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I am definitely not making a revelation when I say that Ramayana is a timeless epic, such which is penned only once in a million years.
I am however even more amazed at its timeless appeal, of its quality of lending itself beautifully to contexts, situations, periods and treatments so different from the original and not necessarily religious in nature.
I first experienced it about 15 years back when I read the complete 5-volume version in Hindi – “Deeksha”, “Awsar”, Sangharsh Ki Or”, “Yudh – 1” & “Yudh-2’, penned by the celebrated Hindi writer – Narendra Kohli. Sadly, however, only an abridged, 2-volume series (Abhyudaya-1 & 2) is what I have found available in the market presently.
It is an extremely interesting and eminently readable series, more of a sociological & political thesis of those imagined times. It traces the journey (both inner & outer) of Ram, who is no God but a mortal prince–in–exile. The sketchiness, if I may use the word, of the original plot has been filled-in with a vivid interplay of intra & interpersonal relations.
I experienced it for the second time recently when I finished the last (last published, I mean) of the Ramayana series by the new-age author – Ashok Banker. Till now, 5 books in this series have been brought out in the market – “Prince of Ayodhya”, “Siege of Mithila”, “Demons of Chitrakut”, “Armies of Hanuman” and recently, “Bridge of Rama”.
Though Ram is still no God in this series, the treatment is a far departure from the Kohli series (apart from the language – Banker is in English). This is an extremely rich, unadulterated fantasy tale for a young, global audience.
Keeping the basic plot intact, Banker writes with a sense of ownership, playing around with various characters and sub-plots dexterously as if it is his own story, which, curiously enough, is the biggest strength of this series. There are various new, fantastical dimensions in the story - demons & gods & sorcery & of course, the new facets to the relationships between the characters.
Banker has not completed yet, and I am eagerly awaiting his next book. Meanwhile, I think, I would read Narendra Kohli again.