Victory to Abhaya
During the times of the great Vijayanagara Empire, a new form of literature called Prabandha Sahityam came up. Here, the author would pick an event from the Hindu Puranas and then create a story that goes hand in hand with the original one. The plot that the writer chooses would dominate the book without taking away the sanctity or significance of the original story.
Abhaya is Smt.Sai Swaroopa Iyer’s attempt to revive this system and create a modern day Prabandha. Before I speak my thoughts out on this book, I want you to read the blurb.
A tale set in the times of Mahabharata. An assertive and idealistic Princess Abhaya meets the enigmatic Krishna Vaasudeva. A bereaved Dhatri, hounded by her own family is saved by Lord Bhauma. When subverted religion becomes a tool in the hands of power thirsty and strikes Bharatavarsha, the land of Aryas, Abhaya finds herself face to face with the impending doom.
“Can we combat the fear with faith? Can we keep our faith undeterred when the last traces of hope melt away? Can we receive blame and adulation, accept them and yet not give in to them?”
The book starts in the Eastern Hills of Bharathavarsha; a king from these lands is out for a regular temple visit and he and his Senapati save a woman (Dhatri) from what can be a modern day’s equivalent of honor killing. As Dhatri takes her time to recuperate, the author takes us to the western part of the nation where we see a small kingdom Anagha where a nervous King holds his firstborn “Abhaya” for the first time in his hands.
What does fate have in store for these women who come from the two ends of the Bharathavarsha? What are the troubles, travails and moments of triumph that await them? Are these troubles meant only for them or for all the women who stay between the ends of the nation? What is their approach towards life? Where does Sri Krishna come in all this?
While we get all the answers as we read the book, we also get to see what ails the land. Minds steeped in blind faith, unchallenged ideals of patriarchy, religious bigots killing the fundamental freedoms of the people, greedy men who cannot think beyond immediate gains and master manipulators who want to control the entire world.
As we embark our journey with Abhaya and join her in her fights on the ills around her, we also learn valuable lessons in leadership, governance, statecraft, ethics and the ways and means to overcome the moral dilemma that plagues a lot of good brains. We see our assumptions challenged and beliefs shattered, we see a new version of the protagonist and ourselves as we move ahead. To me, these learnings are indeed the USP of the book.
What did Like?
1. The characters, to begin with, awesome is a small word to describe the way the characters have been depicted. I loved the way the author showed different shades of the feminine spirit.
Abhaya — The princess, Dhatri — the practitioner, Subhadra — the diplomat, Kadambari — the troubled lady, Shyeni — the woman with a free spirit, Mrinalini — the loyal assistant, Atulyaprabha — the selfless one and KanakaPraba — a woman who was a little timid. Amazing women from different walks of life but with a single aim, betterment of the world. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about all of them.
2. It is not about women alone, we have some amazing men too, Dharmasena’s wisdom, Mura’s love for family, Vikram’s love for his mother, Vinateya’s love for Krishna and finally Sri Krishna for everything He is. The way the author sketched each of these characters was fantabulous.
3. The conversations. You can’t but fall in love with them. Particularly the ones
between Abhaya and Lord Sri Krishna. Every sentence here means a lot. You come across some fantastic learnings of life. Add to this the soliloquies of Abhaya, and you know you are reading a masterpiece. Trust my words, dear friends; you would end up highlighting many of the lines.
4. The layers of meaning, a keen observer would see layers of meaning in the book. The book is not speaking about the past alone; the author intelligently claims that her brain is set in 2000 BC. No, she is pretty much talking about things happening around us. Do read and re-read; you would realize what she is talking about. One can only commend the author for what she has done.
5. The pace of the story and message. The book challenges our assumptions and forces us to think differently. The book is not a romantic escapade or an action packed thriller. while keeps us at the edge of our seats anticipating as to what happens next, it gives us a message on our own Dharma.
It is a must read. For, as Lord Sri Krishna says to Abhaya,
“It is easy to rebel and call for a revolution. What is difficult is to inspire evolution. That happens with transforming thought, not condemning people, That happens by challenging their thought and not by provoking their egos.”
Abhaya inspires evolution. Do read it.
You can buy the book here.