The book cover was immediately intriguing- the back of the mighty Shiva, with deep scars over a shoulder and an arm; long, majestic tresses falling over his back; a trident elegantly positioned at the very centre of his form; and the backdrop comprising of Indus and the magnificent Mountains of the North. This was easily a book I would have wanted to read, and as it did turn out, it was a book I simply could not keep down once I started on. The first of a series of three (called the Shiva Trilogy), this book tells the story of Shiva, the Destroyer, a much hailed and praised God from the Hindu Trinity of Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh. One of the boldest attempts in the Indian fantasy fiction genres, this book lays down the hypothesis that Shiva was never actually a God. More so, he did not even belong to India (the Saptasindhu, as mentioned in the book). Blasphemy you would say, but so long as we consider this book to remain within the realm of fiction, it is actually amazing how the author has carved out a story with Shiva as a War Hero, firmly supported by accurate facts and descriptions, giving strong evidence of the author's deep knowledge and research of the subject.
The book is set in the Indus Valley Civilization, referred in this book as Meluha (It was only later that my History teacher informed me about the Indus Valley Civilization being called as 'Meluha' by the Sumerians and the Mesopotamians). This civilization was one of the finest the world has ever been testimony to, and is often hailed as the birthplace of men of greatness, because the things they did have not been imitated anywhere, anytime in the world. Before beginning the book, the author makes three claims, the fundamental premise on which his book is based-
The story begins with an elaborate depiction of Shiva, who is not a God, not even an extraordinary human, but the head of a simple tribe of cattle herders, somewhere in the foot of the Himalayas, ridden with fatigue due to incessant struggles for existence being fought with the other tribes. His assistant, comrade and best pal, curiously, is a fellow tribesman called Nandi. Due to the course of events, Shiva and his tribe migrate to Meluha, the land of Suryavanshis, the descendants of the illustrious Lord Rama. The land of the Suryavanshis is plagued with many evils, and is under threat from the opposite race, the Chandravanshis. To add to their already cup-full of woes, the Chandravanshis have employed the despicable, sinister Nagas, an ostracized caste, to spread terror in the land of Meluhans.I believe that the Hindu gods were not mythical beings or a figment of a rich imagination.
I believe that they were creatures of flesh and blood, like you and me.
I believe that they achieved godhood through their karma, their deeds.
It is from these terrors that the Meluhans seek respite. According to the Meluhan legend, it will be 'Neelkanth', the one whose neck will turn blue on drinking their nectar, Somaras, who will be their Savior. Thus is defined the character and course of the protagonist, Shiva, who after drinking the Somaras is hailed by the hapless people as their Lord, the one who will alleviate all evils from their land. What then ensues is the journey of Shiva through the land of Meluhans, during which, he establishes himself as a warrior of unparalleled might and war skills. At most places during the narrative, Shiva is shown to be spellbound by the superior technology and infrastructure possessed by the inhabitants of the magnificent land of Meluha. Also, as an undercurrent, laced into the narrative is the love story of our indomitable hero and the demure, chaste and skilled Parvati, incidentally the daughter of Maharaja Dasya, King of Meluha.
The narrative of the story is contemporary, not in the least archaic, as one would expect the tone of any of our mythological tales to be. This book attempts to clear the mist around the concept of Mahadev we have grown up with. While reading about this book, I came across interesting facts, such as, long back, in the ancient times, there was no concept of India. The only concept then that has left its traces to be felt in the contemporary times is that of the Aryans, the greatest race on the Earth. What is particularly curious about Shiva is that he is the only non-Aryan entity in the Trinity of Hindu Gods. In the book too, he conforms to what have been his features otherwise- easy to please, free of deceit and trickery (Bholenath), unabashed in his display of emotions (anger in particular- Tandav), passionate lover, substance addiction...and the list can go on.
To conclude my assessment of the book, I can say, it was a compelling read. It was not anything like the other tales of our three crore plus Gods and Goddesses I have read or heard about. Very few authors have touched this particular genre with such marvellous ease, making the reader more and more intrigued by the vivid and precise description of the events which form this story. Worthy of not less than four stars on five, it is one of those books which all of us should pick up, especially if we feel detached from our rich mythological heritage, with a promise that if one begins with this book, he would only be lured deeper and deeper into the mystical world of our tales and legends and myths. Highly recommended!