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Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Book Review - Ramayana: The Game of Life

Book: Ramayana: The Game of Life - Shattered Dreams, Book 2
Author: Shubha Vilas
Genre: Mythology
Pages:  387
Price: Rs.350
Publication: Jaico Publishing House

Image credit: Google

Being brought up in an orthodox family, it is with great revereance that we look upon Ramyana and Mahabharata, the oldest and great relics in Indian history. As an aficianado of these relics, I feel proud to belong to a country that witnessed the epoch of Ramayana and Mahabharatha. They are not just stories, they are the basis of dharma or principles one should follow to be a responsible and civilized citizen. And fortunately, many thanks to Sri Shubha Vilas and the like-minded people, we still have many propogating the importance of these valuable assets of mankind.

The author

Speaking of Sri Shubha Vilas, I first speculated the author to be a female. As I read on, it dawned on me that he is a male spiritual seeker and a teacher as well. He also interacts with youth about human values which is noteworthy. In these decadent days, when education has failed to fill morality in youth and society has let go of principles, it is gratifying to know that there are some pillars trying to bring the society back to balance.

The story

The story begins with Dasharatha’s nightmare in his sleep where Time and Past chases him and grips him. He is in a hurry to crown Lord Rama as the King of Ayodhya as he gets senile and considers Lord Rama as an able man with kingship qualities. As Dasharatha recalls his past glory of being named Dasharatha from Nemi, for being able to ride his chariot in ten different directions while killing Sambarasura, he enters a special convention in his court. He declares Lord Rama as his successor. In the wake of the happy news spreading throughout Ayodhya, Manthara is unhappy. She tries to infiltrate Keikeyi’s mind with evil thoughts of making her own son Bharatha as the King so that she can enjoy as a queen-mother and of sending Rama to an exile for 14 years. Keikeyi being Bharatha’s mother, looks upon Rama (Kaushalya’s son), Lakshmana (Sumitra’s son), Shatrughna (Sumitra’s son) as her own sons and refuses to give in to Manthara’s advice. Manthara succeeds in churning Keikeyi’s mind and makes Keikeyi ask Dasaratha for two wishes, which Dasaratha had promised to grant while marrying her. Keikeyi makes her first wish of making Bharatha as the King of Ayodhya and the second wish of sending Rama to forest in exile for 14 years. This broke Dasaratha’s heart and with reluctance and wailing he informs Rama about the same. Rama, without hesitating, accepts the orders of the King as his responsibility to keep up his father’s promises and leaves Ayodhya accompanied by wife Sita and brother Lakshmana. Bharatha residing in Kekeya, oblivious of the news, gets to know about Ayodhya’s anarchy and returns to Ayodhya with a heavy heart. He pledges to find Rama and bring him back to Ayodhya and sets on a journey to the forest. He meets Rama through the help of Guha and Bharadwaja muni and pleads with him to return to Ayodhya. Rama, unshaken in his promise, sends away Bharatha to rule Ayodhya. Bharatha carries Rama’s sandals on his head to place them on the throne and rule Ayodhya on his behalf. The story ends with Rama and Sita leaving Chitrakoota and meeting great saints, sages like Atri and Anusuya.

The book


As much as I would like to say that the book is a good attempt at narrating Ramayana, I would regret to say that the book lacked continuity and consistency at many places. With the start of the book, It is unrealistic to imagine Time and Past to be some bodily entities to be chasing a man for the reader. The narration lost the flow in between. For example, the narration of Kartivirya and Ravana becoming friends with each other and the role of Sage Paulatsya. I was lost there. Also, Narada flying over Ravana’s mansions is beckoned to visit Ravana. Ensuing few conversations, the author suddenly states that Ravana was flying towards Narada in Pushpaka Vimana. Narada’s position was still that of a teacher and Ravana’s that of a teacher. And by postion what does it mean? Physical postions? If yes, why is Ravana flying? Poor editing of the book also gave way to grammatical mistakes.

The English vocabulary of the author is good. However, for a mythological book to be effective, it is always great to read the book in the reader’s mother-tongue because the pronunciation in English is not as distinct as the same in Sanskrit, Kannada or other languages. For example, Pushpaka Vimana can be pronounced as Puspaka Vimana, Puspaka Vimaana, Pushpaka Vimana etc.

The book emphasizes more on conversations and poetic descriptions rather than the story itself. One of the notes describes ‘jnaana’ as science and ‘vignaana’ as apllication of science, which is not true. ‘Vijnaana’ is science at a greater depth and ‘tantrajnaana’ is application of science.

There was no connecting link between how Lakshmana and Rama in exile came to know about Manthara’s conspiracy when the death of their own father was not known to them. It fails to take the reader along with the story.


However, it was delighting to read about the sub-stories like how the peacock got its plumage with multiple colours and Indra’s eyes imprinted on them, the achievements of Ansuya and Atri, Ugrasravas, Shilavati, Mandavya muni and the plot of the demi-gods and Goddess Saraswati in sending Rama on exile.
The transition from reality to the past of Nemi while narrating why he came to be known as Dasaratha added charm to the narration.

The book has notes on almost every page in small print at the end. At some places, these notes serve as a great help especially when they explain the relevance of the story to current life. They answer questions like how is Ramayana relevant in current times too? In what situations can the principles be applied? The comparison of metal and mental detectors was good in the context of Dasagriva stealing Pushpaka Vimana from Kubera and riding it.

To a commoner, the author has provided good clarification on the facts about Gods and Goddesses. For example, the testing of Anasuya was used to just reveal the true glory of Anasuya and it was not to test the principle of pativrata dharma itself. How Keikeyi was not the true source of Rama’s exile, and how Rama’s exile was a plot by demi-gods and Goddess Saraswati. The notes also describe multiple meanings of the same scenario. For example, while Bharatha took pudukes back to Ayodhya, it was the padukes whick took Bharath back to Ayodhya.

Rating:  3 stars

Verdict: I had more expectations from this book. It can be read once but definitely not worth Rs.350.

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Tomichan Matheikal said...

I'm going to read it... as part of a mutual choice between BlogAdda and me.

Sun Bloom said...

Haha. Go ahead, Sir!