Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Book Review #5: Ajaya: Roll of the Dice (Book 1)

Name:          Ajaya-Epic of the Kaurava Clan; Book 1-Roll of the Dice
Author:         Anand Neelakantan
No. of Pages: 455
Genre:           Fiction/Epic
Publisher:      Platinum Press (An imprint of Leadstart Publishing Pvt. Ltd.)
Price:            Rs. 299/-
Published in:  2013

The blurb of the book says:
THE MAHABHARATA ENDURES AS THE GREAT EPIC OF INDIA. But while Jaya is the story of the Pandavas, told from the perspective of the victors of Kurukshetra; Ajaya is the narrative of the ‘unconquerable’ Kauravas, who were decimated to the last man.
***
At the heart of India’s most powerful empire, a revolution is brewing. Bhishma, the noble patriarch of Hastinapura, is struggling to maintain the unity of his empire. On the throne sits Dhritarashtra, the blind King, and his foreign-born Queen – Gandhari.  In the shadow of the throne stands Kunti, the Dowager-Queen, burning with ambition to see her firstborn become the ruler, acknowledged by all.
And in the wings:
* Parashurama, the enigmatic Guru of the powerful Southern Confederate, bides his time to take over and impose his will from mountains to ocean.
* Ekalavya, a young Nishada, yearns to break free of caste restrictions and become a warrior.
* Karna, son of a humble charioteer, travels to the South to study under the foremost Guru of the day and become the greatest archer in the land.
* Balarama, the charismatic leader of the Yadavas, dreams of building the perfect city by the sea and seeing his people prosperous and proud once more.
* Takshaka, guerilla leader of the Nagas, foments a revolution by the downtrodden as he lies in wait in the jungles of India, where survival is the only dharma.
* Jara, the beggar, and his blind dog Dharma, walk the dusty streets of India, witness to people and events far greater than they, as the Pandavas and the Kauravas confront their searing destinies.

Amidst the chaos, Prince Suyodhana, heir of Hastinapura, stands tall, determined to claim his birthright and act according to his conscience. He is the maker of his own destiny – or so he believes. While in the corridors of the Hastinapura palace, a foreign Prince plots to destroy India. And the dice falls…

About the author: Anand Neelakantan in his own words--"I WAS BORN IN A QUAINT little village called Thripoonithura, on the outskirts of Cochin, Kerala. Located east of mainland Ernakulam, across Vembanad Lake, this village had the distinction of being the seat of the Cochin royal family. However, it was more famous for its 100-odd temples, the various classical artists it produced, and its school of music. I remember many an evening listening to the faint rhythm of the chendas coming from the temples, and the notes of the flute escaping over the rugged walls of the music school. However, Gulf money and the rapidly expanding city of Cochin, have wiped away all remaining vestiges of that old-world charm. The village has evolved into the usual, unremarkable, suburban hellhole – clones of which dot India. Growing up in a village with more temples than was necessary, it was little wonder that mythology fascinated me. Ironically, I was drawn to the anti-heroes. My own life went on… I became an engineer, joined the Indian Oil Corporation, moved to Bangalore, married Aparna, and welcomed my daughter Ananya, and son, Abhinav. However, the voices of yore refused to be silenced in my mind. I felt impelled to narrate the stories of the vanquished and the damned; and give life to those silent heroes who have been overlooked in our uncritical acceptance of conventional renderings of our epics."

This is Anand’s second book and follows the outstanding success of his national #1 bestseller, ASURA Tale Of The Vanquished (Platinum Press 2012). AJAYA Book II, Rise Of Kali, is due for release later in 2014. Anand can be reached at: mail@asura.co.in

Below is the promo video for the book:

WHAT I FEEL ABOUT THE BOOK:
I lovvvveeeeed this book. I have always found the Mahabharata complicated, scandalous and hypocritical. I have never been a fan of the Pandavas and the only character on their side whose grit I admire is Draupadi. And Karna is my favourite character. How I wish that Karna and Draupadi could end up together! And ofcourse the Krishna and Shakuni are the actual politicians and manipulators in this great epic.

Suyodhana (popularly known as Duryodhana) is the hero of this book. He is liberal, kind-hearted, a progressive thinker, a visionary, loving and strong man. But at the same time he is naive and gullible. And his uncle Shakuni clearly manipulated him to take his revenge on Bhisma. The author has told the story in a way which is believable, logical, practical and reasonable. The magic, godliness and miracles associated in the epic are depicted in a logical manner. He has even connected some things to the present era. Like Mayasura, who built the beautiful city of Indraprastha for the Pandavas and was banished by them after the completion of the city as he was a low caste. Mayasura cursed that the city would turn into a dangerous place where women would be unsafe outside their homes, and the city's air and water would be polluted. And that is what the capital of our country has turned into, isn't it?

The book reveals that the Mahabharata is actually a clash of ideologies. On one side is Suyodhana (the Kauravas), Bhishma, Balarama, Karna, Eklavya and the others who want to establish a kingdom free of the caste system and ensure that people are treated as per their merit and not caste. And on the other hand is Krishna (who actually uses the Pandavas), the Pandavas and others who believes that the caste system keeps the society in balance and it is to be maintained.

From whatever I have read about Hindu mythology, I have learned that the mythological stories are actually symbolism and they are trying to teach us some philosophy. But sadly we take them at face value as either real incidents or fiction. The author shares his father's view on the Mahabharata which actually sums it up beautifully. And the significance affirms my belief. I have shared the same below:




I would give the "Ajaya-Roll of the Dice (Book 1)" 5 stars on a scale of 5. And now I am eagerly waiting for Book 2.

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