Saturday, October 19, 2013

Classic Tales from Mystic India - Review

Stories of  Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Ganesha and Krishna and from the Ramayana and Mahabharata

King Kubera was the greediest man in the world. Hated and feared by many, he schemed to win the love of the beautiful goddess Parvati... but learned an important lesson when he invited her elephant-headed son Ganesha to lunch one day...

THUS GOES ONE OF THE MANY DELIGHTFUL TALES in this decidedly grown-up book of traditional Indian stories, retold for the modern reader. Author Kamla K. Kapur’s connection to these ago-old stories is the reverent yet individualistic kind we might expect from someone whose introduction is of her hometown, where naked, dreadlocked holy men speed about on motorbikes.

To collect these stories, Kapur relied on ancient sacred texts, modern scholarship and chance encounters with interesting people who just happened to know a really good one about the time that Vishnu sank into the ocean, was incarnated as a pig, and had a really wonderful time.

Like myths around the world, these are teaching stories that offer both a window into a fascinating culture that has existed for thousands of years, and a code for living that can be applied to the modern world. Whether you read these engaging tales for the monkey gods, talking toads and beautiful maidens in distress... or for an Eastern viewpoint on the eternal questions surrounding love, friendship, faith, happiness and war, this is a book that bears repeated reading and is a fine addition to any collection.

About the Author

Kamla K. Kapur is well know in her native India as a poet and playwright. She was born and and raised in India, and studied in both India and the USA. She has written for The Times of India, The Hindustan Times and India Today.

India is a land of stories. You have all sort of kings and queens, their historical exploits and sagas; numerous Gods and Goddesses, each defined by their mighty deeds, demons and rakshasas who have met their end in the hands of goods; great men and women who have achieved supernatural feats; and two of the most widely known epics – Ramayana and Mahabharata. It’s impossible not to grow up listening to such tales from your grandparents and parents. That’s how most of our childhoods are framed, and we adore these mythological heroes.

Kamla K. Kapur’s 'Classic Tales from Mystic India' helped me relive my childhood, as I traveled back into time, reading the age-old stories that never fail to fascinate. The heroic grandeur of Shiva, the calm poise of Vishnu, the mystical halo of Brahma, the bravery of Ganesha, the vast knowledge of Krishna and the ever enticing characters from Ramayana and Mahabharata – Kamla K. Kapur provides a mesmerizing concoction of tales that you would definitely love to read, and relish.

The book is divided into several parts, each dealing with stories related to a particular character. You start with Vishnu, and then gradually progress to tales of Brahma, Shiva, Parvati, Ganesha and Krishna. The last two sections are dedicated to Ramayana and Mahabharata.

I wouldn't pick out a particular favorite among the stories. Rather, I would honestly admit that all the tales are perfectly narrated. Mythological tales have always been my favorite, and thus I enjoyed reading each one of them. Add to that the brilliant story telling by the author, and you have a book that you would like to read over and over again.

The authenticity of Gods and Goddesses, and the other Heroes in Hindu mythology have always been debated. We do not know if the Gods really existed, and if yes, whether all the stories that we have read about them are true or not. We do not know if the great epics – Ramayana and Mahabharata – were historical events that happened in reality. We hardly get to read about them in History, and even if we do, there is no mention of the dates or other evidences that can vouch for their authenticity. However, we do have to agree that the stories surrounding these epics and mythologies are always tempting, and whether you believe them to be true or not, there is no way you can stay away from the charm of these accounts.

Do not go by my words, as my taste of books may be different from yours. However, do pick up a copy of this book to savor the beauty of Kamla K. Kapur’s narration. Her choice of words is immaculate, and she does a good job of re-telling the traditional stories that fit the fancy of modern readers. The stories are crisp and short, and full of wisdom and knowledge. This is a quick read, and augurs well for a train journey (that’s what I did). Revive the magic of our ancient legend, and soak in the depths of the beautiful mythological chronicles that define our county, India.

Title: Classic Tales from Mystic India
Author: Kamla K. Kapur
Publisher: Jaico Publishing House
Publication Year: 2013
Language: English
Binding: Paperback
Genre: Religion and Philosophy
No. of Pages: 160
Price: Rs 225
My Rating: 4/5

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