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Book Review - ASURA, Tale of the Vanquished - by Anand Neelakantan


I managed to finish this book after 3 months of starting it. The initial few chapters are very slow, and lack pace. As I was determined to read this book, I managed to go through these somehow. And when Bhadra entered, the scene changed.

What is it about?

This is a re-telling of the Ramayana, told from a different perspective. This is the story of Ravana and his people, the Asuras. The narrator is either Ravana himself, or a brilliant new character created by the author - Bhadra. Bhadra is a common Asura, meaning the one belonging to the original inhabitant race of India. Unlike the usual versions wherein the Gods or their incarnates are portrayed as the ideal beings that walked the Earth, this one is a welcome change- more realistic, and you can relate to the characters on many occasions. 

Some of the facts/situations etc. are new. Sita is depicted as Ravana's daughter as per the Jain version of Ramayan. The Asuras are depicted as being the highly civilised race compared the barbarian Devas. And Ravana is the champion of the Asura cause. It traces his life-story, from being a half-caste boy whose mother struggled to feed the family, to becoming the greatest Emperor the Earth had seen, to the father who yearns for his daughter and loses his life in the process. 

Ratings: 8.5/10

Negatives:

*A tad too slow, the pace could have been a little faster

*The proof reader SHOULD have done a better job. (for ex., someone cannot be "struck" on an island)

*Many sentences are unnecessarily repeated, which could have been avoided

Overall, a fine book with a fine essence of mythology.  Many pertinent questions that I asked as a kid to Grandma (Why did Ram leave his wife if he was so ideal?), have found a plausible explanation here. Many ideas suggested are totally relate-able to the present day (corruption, morals, ethics etc.).

It can be considered a must-read for those interested in mythology, and for those who aren't- this could be one book to begin with.

Quoting from the book:

“For thousands of years, I have been vilified and my death is celebrated year after year in every corner of India. Why? Was it because I challenged the Gods for the sake of my daughter? Was it because I freed a race from the yoke of caste-based Deva rule? You have heard the victor’s tale, the Ramayana. Now hear the Ravanayana, for I am Ravana, the Asura, and my story is the tale of the vanquished.”

“I am a non-entity – invisible, powerless and negligible. No epics will ever be written about me. I have suffered both Ravana and Rama – the hero and the villain or the villain and the hero. When the stories of great men are told, my voice maybe too feeble to be heard. Yet, spare me a moment and hear my story, for I am Bhadra, the Asura, and my life is the tale of the loser.”
(Sourced from here)


Comments

  1. Thanks for the review...it is nice. The tradition of Ramayana and Mahabharata, two great epics of India, are perfect example of oral story telling tradition. As it goes with this tradition, the content are added by each story teller...So you will find different versions of the same theme all over Indian sub-continent and indeed fascinating..

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    Replies
    1. Thank you ppkya! Yes, so many versions but ultimately with a common message. I particularly liked this book as it's so relate-able, and quite refreshing from the regular versions of Ramayan.

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