Wednesday January 17, 2018

How modern was Indian Mythology? Read here the story of Ahalya-Rama that has power to transform society!

Ahalya is one of the Panchakanyas is believed to be the wife of Rishi Gautama, according to the Hindu mythology

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Lord Rama. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
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Hindu scriptures have always mesmerised people in India and people across the globe with its poetic verses. The detailing of the stories, powerful characters, interesting plots and much more are the qualities that make a reader glued to Hindu mythologies such as- Puranas, MangalKāvya. The stories might appear simple but when one delves deep, they can find the true meaning of the stories. Philosophers, Historians have agreed that the stories in the Hindu scriptures are layered and need to be analysed for better understanding. They aren’t just a random thought of the poets but the proper history of the ages.

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According to the Hindu mythologies, five Kanyas (Panchakanya) are mentioned in the texts, who established the bravery and strength of Indian women as an individual, apart from fulfilling the responsibilities of being a mother or a wife. Ahalya is one of the Panchakanyas who needs no introduction, as she is believed to be the wife of Rishi Gautama. The section of Ramayana that narrates about her, explains how three men affected her life.

Ahalya-Rama, Wikimedia Commons
Ahalya-Rama, Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Ahalya was described as the beautiful lady on whom Devraj Indra got attracted to, due to her charm. On one unfortunate dawn, Rishi Gautama went to the river for religious practices and Indra took the form of the Rishi went to Ahalya. Ahalya didn’t recognise the culprit and served him as she used to. When the clone was leaving Rishi Gautama saw him and Ahalya understood that she was betrayed. Not aware of the situation, Rishi Gautama accused his wife and cursed her to be a ‘stone’. In Treta Yuga, Rama accompanied by Rishi Viswamitra turned the stone to the living being and freed Ahalya from the curse, with the touch of his feet.

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For the better understanding of the history, one should delve deep to find the true meaning. Rabindranath Tagore interpreted Rama as a social changer who left the kingdom and palace to give people a more practical path to living in a better manner.

Ahalya, Wikimedia commons
Ahalya, Image source: Wikimedia commons

Rama and Viswamitra, believer of Karma or work came to the land of Ahalya. Haricharan Bandopadhyay’s Bengali dictionary gives the meaning of the word ‘Ahalya’ as a land which is unable for Hal (ploughing) i.e. an infertile land. From the story, one can interpret that the land (personified as Ahalya) was betrayed by Lord Indra, the Deity of Rain and the husband, the farmer who took care of the ‘land’ left her, which made her stone (meant lifeless here). Rama came to the ‘land’ and farmed on her which made the land fertile and green again. Here being fertile refers to being alive.

On the other hand, Kumarilbhatta interpreted rape of Ahalya by Indra from a different angle. He defined Indra as Sun, Ahalya as night and rape of Ahalya as the end of the night by bright rays of the sun. Thus it necessary to view the mythology as history and not blindly believing the poetic appearance of the texts.

– by Priyanka Saha of NewsGram. Twitter: @priyanka140490

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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.