Do you love reading books?
To me, reading is leaving this real world and going into the world created by the author! And thats why watching movies adapted from books makes me want to kill the maker! It is just not possible to do justice to a well-written book by making a movie out of it!
These past few days, I have been gobbling up Ramayana series by Ashok Banker! And reading 8 book series took me …. …. around 8 days 😀 I can’t put a book down after taking it up!
I know its a bit too late for a review and that the first book came out in 2003 and the last in 2012 but yours truly didn’t know of its existence till 2014!! *sheepish* But nevermind! I will still go and rave about it!
Ok. So the series consists of 8 parts:
Prince of Ayodhya, Siege of Mithila, Demons of Chitrakut, Armies of Hanuman, Bridge of Rama, King of Ayodhya, Vengeance of Ravana and Sons of Sita.
Almost all Indians know bits and pieces of the epic and those who stayed with their grandparents know more than that. I stayed with grandparents and an hour every afternoon was dedicated to epics like Ramayana, Mahabharat and various other mythological stories. Plus, who hasn’t seen the Ramayana series on television?
What was different in this series is the way it is depicted. In the last part “Sons of Sita”, Rishi Valmiki is the guru of the sons, Luve and Kush. He tells them of the travels of Raja Ramachandra, literally rama-yana. When they begin judging the king, Rishi Valmiki tells them that it is not possible to know what someone does, why they do so, what led them to the decision unless the one passing the judgment has walked in the padhuka (shoes) of that person. And that Ramayana, which was indeed written by Valmiki, is only a perception of Rama and his travails which Valmiki had.
The author (Ashok Banker) writes in his preamble about the Ramayana that Valmiki had written and the stark contrast with later adaptations like Ramcharitmanas, which was the basis for the famous television serial. In Valmiki Ramayana, King Dasarath has 350 untitled wives or concubines (meaning women who live with a man having lesser status than wives) which was deleted in the later versions or adaptations of Ramayana! He says that in Valmiki Ramayana, Rama is shown as a great man, but a man nonetheless, while in various adaptations, Rama is shown as a God! In Valmiki Ramayana, Rama and Sita converse as equals, adaptations make it different where Sita is shown revering and praying to her husband. There was no Lakshman-rekha in the Valmiki Ramayana, which is crossed by Sita! While in the adaptations, we see that Sita crosses the Lakshman rekha and hence, by violating that rekha (line), she is kidnapped by Ravana!! Isn’t it bewildering?
What made me thinking and what I am still thinking about is how much do we really care about real epics? The ones written originally? How do we know that the facts were not distorted in later versions? We are made to believe that Sita violated the Lakshman rekha and hence, she was kidnapped! This somehow sounds like women are supposed to stay within the lines drawn out by others, or else they face consequences! Doesn’t it?
I do not wish to make this post about equality and relating things but the thing that concerns me is that I want to read the original! The way it was written!!! So to know, how people thought then. I suspect, it must not be very different from today. Afterall, all epics are about war between good and evil. So was Ramayana. And even today, there is good and there is evil.
Ok enough of that banter! Now, my take on the book.
Its a refreshing read. The author has tried to keep a fine balance between originality of the epic (that is, the various “originals” including the ones where some of the above mentioned facts were distorted, or so they say) and his imagination. I would read it again, someday.
And it certainly made me want to read the original Valmiki Ramayana, which is not available on the face of this earth! So, something as close as it can get to the original! It has been centuries since the epic was written! The preamble itself is enough to open my eyes to think how much must have been twisted in these many centuries!
I just wish, I so wish, I can get my hands on original epic!! It must be so insightful!