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Title: Ramayana - The Game of Life: Rise of the Sun Prince
Author: Shubha Vilas
Publisher: Jaico Publishing House
Price: Rs 250
After reading 'The Winds Of Hastinapur' by Sharath Komarraju, my interest in mythology piqued. There is something so fascinating about mythology, that keeps you glued to the book with its descriptions and depictions. Just like the Mahabharata, the Ramayana also has been re-told many times. I recently had read a condensed version of the original Ramayana but I was only too glad to read this one. Shubha Vilas's Ramayana is a series of six books, and 'Rise Of The Sun Prince' is the first book of the series. The cover of the book looks magical, with bows and arrows and brilliant hues of green, purple and blue. The cover casts a spell and soon you cannot wait to devour the book. I know the tale pretty well, but I wanted to see if this book does justice to the actual epic.
The book starts with the search of a Hero. Valmiki muni asks his guru Narada muni as to who is a hero. Can a hero be powerful and vulnerable at the same time? Can a hero be grateful and determined? Can a hero be beautiful and yet not be vain? Can a hero be everything good without a trace of the bad? This book is a quest to answer this question. When Valmiki was entrusted to write down the tale of the great hero, Ramayana was born.
Here, the hero is not Rama alone. Almost all the male protagonists are heroes who have well defined characters and hold up on their own, just like the original epic. Starting with Dasaratha and his wives and his quest for a male heir. The tale of the divine sweet is a well known one, but it is brought out beautifully in this book. Kaushalya, Keikeyi and Sumitra are shown to be beautiful and their tales arouse curiosity and tears at times. Manthara and her vicious mind makes a good chapter too. Dasaratha's sons and the meaning behind their names form a complete chapter in the book and is clearly the most interesting one. Shubha Vilas has done complete justice to Dasaratha's tale.
However, the real hero of this book remains the sage who battles demons within himself and turns from the angry sage Bala, to the spiritual Vishwamitra and his painstaking efforts to achieve the title of Brahmarishi! Vishwamitra stands out in the tale, when he takes Rama and Lakshmana under his guidance to teach them the various skills of battle and life. The narration is detailed, brilliant and life like. You can almost imagine it unfold in front of you like it did twenty years ago on the television. But this one is more modern, more colorful and honestly, makes more sense. This first book talks about the birth of Rama until his wedding to the beautiful daughter of Janaka and the confluence of the two mighty kingdoms of Ayodhya and Mithila. Ravana and his lecherous schemes do make an appearance, but is limited. I am fascinated by his character and look forward to read more of him in the coming books.
The best part of this book however remains the footnotes on almost every page that simplifies the wisdom and shows the reader a new direction. Even a person having no clue about this saga can read this book with ease. Each and every page screams out a tale on its own, which hold your interest throughout. Shubha Vilas takes times to build his characters giving ample spotlight to everyone, even if they only make a brief experience in Rama's life. Ramayana is primarily known only for the love story between Rama and Sita and her kidnapper Ravana. But the author here shows that this great saga is more than that. This book is supposed to portray a chapter of Valmiki's Ramayana called 'Bala Kanda', but it does more than that.
Vishamitra is the standout in this book, but the love story of Rama and Sita is damp. They look like they are infatuated with each other, rather than in love. The author uses ample words to describe their physical aspects but does not concentrate enough on their love. Maybe it shall be shown in the later books, but here the love story is a let down. Even though this book is written for the modern audience, there are some scenes that spell fantasy alone. I, being a practical reader who looks for logic every where, found it hard to digest a few over miraculous scenes. Some precise edition, and this book would have been near perfect.
Personally, I feel that six is way too big a number for a series. Probably Harry Potter fans would disagree, but I find it difficult to believe that a single story would hold the interest of a reader for six whole books. Probably three or max four books would have been sufficient to re-tell this tale. But going by the first book, it looks like the author plans to spend some good time on each and every character that has been a part of this epic. The first book doesn't disappoint, so hopefully the following books holds the interest of the reader. I received an autographed copy of the book for my review. The second book is called 'Shattered Dreams' and shall be out soon.
Verdict: A delightful read that teaches you one or two things about life, but only if you are interested in the genre.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
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