From the thatched house of the poorest of the poor to the golden palace of the richest of the riches-this epic has unrestricted entry. From the Ghats of Benaras to the sand desert of Rajasthan- the hymns of the same epic make the evening air melodious.
The epic is Ramayana-a way of life to the billions of individuals.
Ramayana is not barely a saga of duty, love and revenge.
It is a story that takes you to a quest-from ignorance to knowledge,from darkness to enlightenment ,from untruth to truth.
It gives a new meaning to your life.
It will not be a superfluous if it is said that for every Hindu –Ramayana is a part of thought and living. To billions of individual Rama is the character who still inspires to frame the character and personality.
So much is the appeal of the epic to the masses, that in almost every region of India and of greater India-a local version accustomed with the culture and anthropological and geographical imperatives of the region do exists. In north India or in south India, in Indonesia or in Laos, in Cambodia or in Vietnam-existence of different versions till date only proves how immensely popular the epic is. There are more than 300 identified versions of the epic story.
If there are so many versions of Ramayana-then why Subha Vilas chose to write ‘Ramayana’-The game of life in six volumes? What is the utility of serving old wine in a new bottle?
True that there are many versions of the epic that still stands immortal defying time-but what I personally felt after reading Book1-of the six volume series-Rise of the Sun Prince that it is the pioneer attempt to portray the characters from the perspective of a blood and flesh human individual rather than a divine demigod. They have their moments of joy and of tears, have their moments of hope and of despair, have their moments of anger and of calmness and of same control. This has somehow added a unique character to the whole epic- the saga became all embracing where every exhausted soul can found moments of oasis, where every arrogant soul finds solution to his arrogance! it is very hard to mould your life in the path shown by a divine soul, rather it is easier to follow the footstep of a human individual.
In other words the epic turns out to be an answer to everything-not from religious viewpoint but from the perspective of humanity. And for the avid story buffs-the book is a staple meal –the storyline of the Valmiki Ramayana is never distorted and occasionally taking materials from Kamban’s Ramavataram in Tamil or sri Ramcharit Manas by Tusidas in Awadhi or folk tales associated with the story.
The first book is the Bala Kanda of the Valmiki Ramayana-where the epic hero Rama will be seen in the making. So let us take this journey with Shubha Vilas-to see the legendary hero to blossom.
From the prologue –the narrative of the writer is bound to mesmerise. Almost all of us know how the first verse was first created-the bathing of the sage, the hunting of the crane and the cursing of the sage to the cruel hunter in a melodious tone. But that much known story has taken a new dimension in the backdrop of emotional conflict of the sage
“No sooner he uttered the words; Valmiki realized the extremity of his reaction. He regretted having cursed the hunter on an impulse and allowing sudden rage to get the better of him.’ violence quintessentially defines a hunter. Why did I have to curse him?’ he admonished himself.”
The sheer beauty of the description is bound to amaze the reader; in simple language a beautiful landscape is drawn-presenting to the reader a visual delight. Take this example of Ajodhya-
“Ajodhya’s layout resembled the board game Astapadi, which means that the city was designed like a dice table, with wide streets running in eight directions from centrally located palaces. The densely populated city was filled with houses, no place was filled unutilized. Buildings were constructed on levelled lands,”
chapters are named in a way so as to enhance the interest of the reader-it is half battle won by the writer if his readers are interested even before having a glimpses of the story . Chapters like Ajodhya’s soul, Ajodhya’s body and ripple effect are examples of such naming. It is another fact that the stories are presented in a most fascinating way.
Let us take the episode of hunting of a boy by the king Dasaratha. In words of the writer, after the king visited the dead boy’s blind parents
“When Dasaratha told the couple of his dreadful mistake, their wounded hearts let out a curse. Dasaratha too, would die of the pain of separation from his son. Dasaratha fell at their feet, begging for forgiveness. Alas, those were the old parent’s last words before they joined their son in his pyre.
A despondent Dasharatha returned to Ayodhya. He had learnt a very important lesson: Never to let passion prevail over reason. He vowed that day never to practice sonic archery, let it bring upon another painful curse and even more painful memories.”
Here we are going to introduce another uniqueness of the book –the footnotes. They are like pearls –offering valuable teachings of life that are essential to enlighten the soul. For example the teaching of the story enshrined in the footnote is-
“To lament for one’s mistake is important, but far more important is to learn from the mistake. To make mistake does not imply lack of intelligence but a lack of foresight. Not repeating a mistake is a sign of intelligence.”
Multi layered human emotions are depicted in a beautiful way by the writer. Let us take our reader to the hermitage of sage Goutam-where Indra, charmed by Ahalya has come to make love with her, transformed into her husband.
“Although in her head, she battled hard to fend off the raging passion, she eventually succumbed to temptation unable to curb her uncontrollable lust for Indra or resist his ardent advance.
When all passion was spent, Ahalya realized the horrible reality of her actions; she knew she had sinned. Soon the burden of guilt weighed down on her lust for Indra. She tore himself away fro the demigod and urged him to leave right away, least her husband came and destroyed them both.”
Characters are elaborated in such a way so as to offer rare insight not only into the character but also the teaching of life associated with it. For example the characterization of Tataka demon is quoted below
“Tataka represents ignorance or avidya. Ignorance seems from lack of knowledge and results in a life without a conscience…..the solution to darkness is light, similarly the solution to ignorance is knowledge. The light of knowledge illuminates dark hearts, which leads to the development of conscience.”
In spite of that the thrill and adventure of the Ramayana is preserved throughout the book. Not only it is preserved, but also enhanced manifold with the skill of narration. Let us take this fighting scene
“With Maricha gone Rama choose yet another missile named agneyastra, endowed by Agni, the fire of God. He released it at Subahu, who instantly burst into flames and turned into a heap of ashes. With their leaders dead, the other demons began to run pell-mell. Not wanting to leave even a single source of negative power alive, Rama pulled out the Vayavastra,the missile empowered by Vayu. The missile decimated every single one of the demons. The war was finally over.”
The war may be finally over-but not the ripple effect that this book is going to create in your mind is far from over. To be honest this is a never ending phenomenon – every time you read the book, you are going to discover something new, something unique, something that can take to a new quest.
It is an absolute delightful read that demands reading this book again and again and again…..
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