(I received this book as part of Blogadda's book review program. And the coincidence was, that I had just been listening to a friend who had just returned from a trip to the Kailash Manasarovar in Tibet, and had been showing me numerous photographs she had taken there. So when I approached the book, with the photo of Lord Shiva on the cover, I was prepared to read about someone Godlike, without human failings , who did miracles etc.)
Author :Amish Tripathi
Publisher : Westland Ltd. (this edition): 2011
Pages : 411. Softcover paperback.
But this was different.
This is a story about a certain civilization as it existed in India, according to the author , around 1900 BC. Shiva is a Tibetan lad who lives on the Manasarovar shores, worried about protecting his village from invaders. Along comes a messenger from the western land of Meluha, a captain Nandi, who convinces these people to immigrate to Meluha on the West, where the Sapt-Sindhu rivers flowed. There are special deals for immigrants, no worry about anything. And Shiva and his tribe decide to move. To what is perceived by them as an almost perfect land.
The story is all about Shiva's discovery of this land, his understanding of its people, the Suryavaunshis, and their societal set up. Shiva is idolized by the Meluhans as the Neelkanth, because of the translucent blue patch he develops on his neck on imbibing Somras. The author develops various characters like Sati, and Bruhaspati, who leave us in no doubt as to who they are supposed to represent. Everything supergood, must have an opposite superbad entity to keep the balance, and the Chandrawaunshis are described as a debauched tribe who now occupy Ayodhya, Lord Ram's birthplace, the same Lord Ram who is revered by the Suryawaunshis. There are the mandatory violent attacks on Shiva and Sati, by someone defines as belonging to the Naga society. There are references to Nagas having an understanding with the Chandrawaunshis.
There are wars happening which are led and won by Shiva, giving the Meluhans the benefit of his brilliant planning and leadership. There are self doubts and questions in Shiva's mind after he visits Ayodhya. Sati , who he has married ,is an unusual strong woman of very strong and liberated sensibilities.
One starts out expecting this to run closely with the story of Shiva the God, who, in our mythology, is a serious , tough God. The author develops the story, treating Shiva as a normal human, who smokes marujuana to relax, can crack jokes and is always there for his friends, pursues Sati with a single minded devotion, and goes through doubts and mental torment like any of us. The author very creatively describes the origin of "Har Har Mahadev" . Just when we think, Shiva is now finally a God, his human qualities flutter through.
It's not a book that will keep you awake. But you chuckle at times, after being brought down to earth from your Godly expectations. The left brain, right brain properties of Meluha, and the Swadweep land (to the east) respectively, and how the population lives, are very intriguing. The most heart warming episode is that of the Vikarma brigade offering themselves and actually fighting in the war. These are people who are segregated as untouchables because their bad luck is related to their sins in their past life. Shiva is troubled, and brings an end to the Vikarma theory.
The book doesn't end. It just pauses. You wonder what will happen next. But it sets you thinking. The fertile west, the troubled, disciplineless eastern lands, the treatment of Vikrama untouchables, the strange Maika rules that mean biological children have no relevance unless of course, you are royalty, and the succession rules being relaxed for the existing Emperor of Meluha, when he succeeds his father, when the rule of the land is different.
It all rings a bell. The pace of the book is a bit slow, but the author manages to get you intrigued, as you wonder how it will all end.
It doesnt really end. For that you must wait for the next book in the series.