My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Asura, the story of the vanquished by Anand Neelakantan, takes a fresh look at the story of Rama and Ravana from a new perspective. It talks about the Aryans and Dravidians, calling them Devas and Asuras, and the various societal changes that happen when they overrun and attack each other’s kingdoms. Very clearly, according to the author, the Devas and Asuras as conquerors, are identical in the way they ravage the conquered , and clearly, there is nothing Godly about the name “Deva.”
Sita is portrayed as his daughter who is abandoned due to a prediction about Sita being detrimental to his kingdom, just as in Hindu mythology, Kamsa tried his best to kill Krishna. This is not actually mentioned in the book but the analogy will be known to all who know Hindu mythology.
There is another character, Bhadra who has lost his entire family in a ghastly manner at the hands of the Devas . Because of the past, Bhadra blindly supports Ravana in his efforts to establish a powerful Asura Empire. Through Ravana and Bhadra, the story actually becomes the story of the Asura society.
One admires the immensely varied imagination of the author as he tries to blend together known scripture stories, with his amazing narrative. The Devas revel in a hierarchical societal structure where you get successively more and more untouchable as you come down the status ladder. The Asuras from the early days had what might be called a society that was what we would term socialism, in today’s parlance.
The entire book is actually all about society and politics. It shows us how ‘dharma’ or ‘righteousness’ is made by the victors and to understand what is truly right or wrong, one must look at it from all points of view, especially those of the vanquished, whom one tends to ignore.
Read it to the story of the emperor who was vanquished and still did teach us many lessons of true dharma. Read it to understand different points of view. Most of all, read it to understand that it one may give up everything but never hope in the symphony of life.