Pen To Paper: Amar Chitra Katha's Influence on Cultural Understanding

Pen To Paper: Amar Chitra Katha's Influence on Cultural Understanding

Explore how these tales of mythology and tradition shape perspectives on a city steeped in history. From childhood favorites to modern reflections, delve into the enduring influence of these stories on understanding India's cultural heritage.

Shreya AroraUpdated: Tuesday, April 23, 2024, 07:24 PM IST
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Shreya Arora | Special Arrangement

As a young girl, one of my most cherished memories was Saturday morning reading hour. My pajama-clad self would wake up with a giddy sense of excitement, knowing that the hour after breakfast was reserved for reading time. Even better, I had complete agency in choosing what I wanted to read—from the Blumes to the Dahls to Noragamis—anything was fair game. I would scour my bookshelf, my little hands hungry to find my picks for the morning. More often than not, they would settle upon a small stack of books from the Amar Chitra Katha book series. 

Far more than just a comic series, Amar Chitra Katha wove an incredible tapestry of stories of mythology and tradition that defined ancient India. Interestingly, it was my mother who had introduced me to the series; she grew up reading them during her childhood days in the United States—a way by which my grandparents hoped she stayed connected to her culture. From the might of Ghatotkach to the divine beauty of the Apsaras to the majesty of Garuda, I found every character not only incredibly unique but equally inspiring. But perhaps what I loved most about the series is that it took me back to another time—a time when the beauty of India was vast, its power immense, and its possibilities boundless. 

Close to a decade later, I wake up yet another morning, curious about the day ahead. I am intrigued by the happenings today in a little town in Northern India called Ayodhya. I had only really heard about this town in the Amar Chitra Katha books, a city that was described as grand, energetic, and deeply significant to the course of history. No longer a little girl, I also know that today is a contentious day. A day that some will celebrate with fervor and others will fear. I hear conversations at home, on TV, over social media—with polarized views on the issues at hand. My ears listen, but my mind is confused by the layers of information and their complexity. 

My heart—something that I have always fallen back on—takes me back to the stories I read in the Amar Chitra Katha about Ram and the incredible challenges that he faced in his life. A king whose kingdom was taken away, and whose wife and children were also taken away. Such setbacks would have dispirited anyone and led them to become hateful and antagonistic. Despite this, Ram faced life with dignity, grace, and upstanding principles. Regardless of our religion or our political beliefs, Ram’s life itself carries core values that surely we can all learn from. Simply appreciating him as an icon and as an exemplary role model is perhaps when a new India will rise—a nation that is virtuous, wise, just, and glorious. A great country that all the heroes of the Amar Chitra Katha would be immensely proud of.

(This review is part of the winning reviews published in the Pen to Paper contest hosted by The Free Press Journal annually . This exclusive contest is open to teenagers only)

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