The third instalment in the Ram Chandra series, Raavan: Enemy of Aryavarta, follows Raavan’s life, set in 3400 BC. A fierce warrior, brilliant scholar, ruthless businessman, powerful king, artist, musician and statesman all rolled into one, Raavan is known in mythology as the villain who kidnapped Sita, wife of mythical god Ram, in the epic Ramayana.
Instead of a unidimensional villain as in Ramayana, Raavan is human – flawed, a genius and a strong personality capable of extreme devotion on one hand and horrifying cruelty on the other.
The series based on the 3 most important participants of the Ramayana,’Ram’, Sita’ and ‘Ravan’ run in parallel. It talks about their story from birth upto a certain event where they’re lined together. The fourth books takes the series forward. However, each is an independent story and does not necessarily require reading the previous books first.
It does seem like a daunting task, especially since the author has to make sure the 3 stories are factually aligned and don’t deviate from one another. Another aspect that I really like is that every books enriches the story of the previous books by providing a different perspective of the same plot.
Secondly, I don’t know if this is the author’s brilliance or lack thereof, but the book is written in a very nice, simple and straightforward way. There isn’t a use of heavy literature, and personally, that made the book more enjoyable for me to read.
One thing that is a little unsettling is the lack of explanation of a few terms. For anyone who has read the writer’s first Trilogy, “The Shiva Trilogy”, some of these terms are nothing but a part of vocabulary because of their lengthy explanation and repeated use. However, it is not the same case with this series. It seems as if the author expects the reader to know these terms, and proceeds with a one line explanation.
For example, “Somras” is an elixir that prolongs life, which is explained in detail in the first trilogy and not in the current one. Another example is “Nagas”, which also originates and is lengthily explained in the first trilogy. Personally, I am someone who tries to visualise and imagine Fiction, and hence reading the first trilogy beforehand helped me with this book. Having said that, it is still satisfactorily explanatory and not something the reader wouldn’t understand.
But at its heart, Raavan: The Enemy of Aryavarta is a love story. It’s moving in its simplicity and there are parts that are overwhelmingly grief-stricken, albeit the narrative isn’t nuanced nor layered and the emotional thread that runs through the book is straightforward, touching on cliches of love and loss. But it is in this plainness that readers will probably find the greatest resonance.
It is also about choices; the ones we make on a moment-by-moment basis, which weave together the tangible and intangible webs of our lives, practical and spiritual. At every step, Raavan is presented with two options, and his choices determine the course of his life and shape the man he becomes – ruthless and a pawn in the hands of the gods.
All in all, I enjoy reading fiction every once in a while after reading a few biographies or some self-help book or philosophy. And this book was every bit as entertaining and fun.