Of epic value
For me, the word heaven brings to mind Apsaras dancing, Gandharvas singing and Indra and other gods drinking Amrita. A mention of Shiva and the vision I conjure up is snow-covered Himalayas with Shiva and Parvati smiling. Think of Vishnu and it is the tranquil looking god relaxing on the seven-headed snake Adishesha. Most of this imagery is from my obsessive reading of Amar Chitra Katha but they are also from my grandmother’s rather colourful renditions.
I later read the epics and myths in translation as an adult. I am still awestruck with the genius of our ancestors who created them with such fantastic stories and worlds. These tales were not merely entertaining but also inspiring, speaking of how bravery, honesty and integrity w
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Now it is an era of make-overs. Books and TV series are forging a contemporary world with that of the mythical for children. We have Ganesha, Krishna, Hanuman and every popular god in a school boy avatar fighting bullies and doing homework. For adults, we have Ashok Banker spicing up Ramayana and Chitra Divakaruni adding a feminist touch to Mahabharatha.
These stories add a twist to the tales but do not offend the originals. But the one series which has made a complete distasteful mess of our epics is The Last Vampire by Christopher Pike. Here Alisa is a 5,000-year-old vampire who currently lives in Oregon. In her first birth in Rajasthan, she was Sita married to Rama. Pike, with his wicked genius at play, turns Sita into a vampire. That too, she is forced into vampirehood by a Yaksha, born out of beating a dead woman in a grotesque ritual. This absolutely bizarre tale continues to mutilate the epics further by making Sita live through Dwaparayuga where she and Yaksha meet Krishna. Sita being depicted as a blood sucking vampire and in love with Krishna (yes!) leaves a bitter taste.
Epics and mythologies are enthralling as they are. It is essential for children to know the stories in their original forms alongside their reconstructed versions. There are hundreds of books for children that have abridged and illustrated these magnum opuses. For adults, there are good re-tellings of these legends too. Kamala Subramaniam has done a marvellous job of translating and abridging (when necessary) Mahabharata and Bhagavata. Rajagopalachary and RK Narayan’s narrations of Ramayana make wholesome readings of this epic. KM Munshi’s Krishnavatara in eight volumes bring out Krishna in all his colourful hues. Contemporary mythologists such as Ramesh Menon and Devdutt Patnaik have done the hard task of sifting out interesting stories from Puranas. Then there is Ka by Roberto Colasso, another re-telling of Indian myths that keeps faith with the originals. Vani is the founder of online library easylib.com
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