Mytho-Fiction Craze Sweeps Across India: Even Young Readers Can't Resist

Mytho-Fiction Craze Sweeps Across India: Even Young Readers Can't Resist

India is a land of history and mythology. Often, one finds, that the boundary between the two is blurred

Sapna SarfareUpdated: Sunday, June 09, 2024, 12:40 AM IST
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India is a land of history and mythology. Often, one finds, that the boundary between the two is blurred. Indian authors, in the last decade, have explored both, mingled both and been creative. Mytho-fiction based on rich Indian mythology/history has been on the rise. It is interesting to note that the young readers in the country are quite smitten.

The rise

Author and screenwriter K. Hari Kumar specialises in regional folklore, mythology, and horror. His latest offering, Daiva: Discovering the Extraordinary World of Spirit Worship, discovers the folklore and mythology of Tulunadu. He calls the country’s vast and diverse mythology an endless source of storytelling with variations. “Mythology is deeply interwoven into the cultural fabric, revered by many readers. Iconic epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata resonate widely due to their exploration of universal themes and timeless human emotions. Most of the Indian authors are well-versed in Indic languages and culture. This deep cultural understanding allows them to weave compelling narratives that resonate with modern readers.”

Shailesh Sawlani, Country Manager, India – Audible, seconds Hari’s views. "With the convenience and accessibility of audio streaming services, previously unexplored characters and familiar tales retold in novel ways have found great favour among contemporary listeners. Epics and classics created as audiobooks such as Shrimad Bhagwad Gita (Hindi Edition), Shiv Puran (Hindi Edition) and Mahabharat Katha were among the top five Hindi audiobooks on Audible in 2023. This rising interest in mythology can be attributed to the listeners’ desire to reconnect with their cultural roots.”

He opines the mythic-fiction genre is getting attention thanks to authors putting new life into ancient tales, along with elements of fantasy and adventure. “A few examples of popular mythic-fiction titles on Audible are Kevin Missal’s Kalki Trilogy, Durga, Prahlad, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Forest of Enchantments, among many more. In addition to these, recent films and series such as Brahmastra, Shakuntalam and Asur, too have strong influences of mythology blended with fiction and have witnessed great interest from the masses. This reflects a growing appreciation for newer narratives that blend traditional storytelling with contemporary thought.”

Sundar Nathan is the author of Ravan’s Trial. It is a revisionist myth-fantasy thriller and the story of Ravan, Surpanakha and Kumbhakarn as teenagers who battle Indra and the devas. He mentions, “This blend of the old and the new provides a bridge between generations, making mytho-fiction not only a literary success but also a cultural phenomenon in India. It taps into the universal themes of good versus evil, duty, morality, and the nature of power, all framed within the colourful and diverse pantheon of Indian mythology. This approach has not only catered to domestic readers but has also attracted a global audience, eager to explore these universal themes through the lens of Indian culture.”

Young readers

These books can also be a way to explore our heritage for the young generation. Sawlani reveals. “It has the power to spark curiosity among the audiences and seek a deeper understanding of their roots. This is why mythic fiction titles continue to gain popularity among readers and listeners alike. Not only do they entertain but also educate people about India’s rich culture. Additionally, when it comes to the audio medium, these audiobooks offer an authentic listening experience to the listeners, transporting them to a different world altogether.”

Nathan agrees. He thinks the genre is a springboard for young readers to get into deep exploration. “In this way, mytho-fiction books not only serve as entertainment but also as educational tools, helping to keep India’s rich mythological heritage alive for new generations.”

Hari adds, “To engage young readers, however, mytho-fiction needs to be packaged in a compelling way. Western fantasy currently dominates urban youth’s entertainment, particularly in film and OTT, with its larger-than-life characters and high production values. These vivid portrayals paint captivating images in young readers’ imaginations, providing a solid foundation for our mytho-fiction stories to truly come alive when they read it.”

He does feel authors and publishers can be the game changers here. “Finding the right balance between creative freedom and respect for the original myths is essential. As someone who’s writing a mytho-fiction series myself, I’ve experienced this first-hand. My editor and I have had numerous discussions to ensure the characters and their journeys resonate with young Indian audiences while staying true to the essence of our Puranas.”

Getting started

Nathan has a few suggestions for young readers to start their journey into reading mytho-fiction. “Starting with well-known authors can be a great entry point. Amish Tripathi’s Shiva Trilogy begins with The Immortals of Meluha and offers a gripping narrative that reimagines the story of Lord Shiva as a mortal man turned god. Ashwin Sanghi’s books blend mythology with historical and scientific angles, offering a thrilling exploration of ancient tales.”

He also tells readers to explore the retellings of epics. “Books that retell the epics can provide a foundational understanding of the characters and themes that are central to Indian mythology. In my

Ravan’s Trial, the story of Ravan as a teenager, are good starting points. Also, look for books that compile various myths and legends, such as Devdutt Pattanaik’s works. His books are accessible and provide insights into the symbolism and philosophies embedded in these stories.”

Joining book clubs or online forums and engaging with communities focusing on the genre for better understanding and appreciation is always a good starting point for any genre and Mytho-fiction is no differnt.

Mytho-fiction is here to stay and a genre worth exploring.

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