Demons of Chitrakut – Book three of The Ramayana

4:03:00 PM


Author: Ashok K. Banker
Pages: 615
Binding: Paperback
ISBN: 0143033352
Publisher: Penguin
Copy: Own
Rating: 2.5/5


I’m only just past the third book of Banker’s 7-part Ramayana series, and I am already huffing and puffing. At 615 pages, Demons of Chitrakut is the longest and perhaps the tiresome-est book of the series. My resolve to read all seven books weakens, and I find it hard to review each book as a separate entity. What seemed like fascinating detailing in the beginning, now seems like an exercise in chewing gum that’s long lost its flavor. But I trudge along…

So, the Demons of Chitrakut is an account of the time between the Rama-Sita wedding to their exile in the forest of Panchavati. Pretty much the whole story takes place within the Suryavansha palace in Ayodhya and by the time one gets to the forest of Chitrakut and meets any demons, the book is nearly over. So what take Rama, Sita and Lakshman so long to justify the title of the book? Drama, and a lot of it, in true Banker style.

We have Queen Kaikeyi, under the influence of Manthara and her evil spells, seducing the near-dead King Dasarath, extracting her two boons, and then regaining her sanity only to repent her actions. We have an outraged Dasarath divorcing Kaikeyi, getting his heart broken at the realization that he has banished Rama, and crowned Bharat the crown-prince, and finally dying. We have, of course Rama leaving dutifully, Sita and Lakshman in tow. We have Queen Kausalya being noble, etc. and becoming regent to the throne and we have Manthara jumping off a tower and dying because that’s how it must end for the bad guy, right? Cut to Lanka, and we have what looks like a brain dead Ravana and civil war in the nation. Finally, there is the Rama-Sita-Lakshman trio meeting sages, tribal folk, demons, Supanakha and more demons.

But, as with all things, the book has some good things as it has bad. While Banker’s long-drawn details seem unnecessary for the most part, they do well to etch each character deeply into the reader’s mind. Always-the-underdog Lakshman, for example, gets a very definitive voice and character.  Another notable thing in this book is Banker’s interpretation of the idea of Lakshman Rekha. Unlike the usual grain-of-rice or arrow-on-soil boundary that the Lakhman Rekha is thought to be, Banker translates it as a grassy path that Lakshman builds with his own hands – a kind of natural border around the hut. It makes more sense if later in the plot, Sita is instructed to stay within the ‘borders’ of the hut rather than inside some symbolic boundary.

Supanakha’s character is also given more exposure, and her feelings for Rama, more sympathy. Disguised as a doe, Supanakha’s character follows Rama around all through the three books and one cannot help but feel bad when the showdown happens. But as the plot thickens, Rama’s dharma-esque behaviours become more frequent, and his character becomes increasingly unreal. But then that’s Rama, and this is the Ramayana – the chronicles of the ideal man. Yawn.

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Also read the reviews of Part 1 and Part 2.

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  1. this is what happens with long series. midway they bore you down. i am re-reading robert jordan's 14 book series.

    But i guess you just have to grit your teeth and read it all... if only to know how it ends and how the author ends it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sigh. I couldn't agree more, FL! But the Robert Jordan series that you talk about must be REALLY good for you to want to re-read. I'm never attempting this stunt ever again!

    ReplyDelete

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