First Published in: 2012
Author: Anand Neelakantan
Story begins with Ravana lying in pool of blood having lost the battle with Rama, looking back at his life from childhood until that day. Childhood, when he was a young boy living in poverty with his mother, two brothers and a sister despite his step brother Kubera being the king of the Lanka. His journey to learn the ways of a warrior and a King from the revered Mahabali. His efforts to reach the position he always dreamt of – the King of Lanka and putting up a fight against the unjust Devas. His willingness to establish a fair kingdom, his innermost fears, his relationships with his officials, the challenges he goes through as a King, his love for his son, the prophecy about his daughter that led to his downfall.
Some events leading up to the actions taken up by Ravana are narrated by Bhadra who is always looking out for Ravana, always putting himself in danger for his king Ravana but never trusted by Ravana and his officials who in fact treated him as filthy out caste who is just doing his duty for the King and nothing extraordinary.
The story tells a more believable justification of different events and things that we know of – like Ravana having 10 heads which were in fact 10 things pointed out by his Guru that a King should stay away from but which Ravana very vehemently argued about, younger brother Kumbhakaran who had to be woken up by beating drums because he was always intoxicated with alcohol and drugs, reason behind kidnapping Sita and many other things.
This one blew me away. Since childhood we have heard the story and watched the tele-series of Ramayana and are well versed with the main characters – Rama, the valiant hero and Ravana, the sinister villain. This story of ‘Asura’ however is told from Ravana’s point of view. It doesn’t deny the actions that make up the epic ‘Ramayana’ but offers a different explanation behind the intention of those actions.
It questions our beliefs in a way that leave you dumbfounded like – we worship Rama as the God of good, the evil destroyer who in fact sided with the people who challenged his wife’s purity after being kidnapped and living in premises of another man’s abode even when Sita spent every moment thinking about and waiting for Rama. Was Rama fair to send Sita to ‘Vanvaas’ after rescuing her and then when she was back from Vanvaas having lived in a Rishi’s hut again questioning her morals and asking her to prove her purity?We consider Lakshman, the ideal brother who left everything to be of assistance to his brother but how about his wife? Was it fair to her to be left neglected?
The novel also highlights the difference between Asura and Deva cultures – Asura women enjoying equal rights, independence whereas Devas practiced Sati, imposed restrictions on women.
The author has taken events of this mythological piece and given a logical perspective which makes the reader think. Even though it is a fiction, I felt it could be real as well. I am so glad to have picked up this book.