When Rama met Hanuman - a short, delightful take (IANS Book Review)

October 19th, 2011 - 10:19 am ICT by IANS  

Book: “Valmiki Ramayana: The Book of Wilderness”; Translated and Abridged by: Arshia Sattar; Publisher: Penguin, Pages: 150; Price: Rs.99

When a story told a million times and a mythology tale one has heard over and over again since childhood is still written with a flair and style that make it exciting and gripping at the same time, then you have a great read in your hands. This is one such book.

The slim work covers that part of Valmiki’s Ramayana when Rama, Laksmana and Sita enter the mighty Dandaka forest to begin their long exile from Ayodhya. The book ends as Hanuman prepares for his flight in search of Ravana’s Lanka to locate the abducted Sita. Arshia Sattar, whose areas of interest include Indian epics and mythology, succeeds in bringing alive Valmiki’s original Sanskrit writing in simple English.

One of the most emotive moments in the story is when Vali is on the ground dying, having been targeted by a hidden Rama when he was fighting his brother Sugriva. Vali initially berates Rama for shooting the fatal arrow. By the time he passes away, even Sugriva is grieving, overlooking the fact that it was his hatred for and fear of his brother that made Rama intercede.

The story ends with Sugriva summoning his monkey army from all over the universe. Millions of monkeys come, in all sizes, shapes and types, to launch a major hunt for the missing Sita. He sends tens of thousands of monkeys in each direction, giving meticulous directions on what and where to look for and the dangers and peculiarities of each path.

But there is one monkey he picks for a solo mission. This is the all powerful Hanuman, who, many Hindus say, is the real hero of the Ramayana. Seeing him, Rama realizes that this son of Vayu is no ordinary monkey. So he takes off his signet ring with his name engraved on it and gives it to Hanuman, confident he would locate Sita. As Hanuman prepares to soar into the sky, the narration ends.

For Rs.99, this is a steal. Grab it.

(M.R. Narayan Swamy can be contacted at narayan.swamy@ians.in)

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