Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Book of Ram by Devdutt Pattanaik

I briefly mentioned 'The Book of Ram' here. That a book about a mythological religious epic should remind one of a modern-day fiction screen villain should itself should tell you that this is a very interesting book.

It isn't a retelling of the Hindu epic, if that is what you're thinking. The book very briefly outlines the story of Ramayan, but is mainly a study of the various 'versions' of what is essentially the same story. There are various anecdotes from the Ramayan which are extremely popular today which however are missing from, say, Valmiki's Ramayan. For instance, the reader would be surprised to find that although Shabari was mentioned in Valmiki's Ramayan, her offering of berries to Ram "is a later addition that appears in the Padma Puran traced to around the eleventh century".

Even more surprisingly, 'Lakshman rekha' (the line that Sita was not supposed to cross) is nowhere mentioned by Valmiki yet today, Ravan's trickery of Sita to step outside the Lakshman rekha, "forms an integral part of any Ramayan narration".

The chapters of the book are interestingly subdivided into exploring the various stories about the Ramayan from different points of view. Hence, the chapters have titles such as "Sita's Husband", "Ramayan's Protagonist", "Ravan's enemy" and so on and so forth.

What impressed me most about this book was that it often made me think about the Ramayan from a fresh perspective. This is a good book if you like reading about mythology.

I'll leave you with another interesting snippet from the book, taken from a chapter where the author compares Parshuram, Ram and Krishna, the three avatars of Vishnu in three different Yugas:

It is said that as Krishna, Vishnu balances the imbalances created by Ram. Ram created an imbalance by killing Vali, son of Indra, by shooting him in the back while he was engaged in a duel with Sugriv, son of Surya. To balance the score, when Vishnu descended as Krishna, he had Arjun, son of Kunti by Indra, shoot and kill Karn, son of Kunti by Surya, while the latter had his back turned and was busy pulling out his chariot wheel that had got stuck in the ground.

Chances are that you, like me, had always known of these stories separately but had never put these particular associations together. And this is precisely why I recommend this book.


Ridhi :) said...

If you liked this book- you'll love Yuganta. It is based on Mahabharat and has individual chapters dedicated to various characters from the epic. WIll certainly change the way you look at some of the characters/ incidents of the epic story.
p.s. get me the book on Sunday! :D

Shekhar said...

ridhi: Hmm.. will surely bring it along, but then I want Yuganta from you too. :P Wow, we've already started working on our b-plan. :D

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