Book Review – Immortals of Meluha

Hinduism believes him to be the third of the supreme trio, the one whose exceptional powers of annihilation make way for new creation. They equate him with Rudra, the storm deity, as well as the one who protected the earth twice, once by swallowing the poisonous fumes emitted by the very serpent used as a churning rope to bring out the nectar of immortality from the ocean, thereby turning his neck blue, and then by cushioning the raging fall of the Ganges to Earth with his hair. Sati was his first love. Parvati was his last. They call him Nataraj or Lord of the cosmic dance. They call him Shiva. Lord Shiva.

Now amalgamate Shiva, King Daksha, Sati, Parvateshwar, Nandi, Brahma and the nectar of immortality, called Somras. What you get are chapters straight out of Indian mythology, which presumably would also fall under the children’s Amar Chitra Katha series- ‘Tales of Shiva’.

Not really.

Shiva, in all his convolution as the destroyer, sporting a snake for a neckpiece, matted hair, and accompanied by a hoard of demons, is craftily planted as the protagonist of ‘The immortals of Meluha’, authored by Amish.

Amish from IIM, gives us a book (like most IIM graduates seem to be doing nowadays) which ferries us away from the campus life theme of sorts into the mythological portal of demigods and mortals.

A road already taken by one Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson & the Olympians) and a Deepak Chopra (Jesus) likes?

‘Immortals of Meluha’ is set in 1900’s, an era where civilization is at its peak in the Indus Valley. Shiva is a Tibetan tribal leader (of course that’s where Mt. Kailash is, and that definitely makes him someone with Mongoloid features. Good grief! And we thought Buddha was the only one), who is invited to Meluha, a utopian society, a society founded and established by a great King of the sun clan or surya vansh – Lord Ram. However he finds himself stranded in an age old feud between the Suryavanshis and Chandravanshis, the latter whom occupies the holy land of Ayodhya. Little does Shiva know that the Meluhans have been foretold about a warrior, who would redeem them from the Chandravansh oppression, and Shiva’s blue neck ratifies the prophecy.  Shiva is the One. (These parts took me back to Biblical times – the promised Messiah and the Promised Land, or wait a minute, was it the Matrix?).

The characters in this book have been transported to a new dimension and place; quite disparate to their original roles in Hindu myth. Daksha plays the crafty yet earnest Meluhan king who wheedles Shiva into accepting his newfound responsibility and to fight for the Suryavanshi race (On par with the Prince of Persia). Sati, his daughter, Xena like warrior princess and a draconian follower of Meluhan law makes Shiva go weak in the heart and knees.

Parvateshwar, commander- in-chief and godfather to Sati, eyes Shiva incredulously. Nandi, a Meluhan officer, goes on to become Shiva’s trusted aid and ally in battle. This is metaphorically true of Nandi, the bull, who is originally Lord Shiva’s steed. Brahma is a noted scientist and creator of the Somras.

‘Immortals of Meluha’ takes us along a spiral of events – love, war, duty and destiny. Amish reintroduces old characters (that were once part of childhood and storytelling grandmothers) in a new context. Shiva’s portrayal as a young warlord with a dark past, his hesitation to acknowledge his ‘saviour’ role, and slowly if not completely coming to terms with it, along with the sprigs of love he feels for a woman, very well makes us believe that he could have been as human as any one of us, subject to the same emotions that any normal man would.  (I’m sure this book would have done well as a self-help book too).

Though the language is atypical of 1900 BC, and would definitely cause distress to those who hoped for an authentic script, it reaches out to the youth, and helps us to relate to the hero. After all it is about Shiva, and his journey towards the status of Mahadev.

The book ends with us in obvious eager anticipation of the sequel. A tad too Bollywood in a couple of places, but what’s being Indian if we don’t love drama?
Why I reached out for this book in the first place? I loved the paperback cover. Visual gratification. I hope the second book has an appealing cover too.

Reshma Raju

*This piece has been selected as the Winning Entry of the Day for the ‘Viewspaper Express Yourself Writing Competition’*