Publishers - Jaico Publishing
Genre - Contemporary - Mythology
Paperbook - 217 Pages
Price: Rs 250
Available as eBook at Amazon Kindle Store
A common childhood memory for older generations is the faithful retelling of the Ramayana by the elders in the family and the gradual progression to reading numerous adaptations of the epic.
The current generation is probably more familiar with the basic story and concepts in comic form. While the mythological tale has been revisited countless times, every new rendition – fiction or philosophical lends a unique flavour of its own.
One such modern rendition combined with traditional theological elements is the first one in the book series - Ramayana - The Game of Life: Rise of the Sun Prince by Shubha Vilas
The book starts as every Ramayana narration begins; with the Bala Kandha or the childhood exploits of Prince Ram and his brothers. The book draws largely from the Valmiki's masterpiece but artfully weaves in the poetic analogies found in the southern version by Tamil poet Kamban and folk tales.
The book begins with sage Valmiki and rightly so. The original narrator is analysed in detail. This detailing of characters, their actions and situations that they face is something that is retained throughout the story.
Sage Vishwamitra, a unique personality in his own way, is accorded ample acknowledgement as both spiritual guide and mentor of the celestial Prince.
The lessons of childhood shape our future actions and the sage plays an important in moulding the character of the princes and helping them earn their rightful place.
Readers familiar with the tale are well aware of the father, king Dashratha - his hopes, foibles and agony. The same has been well captured in this narrative, as well.
The famous ceremonial fire and battlefield scene has been captured in all its serenity and pathos. As the reader watches the young Rama and his siblings grow up under the sage's tutelage, he/she is swept along by the immersive storyline. Every character gets a place under the sun including minor ones. The parts involving Ahalya and Sita move you and make you question the customs and traditions that dictate their lives.
The Ramayana is a serious but engrossing tale and the author provides a version that mirrors the original while retaining a unique voice. The book cover is attractive and draws you in. The author has adopted a simple but effective writing style. He handles the complexity of various situations with the ease of a skilled narrator.
The detailed explanation in the form of footnotes is a welcome addition. You learn and unlearn as you read some of the explanations.
As a neutral agnostic with a fairly religious upbringing, I liked the explanatory parts more than the preaching aspects. Seen from a dispassionate point of view, the book manages to motivate on a humane level through the "laws or key lessons" and provides a path of life that can be assimilated without adding colours of faith.
If you are seeking a mythological fiction series such as Ajaya: Roll of the Dice by Anand Neelakantan, you will be sorely mistaken.
The author Swami Shubha Vilas is a motivational speaker and spiritual seeker. His book reflects this; it is a modern rendition of the timeless epic.
I give this engrossing and intellectually stimulating book, a four star rating.