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BOOK REVIEW: ASURA–Tale of the Vanquished- The Story of Ravana and his people narrated by Anand Neelakantan

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    A mythic fiction. This book was published in the year 2012 by Platinum Press and the page count of this book is 504.

    Asura broke into the top seller charts within a week of its launch. It became the number one bestseller of 2012 as per Crossword list and CNN IBN. It was also nominated for Crossword’s Popular Award in 2013. The book has since been published in many Indian languages.

    Says Ravana: “For thousands of years, I have been vilified and my death is celebrated year after year in every corner of India. Why? Was it because I challenged the Gods for the sake of my daughter? Was it because I freed a race from the yoke of caste-based Deva rule? You have heard the victor’s tale, the Ramayana. Now hear the Ravanayana, for I am the Asura.”

    ‘Juxtaposed between the view point of the defeated Asura emperor and a common citizen of the Asura Empire, this novel gives an entirely fresh and new perspective to our age-old epic. It is the tale of the defeated and silenced. A different view point—says Deccan Chronicle.

    The book attempts to highlight the voice of the vanquished as opposed to the victor’s version of Ramayana that is commonly read and known. It explores the struggle of Ravana and his life that made him what he was, and attempts, to create a link between the social construct, as it may have existed, and varied, at the time, and the well-known instances described in the legend of Ramayana as it is known today.

    It is quite a marathon novel running over some sixty five chapters. We all, in our lives consider Ravana to be one of the biggest villains on earth. The novel gives a counter viewpoint on that. It tells us the hidden aspect of Ravana. The author has used freely creative liberties considering the era it covers.

    The story of the Ramayana has been told innumerable times that covers the enthralling story of Rama, the incarnation of God, who slew Ravana, the evil demon of darkness, and is well known to every Indian. And in the pages of history, as always, it is the version told by the victors that goes on to live. The voice of the vanquished remains lost in silence. But what if Ravana and his people had a different story to tell?

    The story of the Ravanayana has never been told. Asura is the epic tale of the vanquished Asura people, a story that has been cherished by the oppressed outcastes of India for 3000 years. Until now, no Asura has dared to tell the tale. But perhaps the time has come for the dead and the defeated to speak.

    Says Ravana, “I am a non-entity—invisible, powerless and negligible. No epics will ever be written about me. I have suffered both Ravana and Rama—the hero and the villain or the villain and the hero. When the stories of great men are told, my voice maybe too feeble to be heard. Yet, spare me a moment and hear my story, for I am Bhadra, the Asura, and my life is the tale of the loser.”

    The ancient Asura Empire lay shattered into many warring petty kingdoms reeling under the heel of the Devas. In desperation, the Asuras look up to a young saviour—Ravana. Believing that a better world awaits them under Ravana, common men like Bhadra decide to follow the young leader. With will of iron and a fiery ambition to succeed, Ravana leads his people from victory to victory and carves out a vast empire from the Devas. But even when Ravana succeeds spectacularly, the poor Asuras find that nothing much has changed for them. It is then that Ravana, by one action, changes the history of the world.

    The author has used his creativity to the hilt. He has given a modern perspective to the geography of those times and how wars were fought, how a race lived and fought for survival. The language is by and large lucid. A broad spine book of over five hundred pages. The author had much to say I guess. I would give the book five stars a must read.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

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