Mythology – one of my favorite genres, and of late, one that seems to be popular in Indian Writing in English, with various retellings and mythology-based fantasies that are coming up in that field. And an author who I have read before, and know has a talent for storytelling in this particular genre. It was a book I wanted to read knowing there was a very good chance I’d love it, and it lived up to that expectation for me.
Shakti. I must confess that I initially thought it would be just about the Goddess Durga, but that notion is quelled. Shakti is all forms of the Goddess — Usas, the goddess of the dawn; Kali, who the fearsome dark goddess; the invincible Durga, conqueror of the buffalo demon Mahishasura, and so on. And the book tries to bring her stories to the fore. With every protagonist comes an antagonist, and well, perhaps unexpectedly, that antagonist in this story is Indra, Lord of Amaravati and his wife, Queen Sachi.
When it comes to mythology, and what is known, my expectation is that the book have that magical feel to its narration that makes it amazing. The author though points out that in this story, it is difficult to ascertain what is true, what is fictional and what is a collusion of both. Perhaps that is what makes it easier to accept the almost humanized, contemptuous tone of the narration, even in the dialogues of the Holy Trinity. And in turn, we see these Gods and Goddesses in new light. Maybe it is an impression that has come out of how these stories have been told to us in the past, but there’s a notion of peace amongst the gods themselves, and that’s not there in this story. Here, the Gods quarrel for small things, for being with Shakti even. And that brings a smile. It also has some parts where I become doubtful and question those parts, like the story of Avigna, but a part of me feels there might be some truth to that. To see daughter become son was so true to Indian society that I was in two minds whether to love the book for bringing that comparison, or to hate it. What I didn’t expect was for the antagonist(s) to play such a prominent part, almost to an extent that it overcrowds the main character Shakti. And though the most famous story of the Goddess that is known is perhaps that of Mahishasuramardhini, the slayer of the buffalo demon, I felt dedicating almost a third of the book to that story alone was too much.
I still admire Anuja’s efforts to bring some of the lesser known stories and characters of mythology to light. And this one succeeds there too, for it gives me a lot of food for thought. And as like her other books, the cover art continues to impress too. Wondering what she has in store next.
|Title: Shakti – The Divine Feminine|
|Author: Anuja Chandramouli||Genre: Mythology|
|ISBN/ASIN: 9788129137296||Publisher: Rupa|
(© 29th January 2016)