Stolen Hope – Shubha Vilas – Book Review


Goodreads blurb: In the evil labyrinths of Dandakaranya forest, human values are put to test. Rama’s righteousness, Lakshmana’s loyalty and Sita’s endurance reflect our own sense of values and judgment in difficult times. The story unfolds the facets of human life – the conflict and the trickery, the praise and the slander and, above all, the hope and the despair in the eventful forest life of the Exiled Royals.

Stolen Hope is about extreme deception and extreme love. It is about arrogant power and deep devotion. With every twist and turn, Rama, Sita and Lakshmana find themselves robbed of whatever and whoever they value most.

Exploring the dynamics of human relations – between father and son, husband and wife, teacher and disciple – and the complex game of power and greed, Stolen Hope mirrors our own dilemmas in the modern world and teaches us how we must overcome them.

Seek courage when everything, including hope, is stolen.


This book picks up from when the trio of Rama, Lakshmana and Sita begin settling down in the Dandakaranya forest. The author narrates the story of how this forest got around to being named so and the events that led to their presence there. As was the case with the earlier two books, this one also takes small detours into stories of related characters as well as some of the places that the trio visit on their journeys during their exile, and the best part about these stories is that they only end up adding that much more meat and heft to the timeless epic that the Ramayana is.

All the earlier versions of this epic I had read were abridged versions and more or less stuck to the main story, ie, the narrative arc of Rama, Lakshmana and Sita, and that probably is the reason that I am thoroughly enjoying this particular retelling so much more. Each and every one of the smaller ‘side’ stories which form part of this retelling are making my overall experience of reading the entire series more than quite a bit. And coupled with my recent penchant and interest in Indian mythology I have to admit that I haven’t quite enjoyed a series of books as much as I am loving the entire The Game of Life series by Shubha Vilas.

In this book readers get a glimpse into Rama’s prowess with weapons and his smarts as a single warrior against thousands of rakshasas from Dushana and Khara’s army. And the entire episode of Sita being kidnapped by Ravana due to the chain of events set in motion by Surpanakha are also explained in great detail. We also get to see the rare occasion where Rama loses his composure and Lakshmana has to step in to cool him down and get his elder brother’s distressed mind working logically and objectively again. This episode proves to be quite pivotal in determining the true inner strength of Lakshmana and him taking center stage for a brief period of time.

In a nutshell, a worthy continuation of what promises to be an engaging series of books by Shubha Vilas.

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


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

Shattered Dreams – Shubha Vilas – Book Review


Goodreads blurb: Shattered Dreams is the sequel to the national bestseller, Rise of the Sun Prince, in the new spiritual and motivational series Ramayana – The Game of Life. Twelve joyful years have passed in Ayodhya since the wedding of Rama and Sita at the end of Book 1.

Now, in Shattered Dreams, Shubha Vilas narrates the riveting drama of Rama’s exile. Through tales of Rama’s unwavering and enigmatic persona, the book teaches us how to handle reversals positively; through Bharata’s actions, it teaches us to handle temptation; and through Sita’s courage, to explore beyond our comfort zone. This complicated family drama provides deep insights on how human relationships work and how they fail.

With Valmiki’s Ramayana as its guiding light, Shattered Dreams deftly entwines poetic beauty from the Kamba Ramayana and Ramacharitramanas, as well as folk philosophy from the Loka Pramana tales, to demonstrate how the ancient epic holds immediate relevance to modern life. Experience the ancient saga of the Ramayana like never before.


The second book in the Ramayana series by Shubha Vilas Shattered Dreams is decidedly more grim and serious compared to the first one. The first book Rise of the Sun Prince [Link to review] dealt with Rama’s birth and ended with him getting married to Sita and represented the more joyful days of Rama as a teenager and youngster, this book deals with the more serious events in Rama’s life which marks the true beginning of his journeys.

Starting with Dasaratha’s premonitions and fears surrounding Rama’s coronation as the King of Ayodhya, the book deals with the events surrounding the same and how Manthara, Queen Kaikeyi’s handmaiden poisons her mind and extracts two long forgotten promises from the King. The sequence of events leading to Rama being exiled and Dasaratha dying due to the grief of being separated from his favorite son are quite poignantly narrated and even a fairly unemotional person like me felt for the old King and the citizens of Ayodhya when Rama left the kingdom. Such is the wonderful hold that the narrator has over the story and the flow of his words on the pages.

What still surprises me about this series is the fact that despite having read and re-read the story itself so many times over the course of more than few years, each re-reading brings to the fore something new and something unique with it. Maybe it’s just the wisdom that age brings with it, or maybe there’s something more to the Indian mythological epics that I give credit for. In a nutshell, I am thoroughly enjoying this series, all the more because, it has no fictional embellishments to it and sticks mostly to the Valmiki version with bits and pieces from the Kamba Ramayanam and Tulsidas’ Ramcharitmanas thrown in here and there.

What made this book more enjoyable were the small nuggets of stories of Anasuya which form the last chapter of the book. Gives me material to put up a few mythological posts on my blog after quite a longish gap.

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


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

Rise of the Sun Prince – Shubha Vilas – Book Review


Goodreads blurb: Ramayana: The Game of Life (Book 1), one of the world’s great literary masterpieces, skillfully retold for modern audiences. Epics like the Ramayana have been recounted infinite times. Is there a need for another chronicle in the presence of so many? How is this one different? And is it relevant to our ever-changing modern lives?

Yes, there is a need, yes this is different and yes, it is relevant. This new series of books, each following one khand of the Ramayana, decodes the eternal wisdom of that poetic scripture through gripping narrative and thought-provoking instruction. In the time-honored custom of spreading wisdom through tales, every fascinating story in the epic is retold here and every character unfolded to captivate your heart and open your mind to life’s deepest questions.

The narrative closely follows Valmiki’s Ramayana, gently weaving in folk tales as well as the beautiful analogies of the Kamba Ramayana. The first of this six-volume series, Rise of the Sun Prince, takes you through the divine story of Lord Rama from His birth up to His marriage. Through these pages are revealed the tales of Dasaratha’s leadership, Vishwamitra’s quest for power and the intriguing story of a little-known stone maiden. Ramayana: The Game of Life has all of this and much more – food for contemporary thought drawn from an enduring masterpiece.


Regular readers of my blog might wonder how many more times am I going to read and write about mythology, but the honest reality of the situation is this; the more I read stories from Indian mythology, the more fascinated I am by them. And what better place to begin reading yet another mythological series than with The Ramayana. This time around I picked up Rise of the Sun Prince by Shubha Vilas, the first of his six book series titled Ramayana – The Game of Life.

Although I have to say that Devdutt Pattanaik’s Sita: An illustrated retelling of the Ramayana blew me away with the sheer breadth of the research that he had done to write the same in terms of actually having read more than a few regional versions of the epic and authored that book, this one, Shubha Vilas’ Rise of the Sun Prince blew me away with the sheer depth of the research that he has done into Valmiki Ramayana and the Kamba Ramayanam (Tamizh retelling of the epic). While the story closely follows that of the Valmiki Ramayana, the author inserts interesting little nuggets from the Kamba Ramayanam every so often which only add to the overall experience of the book itself.

Another interesting aspect about this book is the fact that the author chooses to highlight the contributions of Sage Vishwamitra to the overall epic itself. Beginning with how he approaches Dasaratha to ask for Rama’s help in slaying the demons Tataka, Maricha and Subahu to how he manages to deftly manipulate the situation to ensure that Rama ends up marrying Sita, the story arc of this sage in this book is quite interesting. And what’s even more delightful is the fact that this book pretty much chronicles the whole story of Vishwamitra himself in terms of how he becomes a brahmarishi from being a king himself. His journey towards self-realization, towards humility, towards the ultimate form of devotion to the Supreme Lord himself is eye-opening in more than one way. I personally had never seen or heard the story of Vishwamitra told this way and I found this portion of the book more than just a little interesting myself.

What was also an interesting part of the book were the various footnotes appended to almost every page. In these, the author conveys his personal learnings from each of the small incidents in that page or goes on to elucidate the broader meanings and interpretations of the happenings in that page. These add more than just a little value to the overall reading experience.

Click here to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link] and experience what I personally found to be an extremely authentic, from-the-heart retelling of this timeless epic mythological tale.


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

Sita’s Sister – Kavita Kane – Book Review

SitaSSisterCoverGoodreads blurb: As Sita prepares to go into exile, her younger sisters stay back at the doomed palace of Ayodhya, their smiles, hope and joy wiped away in a single stroke. And through the tears and the tragedy one woman of immense strength and conviction stands apart—Urmila, whose husband, Lakshman, has chosen to accompany his brother Ram to the forest rather than stay with his bride. She could have insisted on joining Lakshman, as did Sita with Ram. But she did not. Why did she agree to be left behind in the palace, waiting for her husband for fourteen painfully long years?


At the outset, let me clarify that one word to brieftly describe this book would be ‘mindblowing’.

While most regular readers of my blog would know that I am quite a big fan of Indian mythology and it therefore follows that the Ramayana and the Mahabharata remain two of my all time favorite books for multiple reasons. Of late, what has piqued my interest are the various retellings of these great epics by various Indian authors ranging from the extremely multi-faceted and knowledgeable Devdutt Pattanaik to personal favorites like Sharath Komarraju with The Winds of Hastinapur (read my review here). Almost all of these books, the good ones at least have always managed to rekindle my interest in the originals yet again and I tend to redouble my efforts to go back and revisit them. Sita’s Sister by Kavita Kane is truly a notable addition to this growing list of retellings and novels derived from these great epics.

Using Urmila, Sita’s sister and the wife of Lakshmana as her central protagonist, the author manages to convey the story of one of the most overlooked and probably the most under-appreciated characters of the Ramayana. Using information available in the Ramayana itself and also her creative liberty and imagination in trying to imagine the situations that Urmila found herself in, Kavita Kane manages to quietly but surely pull us all into her version of the palace of Ayodhya in the middle of the turbulent days immediately following Urmila’s marriage to Lakshman and takes us on what might have been her personal journey of fourteen years when her husband was on exile with Rama and Sita.

What endeared this book to me so much was the fact that the author has asked all those questions from Rama, Dasharatha and all the other elders of the Ishkvaku clan that probably all fans of this great epic have debated over the course of very many years; that of the fate of the women of the palace that Rama left behind when he went on exile, his mother Kausalya, Lakshmana’s mother Sumitra, Lakshmana’s wife Urmila, Bharata’s wife Mandavi when he decided to live the life of a recluse hermit in Nandigram for those fourteen years. Using Urmila as the medium to ask these questions, the author manages to put forth extremely pertinent points as to how the women of this epic suffered quite a bit due to the insistence of the men of the family to follow their dharma and perform their duties to their parents and kingdoms even at the cost of their mothers and wives. While these portions of the book deal with topics that could easily have been treated with a heavy hand of feminism, the fact that the author chose to deliver her questions and points extremely logically without resorting to ‘rabble rousing’ speaks volumes for her levels of even mindedness with which she understands and has handled these sensitive questions.

What also struck me about this book was the treatment of the main protagonist, Urmila. While most of us who have read the Ramayana earlier would probably have assumed a weak, moping wife who would have resigned to her fate and her dharma as Lakshmana’s wife, Urmila strikes us a strong, confident, independent woman from the very outset. Her loyalty to her sister Sita, even though she was adopted, her parents’ preferential treatment to Sita from a very young age, and her unflinching love for Lakshmana through the fourteen years of exile, are all brought out extremely poignantly and beautifully throughout the book.

In my opinion, no review can do true justice to this wonderful book and you should immediately click on one of these links to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].


Disclaimer: I was provided a review copy of this book by the publishers in return for an honest and unbiased review of the same.



Today’s prompt was to write about a book which I recently read, the impact it had on me and the reasons for the same.

At the outset let me confess that it has been at least a month now since I have read any book, and anybody who has been following my book reading habits on Goodreads since the start of 2014 will know that this is the longest that I have gone without reading a book this year. A plethora of reasons have contributed to this long gap, but that is material for another post and not this one.

Given this background, I am not going to restrict my discussion to just one book which I recently read, but am broadening the scope to a genre which I thoroughly enjoy and have learnt a lot from – Indian mythology.

The advent of high speed unlimited broadband has meant that most of us spend more time googling for resources in topics and subjects that we are interested in, and to me, this means more time, bandwidth and resources to search for stories from Indian mythology. And one such source has provided me with access to some of the best English translations of the great epics, the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and other seminal Sanskrit works. To me, this has been a treasure trove of information on Indian mythological and religious texts.

As a child growing up in pre-satellite TV India, my primary source of Indian mythological stories were ones that my grandparents narrated to me as bedtime tales, Amar Chitra Katha comics and the BR Chopra TV serials – Ramayana and Mahabharata on Doordarshan. When I grew older, C Rajagopalachari’s abridged editions of both these great epics also provided a lot of information to me on stories from them.

However, the last couple of years have been quite an eye opener in terms of understanding the vast ocean of knowledge these epics were when it came to the lessons to be learnt, the characters in them, their stories, and the sheer variety of human emotions they dealt with.

Take the Ramayana as an example. While most of us immediately think of Rama, Sita’s abduction, Rama slaying Ravana and Hanuman’s exploits during the great war as the main points of this great epic, lots of little stories and incidents such as Kaikeyi’s motivation behind demanding that boon from Dasharatha, Vibhishana’s motivation behind switching sides in the great war, Sita’s travails after she is rescued by Rama, these are some parts of the epic that I read about only in the recent past. These give me a better, deeper and healthier understanding of the great epic itself. Further, reading multiple interpretations of the great epic, both online and offline also meant that I appreciate the nuances, lesser known tales and the human emotions behind the individual characters in these stories better today.

The Mahabharata still remains that formidable mountain range (notice I use the word ‘range’ here rather than ‘peak’ as the epic contains multiple stories within itself) which I still kind of struggle getting my hands around. Irrespective of the number of times I read about incidents which are popular like the Game of Dice, Abhimanyu’s death, the Palace of Illusions, I am left spell bound by the sheer depth of information and subsequent interpretative knowledge in this great epic. It is not simply that wise men of the past and present state that the Mahabharata is nothing, if not a lesson for all of us humans in how to lead our lives. All that we need in terms of knowledge, information and guidance are there in different parts of this great epic.

Another profound religious text that I have been introduced to in the recent past has been the Srimad Bhagavatham or the Bhagavatha Purana, one of the great Puranic texts of Hinduism, focusing on devotion to the Supreme Lord, Vishnu. This text provides so much of information about Krishna and other forms of Vishnu that it is mind-blowing at all levels. As is that wasn’t enough, there are so many other stories of deities, humans and others in this text that one could probably spend a better part of a lifetime trying to read, understand and imbibe the lessons here.

I could go on and on about some of the other epics that I have had the pleasure of having glanced through during the last couple of years, but I will restrict myself to these three for now. If, like me, you are a fan and aficionado of Indian mythology and religious texts, then you surely have to keep coming back to this blog from time to time to read up on some retellings of well known and lesser known tales in this genre.


This post has been written for Project 365 :  A post a day where the objective is to publish at least one post a day based on the prompts provided by the WordPress team.