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October 1, 2013 / subramanyam

Book review of Asura

          When Parag from the Lead start publishing asked me to do a review of the books published by them, I did not know what I was getting into.  I just accepted it. They sent me  two books and you all read  the review of Arjuna which is the previous post on this blog.  I loved that book very much and would rate it as one of the best books I ever read. (You must have got it from the review itself.)

          The second book is “Asura”. Written by Anand Neelakantan this book says that it would re-tell Ramayana from the perspective of the vanquished.  The blurb on the back cover of the book says

“The epic tale of victory and defeat… The story of the Ramayana had been told innumerable times. The enthralling story of Rama, the asuraincarnation of God, who slew Ravana, the evil demon of darkness, is known to every Indian. And in the pages of history, as always, it is the version told by the victors that lives on. The voice of the vanquished remains lost in silence. 

But what if Ravana and his people had a different story to tell? The story of the Ravanayana has never been told. Asura is the epic tale of the vanquished Asura people, a story that has been cherished by the oppressed castes of India for 3000 years. Until now, no Asura has dared to tell the tale. But perhaps the time has come for the dead and the defeated to speak.”

          Before proceeding any further with review let me tell the reader that Ramayana has always been an inspiration for me and I indeed worship and look up to Lord Shri Ram and his ayana ( ayana means moving, we can say walking in one sense, so Ramasya ayana is Ramayana. ShrimadRamayana for all of us).  Having read the blurb and my inclination towards ShrimadRamayana it is up to you to read further or leave it here.

          After reading the blurb I honestly felt that this book is going to give us a different perspective of Ravana and we could see the things as visualized by him. However, after reading the first few pages I started searching for appendix and references if there were any, for the start of the book itself was completely different from the Ramayana I read. Leaving Ravana’s body to Jackals and other animals to prey is a blatant lie and was not told any where before.  I realized that this is pure fiction when I read the author’s note and realized that the author is taking his own liberties. 

          Ravana and Bhadra  narrate the story in the book and they speak about themselves and the way they see the world.  Ravana speaks for himself while and his actions while Bhadra is the guy who loathes Ravana, Devas ,Rama ,Brahmins  etc .   While there is enough rant against Lord Rama,  Ravana is also vilified quite a bit.  In his no holes barred attack, the author vilifies Lakshmana, Vibhishana, Hanuman….. name a character that  looks positive in Ramayana and you see him/her getting vilified here.  Then the potshots on Dharma, vedic rituals and Brahmins are also there.  Well if he comes up with the depictions in mythology and argued on the basis of things presented there , it would have been good. Hurling baseless accusations is not correct from any standpoint. 

          I think the author subscribes to the Aryan-Dravidian conflict theory , which was a very intelligent ploy of the west to divide India. Many historians have junked the theory already; however there are a few who still subscribe to the idea and create further divisions in the already divided lot of the nation.  Coming back to the book, the author brings this theory up in a different way where he says that devas on horsebacks came and destroyed what was supposed to be a grand Asura empire that was widely spread all over India.  Then the book also has a very strong anti-brahmin rant.  I was feeling disgusted after a certain point of time and was wondering like…. “what makes the author loath Brahmins so much ? ” Any Brahmin reading the book would feel bad about the depiction of Brahmins in the book .   Anything that comes from north and has got to do with Brahmins is scorned at.

          The author has taken a lot of liberties in churning out his ideologies,  eulogizing Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipa, calling Prahlada a weak king, then making Ravan a pupil of Mahabali, calling Sita ma as the daughter of Ravana.  Calling Shiva as the Asura God and Brahma the Asura teacher and then calling Vishnu the commander-in-chief of Deva army. My goodness, any one with any knowledge on mythology would desist this extremely outlandish stuff.  One need not go to the extremes to prove a point.

          The author is gifted with great capabilities of writing good fiction. His description of the emotions in the early parts of the book was nice.  He gives vivid descriptions of the scenes and tries to recreate the scene as much as possible and helps the reader visualize it.  However, I believe that this is not the good way of using the rare talent God has bestowed on him.  Blaming both Rama and Ravana and then showing that Ravana was slightly better than Rama as Rama was too adherent to the brahminical laws might be good placate the egos of the Hindu-haters, however, I donot know if this would do any good to the society. 

          Ramayana gives us a message that even if one has a Golden City like Lanka, one is bound to perish if he misbehaves with a woman. It tells us like  how being wedded Truth and Dharma will elevate a human being and bestows him/her with eternal glory.  In this book I find a total distortion of facts and a blatant attempt at vilifying everything that was considered good by generations and generations of Hindus.  Well its fictitious stuff as per the author himself, so what can we say. 

          Of late, vilifying Sri Rama and showing hindu faith in poor light is a fad in this nation, some feminists did it, some communists did it, some people who call themselves the protectors of the oppressed sections of the society did it( in fact some of them do it even now) and now this book also does it.  However, Lord Sri Rama still continues to inspire millions and millions of people all over the world.

          To conclude, I did not find much but vilification of people in the book.  Then a lot of  lies and misguided zeal to prove a point. I am totally disappointed.  “If the author had to write a fictitious account, then why play with Ramayana and  hurt the sentiments of millions of people in the nation ???”   He has the capabilities to produce good fiction and if he can use it to produce something that teaches people a virtue or two , that would be great.  For, Lord Sri Rama lived His life on this earth and He does not need a character certificate from people like us.   It is upto us, if we can learn a thing or two from His life, it will help us . If not,  we are all free to choose our own paths.  As for me Lord Sri Rama is the truth, Lord Sri Rama is the light.

Book —————- Asura : Tale of the Vanquished

Publisher ——– Leadstart Publishing

Price —————- 250


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