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March 19, 2015 / subramanyam

This Kamadeva leaves me with mixed feelings

It was in 2013 that I read the book Saga of a pandava warrior prince : Arjuna that was written by Anuja Chandramouli.  I liked that book a lot. So when I got an opportunity to review another book from the same author, I grabbed it with both the hands. Here is the blurb of the book “Kamadeva ::  The God of Desire” . I picked the blurb from GoodReads.

Kamadeva, the charming wielder of the sugarcane bow and the flower-tipped arrows, born out of the wellspring of Brahmas latent passion, has for long remained an enigma. This enthralling story of the God of Desire explores his many wondrousKamadeva_Final adventures, as well as his heady romance with Rati, his chief consort.

Best friends with Indra, the King of the Gods, tutor to the Apsaras in the art of lovemaking, Kamadeva lives a dream life in the magnificent Kingdom of Amaravathi – until danger strikes when he incurs the wrath of Shiva because of a preordained curse. Follow Kama as he hurtles towards his destiny and the Destroyers dreaded third eye. Find out if he will rise from the ashes to reign supreme as the King of Hearts or if he will be doomed to spend an eternity as Ananga – The bodiless one.

In Kamadeva – The God of Desire, the author masterfully marries imagination with stellar research to bring to vivid life one of the most intriguing Gods of the Hindu pantheon. Laced with wit and narrated in contemporary flavour, Kamadeva will take you on a rollicking ride into the heart of desire and its tantalizing dark side.

What did I like in the book

The amount of research that went into writing the book.  Every Hindu must have heard about Manmadha/Kamadeva but very very few know the stories associated with him.  The only story that many people know about Kamadeva is the one where he is reduced to ashes by Lord Shiva.  It is very tough for most of the Hindus to come up with any other story on Manmadha.  Taking a Deva whose story is almost unknown to many and then coming up with 326 page book on him is indeed a great attempt and needs a lot of research.  This book in short has all the stories of Kamadeva in it and I appreciate the humongous research that went into writing this book.  The author must have spent years researching her story and that truly gets reflected in the book.

I also liked the way the story was told.  The story is told from the perspective of Kamadeva. It is like following him in his life.  We stay in the story as long he is there and the moment his task is done and he leaves the scene we too leave with him. We are there when he is there and we are not when he is not, not even to see the consequences of his actions.  That way we get to see  lot of Manmadha’s life without having to read too much and too lengthy stories.  I liked this technique of story telling.

Anuja ChandramouliI liked the way Anuja tried to balance the characters. Initially we see a lot of anger on some of the Gods but Anuja does ther bit to balance out things later. Many people get trapped in trying to prove that one God is superior to the other and then they do a lot disservice to themselves and the books they write. Anuja however, balances the things and she does it very well.

I also liked the way she sketched the emotions. Be it mother and son, husband -wife or father-son relationship Anuja did a brilliant job while portraying the relationships and emotions.

The stuff I did not like …

The language. The language in the book is filled with the contemporary slang.  The slang is more american and some of the words used sound like expletives.  I am a big fan of puranas and the writing that comes from there is filled with excellent language and vivid imagery. While Anuja does give the vivid imagery with the settings and the good usage of vocabulary, she definitely misses out on the language part.   We are speaking about Gods here and using a heavy Americanized slang that has a few expletives for conversations between Gods is something that is too tough to digest for me. This was one of the reasons why I took a long time to finish the book.  The language was not at palatable to me. More so because it was used in the context of Gods.

I might be too conservative and hence must have felt like this but I do believe that this tone has done more damage to the book than good.

Then there were a few issues with research too, the book speaks about the war between Banasura and Lord Srikrishna, here the author says that Lord Shiva yielded to Lord Shri Krishna. However, as per mythology, Lord Shiva counsels  Banasura  by saying that his weapons and Lord Shri Krishna’s weapons do not attack each other and there was no point in fighting. When Bana insists that there should be a fight Lord Shiva and Lord Shri Krishna release their celestial weapons and they donot attack each other.  This was a leela to show that Shiva and Keshava are one. I felt that this did not come out in the book,

Then again the way this book portrays the death Shambhara is debatable.  I did not know if it was a pure imagination of the author or if there were any sources that suggest that Shambhara met his end the way it was depicted in the book.   The author must have provided the reference to the original source in the same page as it would help us know the source that gives us this direction.

To Conclude ….

I respect Anuja for the way she is trying to bring to light the lesser known stories of Hindu Mythology. This is a well researched piece on  Kamadeva.  She tried to add a contemporary touch with the use of the colloquial  language and a subtle feminist touch. The book would have been great without the slang.  Do pick it up to learn more about Kamadeva but then remember that God’s donot use that sort of language that is used in the book.

Wishing all the best to Anuja for her future endeavors .

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