Bheem, Bharat, Prem Purana: Quick reads for Indian Mythology fans

Book Title: Bheem: Destiny’s Warrior

Author: Jyotin Goel

Pages: 287 pages

Publisher: Penguin Random House India

Price: Rs 250

Book Title: Bharat: The Man Who Built a Nation

Author: Dr. Vineet Aggarwal

Pages: 264 pages

Publisher: Penguin Random House India

Price: Rs 250

Book Title: Prem Purana: Mythological Love Stories

Author: Usha Narayanan

Pages: 272 pages

Publisher: Penguin Random House India

Price: Rs 299

The name Ashok Banker meant a lot of different things to me as a child; most importantly, he wrote his own serialised versions of the ‘Ramayana’ and ‘Mahabharata’. Short of snatching books on contemporary literature by Indian authors out of my hands, my teachers tried to get me interested in other books — namely age-old classics written by established authors, usually from outside the continent. Somewhere along the way came Devdutt Pattanaik, who made reading mythology hip and paved the road for many Indian authors to establish themselves in this novae genre. Today, books by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Amish Tripathi, Ashwin Sanghi, and Anuja Chandramouli, all stand tall in libraries and book stores. Here is a look at three new books in the same milieu.

The first book, ‘Bheem – Destiny’s Warrior’ is a novel by Jyotin Goel, a film-maker and author of books for children. In the story, an incurable virus born out of Mondadori’s hatred crosses over millennia and across species to ruin ‘vaanars’ and humans to avenge her loss in the epic battle of ‘Ramayana’. The blood of four human beings who are immune to this infection is literally the only antidote to the crisis. And Ashvatthama will stop at nothing to destroy this one chance that humankind has at its redemption.

The author brings in Bheem as the ace of the weak side — humankind. He places the legendary warrior in settings as complex as his character, makes him travel through time to reach the present century and forces him to take up the mantle of a heroic protagonist to protect the fate of humans. Other than his own peerless strength, and ancient weapons and spells in his arsenal, he is joined on his mission by some present-age humans and ancient ‘vanaars’. How they manage to save the day forms the crux of the story.

If you love fiction based on mythology, this quick read is a good example of a book to take on a train journey. As you read, the images race through your head helped on by finely etched details. You will be racing to keep pace towards the end of the book to meet the resolution head on.

Dr. Vineet Aggarwal, who has earlier written books about Parshuraam and Vishwamitra, trains his sight on the eponymous king of Bharatvarsh, the line of kings that extended to the Pandavas and Kauravas. The story begins after Parshuraam has purged the kingdoms of crooked kings and rulers, and a phase of rebuilding is called for. At such a time, the crown prince Dushyant meets the heavenly beauty, Shankuntala and falls in love with her and yet chooses to separate from her under trying circumstances. One portion of the book deals with this separation and the reunion of this royal couple. The following part deals with their son, Sarvadaman’s childhood under the tutelage of his grandfather Vishwamitra, his conquests and his transition to becoming Bharat, after whom our nation is named.

The seamless selection of these stories to be bunched together is commendable, as it is the author’s ability to paint these often-heard tales in a new light. The manner in which the story is built as if the characters of the protagonists is unique. The author’s interest in unraveling the meaning of Hindu rites and rituals such as the seven Hindu marriage vows and how he uses them in the background to light up the characters is distinct. The book makes me want to read the previous books by the author as well.

The Mills & Boon inspired cover of ‘Prem Purana’ ensured that I pick the book last. And it turned out that unintentionally I had saved a good wine to savour in the end. Usha Narayanan has put in major efforts to forage sagas deeply embedded in our ‘Puranas’ and folk tales of varied regions to write her own tales.  She begins the books with the Hindu God of beginnings, Ganesh, and his love for Brahma’s daughters Buddhi, Siddhi and Riddhi, and how he courted each of the three. That even ‘asuras’ love their consorts, may be a little too much is what the untold (at least to me) tale of Raavana and Mondadori reveals. Finally, the romance of Nala and Damayanti (the first Indian love story I have ever encountered) is an able endnote for a book on mythological love stories.

The author writes lucidly and fills the stories with such elaborate details that you will picture it all clearly. She also keeps the candle of hope burning for all who believe in the possibility of love and its unmatched power.

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