Ashok K. Banker's six-book Ramayana series belongs to that rarefied category of books whose contents are as good as, if not better than, the blurbs. Let me tell you that this series is not a straightforward translation of the ancient Indian epic Ramayana [literally meaning "The Travels of Rama"]; it is a imaginative retelling by Banker.
Prince of Ayodhya, the first book in the series, initally deals with the characters in the ruling circle of Ayodhya. Young prince Rama's life is altered when the Brahmarishi Vishwamitra comes to Ayodhya to ask Rama to come with him to his ashram and destroy the rakshasas who hamper the daily activities of the sages and brahmins there. And he and his brother Lakshmana are given the incredible gift of brahman shakti (divine force), and taught how to use dev-astras (divine weapons).
What I love about Prince of Ayodhya is the way the characters have been described – each person has been fleshed out beautifully. Banker has obviously given a lot of thought to all the major characters, and has introduced several new ones too, thereby making the story even better. Each individual is complex and multifaceted, unlike the staid characters of the Ramayana TV series. Banker succeeds in portraying Rama as a normal human, just like you and me. This helps the reader "connect" and empathise with him, in a way that is never possible while reading the Valmiki or Kamba Ramayana. And Ravana is present from the first chapter itself, which adds to the excitement.
Banker has dealt with the emotional aspects really well – the relationships between Dasaratha and his three wives, and especially the conflict between Kausalya and Kaikeyi, and the relationships between the four princes, especially Rama and Lakshmana, have been portrayed exquisitely. The battle sequences are incredible. The battle between Rama and Lakshmana, powered by the shakti of brahman, against the hybrids of Tataka is the climax of the book.
Prince of Ayodhya entertains a lot. The plot never falters, the dialogues are perfect, everything gels together. I bought the book in June 2004, and must have read it 100 times. Trust me, this is one story you'll never get bored with, no matter how many Ramayanas you have read. If you have not read it as yet, then read it, and fall in love with it, as millions have all over the world.Powered by Sidelines