Asura, this word has always intrigued me since childhood, thanks to my grandmother’s stories. And the biggest of them all, Ravana or Dasamukha. We all know him as the one who kidnapped Sita and his whole lineage vanquished thanks to his one mistake. But do we know his side of the story?
Anand Neelakantan has always been an author whose stories intrigue me, and Asura has now set new benchmarks for me in mythological fiction.
‘Ravana sees himself as the epitome of a complete human being; So, Rama may be seen as God but Ravana is a complete man.’, proclaims Anand Neelakantan’s take on Ravana’s story, Asura: The Tale of the Vanquished. The book opens with the ancient Asura empire lying shattered into pieces, thanks to warring petty kingdoms reeling under the heel of Devas. In desperation, the Asuras look up to a young savior, Ravana.
Believing that a better world awaits them, Bhadra and other common Asuras start following Ravana towards their new life. One by one, Ravana starts taking on territories, killing Devas and Brahmins, abolishing cast system and making everyone equal. But even as Ravana spread his wings, the Asuras didn’t flourish much as they were expecting. During this time, Ravana tries to set his foot as a King in his junta, in between losing many friends and dealing with family issues. A time comes when everything is fine in his Lanka, but his one action changed the history of the ancient world. The day he decides to abduct Sita.
Was Sita’s abduction a result of lust? Or was Sita really related to Ravana as they say? Nobody knows till day, but all I know is that Neelakantan has given me an amazing book to read! After reading Asura, I researched about Ravana and Sita’s relationship and I was in for a lot of surprises. Many mythologists still believe that Sita was Ravana’s daughter or was related to his clan. Especially in Sanghadasa’s Jaina version of Ramayana and also in Adbhuta Ramayana, Sita, entitled Vasudevahindi, is born as the daughter of Ravana. According to this version, astrologers predict that first child of Vidyadhara Maya (Ravana’s wife) will destroy his lineage. (source* Wikipedia).
Now, there a few things about Asura that you should keep in mind before reading it. First, remove all the childhood stories or books related to Rama from your mind. This book is from the point of view from Ravana, and if you want to thoroughly enjoy and understand it, you have to read through his perspective. Might sound a little tough, but trust me it is worth it.
Secondly, you will be in for a hell lot of surprises. For Example; Maricha was a good Asura, but in our stories, we recognize him as one who helped Ravana in abducting Sita by transforming himself into a golden deer. And many more surprises that will definitely keep you hooked to the book.
Thirdly, it’s a long book, 500+ pages. So make up your mind to stick till the end before you start reading it. It took me about good 9-10 days to finish this one. But in the end, it was worth it.
When it comes to the storyline, it was damn impressive! Putting up a long dead mythological character’s thoughts on pages with extensive research, that should come out as correct as well, is a genius idea! You get to see a totally different side of Ravana, something that is unheard off. Though my grandmother always maintained a stance on his deep knowledge of the world and him being as the most genius Asura alive, but then the twists mentioned in this book are something that she never shared with me.
All in all, Asura is a book that will keep you hooked till the end. From the first page to the last page, you will be enchanted with Asura’s story. And yes, it is a must read!