Book review: Prince of Ayodhya by Ashok Banker

It is interesting to note that Ashok K. Banker’s version of the mythological saga Ramayana is published under the genre of ‘Fiction.’ For it well feels like one, thanks to the surprisingly eerie details Banker fills our mind with.

Banker reconstructs the epic poem, and painstakingly so. I’ve read the first book – of the series of six–and found it to be immensely engaging. In fact, I finished the fat volume in no more than 3-4 sittings (of course, it helped that I’m unemployed at the moment), and though it will probably take you a few more sittings, every minute will be worth it. This, provided you are ready to accept Banker’s version of the tale.

Prince of Ayodhya by Ashok K. Banker

Banker puts his disclaimer well, in the prologue. No two versions of this eons-old tale are same, as it is passed down from grandmother to her grandchild, orally, he says. What we hear today, is the dumbed-down version of the story, the original being in cryptic Sanskrit verses. He insists that the Ramayana most of us know today is reduced to a mere “moral tale,” as opposed to the actual story of Prince Rama, which is packed with amorous escapades of King Dasarath, grim details of the battles fought, detailed explanation of the way Ayodhya’s seemingly unconquerable armed soldiers worked (Ayodhya translates to ‘the unconquerable’), physical description of the asuras, uncouth mannerisms of Queen Kaikeyi, astounding powers possessed by the great seers, and so on.

Book One is a mix of all of the above. It begins with Rama having a vision of the horrific misfortune that awaits to befall his beloved home city of Ayodhya, ravaging it to nothingness. We see the story – if I may call it that – move on to how sage Vishwamitra warns Ayodhya’s king (Rama’s father) of the impending doom with the imminent and eventual rise of the Ravana. After much debate and persuasion, the father’s heart in the king reluctantly allows Rama (and Lakshman) to accompany the learned sage to a forest to rid it of asuras and other demons. Meanwhile, Ravana, of course, is readying a colossal army to capture Ayodhya, and eventually the whole of Prithvi lok.

To praise Banker’s work seems embarrassing to me, for those who have read him will testify of his prowess with words and ability to transport the reader to the actually place of the event taking place, in the book. Read his work to know the fascinating times of yore – their traditions, practices and talent. Their social and moral dilemmas, and eventual decisions are mirrored in the book. Banker sprinkles a few Hindi words here and there to bring this nascent part of the Ramayana to life. I’ll admit the book did feel tedious to me a couple of times, but I blame that on the lateness of hour I read into.

For those of you aren’t interested in this book, for the only reason that the subject is of mythology, I urge you to pick this book up as fiction, if nothing else. For the tale is imaginatively told.

This blog post ends here, for the second book, Seige of Mithila, beckons me much.

Title: Prince of Ayodhya (Book One of the Ramayana)

Author: Ashok K. Banker

Pages: 517  |  Price: Rs 350

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4 responses

  1. Why you write so well? Personally I can never wind the words to write a review but they seem to flow for you!

    Aaah the pros of journalism!

    1. Kunal, you flatter me : )

  2. Hi Sonali,

    That’s a very sweet review. Thank you! And thanks also for taking the time to write to me on FB. You know, you say something towards the end of your review about how it’s taken for granted about how my writing does so-and-so. But as I always tell readers who are nice enough to write to me, even if I’ve heard the same thing said before a thousand times, this is still the first time I’ve heard it said by YOU. :~)

    I don’t take my readers for granted, each one is special to me because I don’t think like a “writer” but as a reader myself (look at my updates on FB and you’ll see what I mean). I feel this is the only talent I have, if any, the ability to write like I would want to read the same story. So when a fellow reader writes in to say such nice things, it makes my day. As of now, I’ve had about 1,000 nice days this year itself, over 35,000 total and counting, and you can never have too many, right? Lol.

    Thanks again. And keep in touch. But most of all, keep reading! (And not just my books.)

    :~)

  3. Good review SoSha. Ashok Banker indeed has a very deep imagination and that can be deduced from the fact that although each of his book covers a small portion of the Ramayan, they are very vivid in description. So far done with 3 books and soon to start the 4th – Armies of Hanuman

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