Premise: Part II of VI Ramayana series.
Story : Post Ram-Sita’s marriage upto Ram’s departure on 14 year Exile.
Tweet version: Mythology buffs know this span includes Keikeyi’s royal tantrum, Manthara’s manipulative move, Dasaratha’s cave-in and Rama’s ‘slip-between-cup & lip’ brush with Ayodhya’s crown.
I liked :
1] Sparks of human emotions within exalted characters- For example Dasaratha (who feels envious & nervous when his courtiers cheer Rama’s coronation – and Dasaratha wonders if they are cheering the end of his reign!), in Rama (after he finds out Kaikeyi’s wish – ‘Here, before Sita, at last Rama dropped his guard. Every leader needs room to express his feelings. Sita was not just that space, she was a deep lake.’)
2] Rama’s angst : ‘Outside were people who expected him to lead. Inside were people who expected him to follow.’ – as he struggles to bridge the gap between being the perfect crown Prince and the perfect son.
3] Sita : Shubh Vilas justifies why he thinks original name of epic was Ramaa-ayana, story of Sita. His Sita is glorious & feisty – using logic, reason, love, pleas and even unexpected insulting taunts to convince Rama on taking her along on exile.
4] Bharat vindicated: Bharat rises above the ‘evil Keikeyi’s poor little son’ image. Here, he is subjected to gruelling tests as a potential stand-in ruler. Vasistha’s sleep test, Kaushalya’s criticism test, Bharadwaja’s accountability test and his own emotional vs logical evaluation!
5] Rama-Sita vs Laxman-Urmila: I wondered if the author will bypass the decidedly tricky latter scenario. But I was delighted that he took it chin-on.
Why Sita accompanies Rama on exile – pretty obvious. Why Urmila does NOT accompany Laxman on exile – her logic is quaint, lofty and inevitable. Read the book to find out!
6] Nuggets of knowledge & wisdom:
a} Mantra = mann (mind) + tra (control). The spinoff on Sumantra (Rama’s wise counsellor) and Manthara (Keikeyi’s evil counsellor) is a revelation.
b} The socio-politico-legal reason behind 14 years (Tretayuga) and 13 years (Dwaparyuga) exile of Rama & Pandavas respectively.
c} Myopia (short sightedness) and today’s ‘My’-opia i.e, self-centered vision.
d} A sorrow delayed can never become joy.
I reserve my judgment on…..
1] Indra’s caricature: a} Jayanta (Indra’s son) disguises as a crow to peck & harass Sita. Rama then launches Brahmastra (!!) on lil’ crow. Jayanta runs to Brahma & Shiva for help, before surrendering to Vishnu incarnation.
In actuality, as far as I know, Rama had warned Laxman against using devastating missiles like Brahmastra even in final war.
b} Ravana defeats Indra, makes him cook vegetables in his kitchen & also uses him as living staircase.
I do not possess in-depth knowledge of Ramayana, but I do suspect that Indra’s character assassination (since many centuries) has its roots dyed in unknown waters.
2] Gods vs Gods : Ravana gets 2 boons from Brahma (long life and death immunity from demiGods, sages, Gandharvas, Kinnaras, rakshasas, nagas) and gets the Chandrahasa sword from Shiva.
His son Meghnada gets 3 gifts from Shiva – science of illusion, an autopiloted chariot and an unbreakable bow.
So, should we assume that 2 of 3 Divine Trinity were pro-Ravana?
I have never understood why the above 2 keep doling out boons indiscriminately, while Vishnu & his incarnations have to clean up the resultant mess. Shubh Vilas explains that Shiva is called Ashutosh (one who is easy to please!)
3] Kekaya’s secret : Again, am not sure if this is a fact. The ‘secret’ known to Dasaratha, Rama and Sumantra … If it is indeed fact, then Keikeyi does get my share of sympathy.
What secret ? Read the book to know it!
VERDICT: Heartfelt writing, carefully etched character sketches & revelations, Management mantras all rolled into 386 pages. Worth it!
Read book review of Part 1 here.