Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Immortals of Meluha- A Review

Who is God? It is not often that I ponder over a question like this. It was especially not until I lay my hands on this one-of-its kind book, called The Immortals of Meluha, authored by Amish. A book that borrows heavily from the royal pages of Indian mythology, The Immortals of Meluha weaves together myths and legends and modern sensibilities with remarkable ease.


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-

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.
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.


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!

16 comments:

  1. Ah! lovely! And now u make me wanna read it!! Badly! :D good work yaar!

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  2. @Kratisto
    Ah! Its after so long that you have left a comment on my blog. Your very name makes me HAPPY!
    And yeah, the book is fantastic, i can vouch for it. I am dying for the second book of the trilogy, The Curse of the Nagas to be released..... Do catch up with this book, and let me know how you found it....

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  3. i want this book as soon as possible...

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  4. @Mayank
    Well, the moment you step into any bookstore, you'll get it. So stop cribbing and go buy one for yourself.

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  5. @saumya..
    ok fine...pareshan mat ho...i'll get it..

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  6. An enjoyable read The Immortals of Meluha by Amish . loved the way you wrote it. I find your review very genuine and original, this book is going in by "to read" list.

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  7. @Rohit
    Thank you! It is indeed a wonderful read, and of late, as I figured out, it is a book for all age groups. My Mamaji, who happens to be much my senior, enjoyed the book as much as my younger sister, who is still in her early teens. I am eagerly waiting to lay my hands on the second book of the Shiva Trilogy. Hope it comes out soon!

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  8. ohh i so much have to read it now..the subject of mythology has always amazed me and intrigued at the same time,owing to the various versions of stories on god by the people around us.
    so do u believe in god or you an agonist ??

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  9. Umm...Lets just say I believe in belief. I have faith in faith. Beyond that, I am too confused to be able to figure out :)

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  10. hmmm..point taken mademoiselle..:)

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  11. I also believe that these figures that we call gods are people who once walked the earth and were ordinary human beings who were raised to the platform of gods by their noble thoughts and deeds.
    I like the fact that Amish calls this a work of fiction but I look at it as 'what might have been.' My take is that ancient literature was the only bit of written history there was at one point of time. And the forms that these gods take these days are probably what came out of words that were used to describe them (look at Nandi for instance).

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  12. @D. Nambiar
    Thank you so much for sharing these insights. Amish, through his debut work, has opened an altogether new field for rigorous discussions. I have myself been reading a lot of ancient Sanskrit texts, translations of course, to see if this giant jigsaw fits. Still in the elementary phases of my inquiry.
    Lovely to hear from you :)

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  13. how u spend ur day saumya ? i want to know u ? ur likes and dislikes ? ur fav cuisines? what motivates u ? .u look indeed fascinating human being.

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  15. I'm not much of a good reader though I should be but I just fail to concentrate...But! This is the first of your blogs which I've read and also the very first blog which I've read in full length..it kept my interest so glued to it and it was actually so enriching fora literature student.. Thank you :) ..I'm surely picking up this book next!

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