The Scion of Ikshvaku is the depiction of Ram as an unloved prince. His father, King Dasaratha, considers Ram inauspicious and reason for all his misfortunes. The very foundation of the epic is laid differently in the story.

Many characters surprise us we move forward with the story. For example, Manthara instead of a poor handmaiden is shown as the wealthiest businesswoman of Ayodhya in Amish’s world.

Another example is Sita, who Amish appointed as the prime minister of Mithila in his story. Ravana also only has one head in Tripathi’s version, though with a horned helmet.

Amish Tripathi, the author who knows how to bend mythology to create amazing stories. Wikimedia Commons
Amish Tripathi, the author who knows how to bend mythology to create amazing stories. Wikimedia Commons

The intrigue deepens as we read further into the story. Amish has played with this epic and has made it into a story which surprises us at every turn of event. It is nothing like we would think it would be.

Amish is unapologetic about all the changes he made in mythology and that is his USP.

The book is full of examples of Amish’s imagination, but it is for the reader to find them and judge them. The author has packed his book with all the necessary drama-action-comedy masala, the combination which always gets guaranteed success.

Honestly, the book cannot claim any literary merit, but Amish’s easy prose and page-turning style are designed to be enjoyable, not analyzable.

The book is simple yet written nicely. It can get you engrossed right away. Everything is explained well, it is graphic enough for a reader to play it as a movie in their head. This s one book which once picked up, you won’t be able to leave until it is done.