Shakti: The Divine Feminine – Anuja Chandramouli – Book Review


ShaktiGoodreads blurb: Lose yourself in Maya, the divine game of the Goddess!

She is the Mother Goddess, Mahamaya the enchantress, the supreme consciousness, the pure source from which all creation emerges and to whom all must eventually return. As Usas, the enchanting goddess of the dawn, she is loved passionately and hated fiercely, leading to a horrific tragedy. As Durga, the invincible warrior, she defeats the savage Mahishasura, whom none of the male gods could vanquish. As Kali, the fearsome dark goddess, she delights in chaos. Yet she is also Shakti, beloved of all, who, when united with Shiva, restores balance to the universe.

In this captivating narrative, explore the contrasting facets of the sacred feminine; experience her awesome power, forged on the flames of love and hate; and watch her teach the male-dominated pantheon a lesson in compassion. Witty, engaging and thought-provoking, Shakti: The Feminine Divine will force readers to re-evaluate everything they know about the gods and goddesses and inspire all to embrace the Shakti within.

One of the few explorations of the story of the Mother Goddess, Shakti, retold in modern language, this book humanizes the gods

Witty and laced with sarcasm, it is a refreshing change from the heavy language of mythological texts

Draws analogies with the modern-day situation of women and contains a powerful message of woman empowerment.

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As was the case with her earlier novel Kamadeva: The God of Desire [Link to my review], author Anuja Chandramouli takes the story (or actually various stories) of Shakti, the mother goddess, adds her own uniquely interesting perspective to the same and retells them in quite a riveting manner in her book, Shakti: The Divine Feminine and man, does she deliver quite the mean punch with this book or what!!!

Starting off with the story of Usas, the goddess of dawn and how she is wronged due to the jealousies and insecurities of Sachi, Indra’s wife the book goes on to narrate the stories of the origins of Durga, the slaying of Mahishasura and Vritrasura, Karthikeya’s birth, a unique take on Ganesha’s origins, and more. One overarching theme throughout the book remains Shakti’s uniquely wonderful relationship with The Holy Trinity – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. While one of these relationships ends up driving most of the action in the first half of the book (am not revealing which one as that would amount to a spoiler), the other two relationships end up delivering sanity to the otherwise volatile nature of Shakti. In a nutshell, these three relationships pretty much drive the book.

And of course, one simply cannot overlook the contributions of the main ‘antagonist’ to most of these stories, Indra, the king of gods. His contributions coupled with his wife Sachi’s interventions in the various stories make up for extremely interesting reading and it is quite clear that the author has used Indra more as a figurehead for all that is wrong with men and their attitudes to women nowadays rather than being honest to how he is portrayed in most traditional mythological retellings. While it did irk me quite a bit that Indra was painted with such dark hues almost throughout the book, how his character ends up by the time the book is finished somewhat redeems him.

Powerfully written, hard-hitting, the almost irreverent tone with which the book is written works really well in communicating the author’s well-articulated point of view about the plight of women in Indian society today which woefully remains largely patriarchal showing no substantial signs of improving anytime soon. Here’s hoping more men read and understand this book for what it truly is – a commentary of the times we live in today in India rather than just another mythological retelling of tales we probably already know.

Click here to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].

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A review copy of this book was offered to me by the publisher in return for an honest and unbiased review of the same.

The Curse of Brahma – Jagmohan Bhanver – Book Review


TheCurseOfBrahma

Goodreads blurb: The man who became a Brahmarishi…

The curse that banished him to the hell of hells…

And the revenge that threatens to destroy the three worlds…

When Lord Brahma, the God of Creation, banishes his star pupil from Swarglok in a fit of rage, he does not foresee that his decision will alter the fate of the three worlds. Mortally wounded, and anguished at Brahma’s unfair punishment, his pupil struggles to survive in Tamastamah Prabha, the hell of hells. In time, he becomes the Dark Lord, the most feared figure in Pataal Lok, who swears to destroy Brahma.

The power of the Dark Lord soon begins to make its presence felt in the mortal world. Vasudev, the brave prince of Bateshwar, becomes the hunter of Asura assassins; his closest friend, Kansa, almost dies while trying to save his sister from a group of deadly monsters; and the most valiant kings in Mrityulok turn over to the dark side, driven by forces beyond their control.

Only one person threatens the Dark Lord’s well-laid plans – Devki, the beautiful princess of Madhuvan, who is destined to give birth to the warrior Krishna.

Will the Dark Lord allow Krishna – the person who has been prophesied to destroy him – to be born?

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I know that this is the nth time I am repeating this, but most readers of my blog will know the interest I have in Indian mythology and various retelling of some well-known stories from the same such as the Mahabharata, Ramayana and the Puranas. And therefore, when The Curse of Brahma by Jagmohan Bhanver was published, I immediately jumped out of my seat and requested for a review copy of the same, and man, was it the right decision or what?

Right from the ‘get-go’, the author takes us on a joyride of SwargLok, MrityuLok (quite a funny name for earth I must admit) and PataalLok, the celestials, the gods, and most importantly The Dark Lord (inspired by Lord Voldemort or Voldemor’, in my humble opinion).

As the blurb reads, trouble, big trouble, is brewing in the mortal world as The Dark Lord is well poised to unleash revenge against the injustice meted out to him by Brahma all of two hundred years ago. By planning to use the mortal world to launch an all-out attack on SwargLok, he seems well set to extract his revenge on his master. However, what he doesn’t quite account for is the fact that the celestial trilogy, or at least two of them, Shiva and Vishnu have surreptitiously been following his activities over the years and have plans of their own to prevent any unnecessary bloodshed in the mortal realm. Do The Dark Lord’s plans bear fruition or do Shiva and Vishnu manage to thwart them will be answered only in the next two books of this trilogy, but suffice to say that this book is a brilliant first book in what promises to be a lovely trilogy.

Where this book scores really high is in how the plot is formed and the shape the narrative takes. Rather than resort to the now popular method of shifting the action from one setting to another resulting in creating an unnecessary tension in the proceedings, the author takes his time in patiently setting up the surrounding, the characters, their back-stories, their motivations and gradually keeps the narrative moving forward. He is not in a hurry to move at a breakneck pace and is content letting the story gradually build on the readers. After all, given that he is retelling the story of the birth of Krishna (at least in this book), he uses all of the tact and adroitness that Krishna himself will go on to display later on in his life.

While the author has taken considerable liberties with the retelling, the fact that the narrative remains coherent and believable despite the significant deviations from what is usually told speaks volumes for the research that he has done on Krishna and his life, and also for the confidence in his story-telling abilities as well. Not once was I bored during the entire book and the pages kept turning themselves. This is because of the fact that the narrative itself is so well structured and juicy enough that the book pretty much reads itself.

So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and buy the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].

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A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers in return for an honest and unbiased review.

The Rise of Hastinapur – Sharath Komarraju – Book Review


TheRiseOfHastinapur_CoverGoodreads blurb: For the story of the Great War is also the story of the women…

Amba lives for revenge, but circumstances and men conspire against her. Will her daughter bring her the only salvation she seeks?

Kunti stakes all to free her brother Vasudev and his wife Devaki. Yet it is the groom choosing ceremony that will define her life.

Gandhari too has come of age, and is faced with a difficult choice: she must marry the blind prince of Hastinapur if she is to save her kingdom from the certain ruin it faces due to Hastinapur’s deceit.

In the background, Bhishma pulls the strings, making alliances and marriages, devising new strategies, ever increasing the might of Hastinapur.

This is the Mahabharata like you’ve never seen it before.

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The toughest job for any author penning a series of books is to keep each successive book in the series just that tad better than the previous one. But going by how Sharath Komarraju has written The Rise of Hastinapur, the sequel to The Winds of Hastinapur [Link to my review], this seems like cakewalk for him. If I thought the first book was awesome, then I truly have run out of exclamations and superlatives to describe the second one.

While a simplistic opinion of this book could be summarized as a point of view of the Mahabharatha as seen from the principal women characters’ eyes, such a description would be doing grave injustice to the extremely imaginative manner in which Sharath has written both books in the series so far. In fact, I would even go far enough to recommend this book to anybody who has actually read/seen the great epic and has disliked it. I challenge them to read these books and then tell me that they still find it boring, or even worse, they find a lot of incidents and characters wrong in the story itself.

Sharath seems to have taken it upon himself to ensure that readers see this great epic in a completely new light and rather than justifying all the incidents under the guise of destiny or whatever is pre-ordained shall happen irrespective of anybody’s best efforts otherwise, the author has clearly laid out a plan where all that happens in the book somehow appears to be the ‘master-plan’ of a character. Who that is, he reveals in the last four pages of The Rise of Hastinapur.

Suffice to say that anybody who has read the first book must compulsorily read this one, no two ways about that. And even if you haven’t read the first book I would strongly encourage you to buy both books and read them back to back immediately. If not for anything else, at least to enjoy a masterful retelling of an all-time favorite story, that of the Mahabharata.

The following are a few things which I thoroughly enjoyed in the book (spoiler-free points below) –

From the story thread involving Amba

  • Amba’s moves to gain Vichitraveerya’s trust and get back into the political scheme of things at Hastina.
  • The reason as to why Amba had to finally leave the court of Hastina.
  • Amba’s desperate attempts to extract revenge from Bhishma.
  • Amba’s revenge takes a completely different hue, albeit with the same consequences for Bhishma.

From the story thread involving Kunti

  • Durvasa’s role in Pritha (Kunti)’s life.
  • The interesting story behind the birth of Kunti’s first child, who in due course of time would grow up to become Karna.

From the story thread involving Gandhari

  • The interesting story of the ‘gold standard’ being followed in Gandhar and how it was smartly used by Hastinapur politically.
  • The role that the Celestials had to play in Gandhari’s life.
  • The usage of official letters as a medium to communicate the esacalating tensions between Gandhara and Hastinapur.
  • Gandhari’s ability to ‘see’ things even though she ‘cannot’.
  • The seeds of revenge sown in Gandhari’s mind, a crucial point for moving the story of the Great Epic forward.

And finally

The last chapter of the book leaves readers a little breathless, when they come to know who it is that has been moving the pieces of this gigantic chessboard so far. However, the intentions behind these moves are still a little baffling, especially coming from this character.

All said and done, the end of the second book in this series leaves readers licking their lips, with parched throats waiting for the next book in the series to be published. And going by the two books, the rest of the series promises to be mind-blowing, to say the least.

Click here to pre-order the book on Amazon [Link].

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I was selected as an ‘early reader’ of this book by the author, however, the review itself is unbiased and uninfluenced by him in any form or fashion.

The Winds of Hastinapur – Sharath Komarraju – A second reading


thewindsofhastinapur

Given that I am going to read the second book of The Hastinapur series by Sharath Komarraju (The Rise of Hastinapur) sometime soon as an ‘early reader’ of the book, I thought I would quickly re-read the first one in the series The Winds of Hastinapur so that I could brush up my memories of the story so far. And man, did this book take away my breath yet again or what.

As I have mentioned in my earlier review [Link to review], the first half of the book sets the stage for what is truly an unique retelling of the Mahabharata, reimagining the origins to quite a large extent while staying extremely honest both to the epic itself and the characters as well. While the character motivations for their actions are probably a little different when compared to the original epic, the fact that they don’t stray too far from the original premise of Veda Vyasa’s epic shows the reverence that the author has for it.

The following are some of the more striking incidents in the plot and its treatment that stayed back with me during the second reading of this book.

1- The extreme sacrifices made by the Ladies of the River in ensuring that they lived out their lives burdened with the memories of all the earlier Ladies of the River before them. Even to imagine a situation like this gives me a headache. As it is, memories (good or bad) from one’s own lifetime are bad enough to give me a headache, then just imagine living out a lifetime with memories of more than one previous lives.

2- Devavrata’s farsightedness and ability to put the greater good of the greater number of people when he decided to leave Meru and search his destiny with his father Shantanu in Hastina.

3- Satyavati, also called Matsyagandha, her thoughts on virginity and to paraphrase “She knew now that that was virginity; being pure in thought and action, being unafraid as long as your actions have nothing immoral about them; and taking pride in the gifts that the Gods have given you, and spit back on the shame that the world insisted on heaping upon you.

4- Ironical situations – The price Satyavati pays for having extracted the promise from Devavrata, despite having both her sons ascend the throne of Hastina, both of them didn’t even last for more than couple of years as the ruler. Despite keeping his oath of never ascending the throne of Hastina himself and ruling the kingdom, the irony of Devavrata having to run the kingdom all by himself for more than his fair share of time.

5-In case you wondered why the book is called what it is called, its last line has the answer to this question.

In a nutshell, if you are still wondering if this book is worth reading, then you just haven’t read either my original review or this post carefully enough.

Don’t wait anymore, purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].

The story of Surya and Aruna


Regular readers of Mahabore’s Mumblings will know my affinity towards Indian mythology and the lesser known tales from the same. This post marks my return to this genre after a reasonably long hiatus.

Here’s hoping you enjoy the same, and if you do so, let me know in the Comments Section below the post, and it also goes without saying, please share the post with all your friends and families as well.

So, without further ado, here goes the story of Surya, the Sun god and Aruna, his charioteer.

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SuryaArunaWhen the ocean of milk was churned and Amrita, the divine nectar of immortality was obtained, one of the asuras, Rahu disguised himself as a deva and sat down in line to drink the same. However, Surya managed to see through Rahu’s disguise and prevented Mohini from serving him the Amrita. Due to this Rahu had a longstanding grudge with Surya.

Despite the fact that all the devas knew about this enemity of Rahu’s with Surya, they did not do anything about it, and this enraged Surya to no end. He was of the opinion that the devas, being his kinsmen should have helped him get rid of Rahu’s threat once and for all.

Another version of the story has that, Rahu, enraged by Surya’s action swallows him whole and Surya is saved only when Lord Vishnu intervenes and Rahu is forced to regurgitate him. Surya blames the other devas for not coming to his aid when the asura Rahu swallowed him and insulted him so.

In any case, an angered Surya had decided to destroy all the worlds with his fierce heat.

As Surya was preparing himself to rise from the eastern kingdoms with the intention of burning through all the worlds with his heat, the great rishis approached the gods and asked them to intervene. The gods along with the rishis went to Brahma for a solution. Brahma confirmed their worst fears when he told them that Surya intended to destroy all the worlds with his heat, but he also reassured them when he told them that what was happening was pre-ordained and therefore a solution for this issue had also been determined beforehand.

He informed the gods and the rishis about how Aruna, the intelligent son of Kashyapa with a well-developed upper torso had recently been appointed the charioteer of Surya with the sole purpose of overcoming this particular situation. By doing his duty as a charioteer and staying in front of Surya all the time, Aruna shall absorb all the fierce energy emanated by Surya in his anger and shall ensure the well-being of all the worlds.

Aruna, having the divine providence of the reason for his birth, did just as Brahma described and ensured that Surya’s anger at the other gods did not result in the destruction of the worlds.