Excursions Of A Bibliophile

What are u reading these days?

Gods, Demons and Others – R.K.Narayan

Posted by Vish Mangalapalli on January 17, 2011

The sources of my knowledge of Hindu mythology are four fold viz. Amarchitra katha comics, bed time stories by parents and grandparents, school curriculum and Rajaji‘s english renditions of Mahabharatha and Ramayana. While their breadth of coverage is fantastic, these sources lose out on the depth, presentation of philosophical dilemmas and the ensuing resolution through rich debates, arguments and counter-arguments among the characters. The original texts are inaccessible as they are mostly written in Sanskrit – a classical language I am ill equipped with. Although there are superb high quality translations available in Telugu (my mother tongue), the translations themselves are in an elevated and pure version of Telugu that it has been a struggle for me to sustain my reading interest in them despite my sincere attempts. Notwithstanding these personal lacunae, I am yet to lay my hands on any english rendition that can be treated as a worthy substitute for these originals barring one book that I have come across in the recent past and that is R.K.Narayan’s Gods, Demons and Others“.

Narayan focuses on stories covering sixteen principal characters of Hindu mythology viz: Lavana, Chudala, Yayati, Devi, Ravana, Nala, Harischandra, Sibi, Manmata, Valmiki, Vishwamitra, Sakunthala, Draupadi, Satyavati and through this focus demonstrates the richness of the Hindu mythological body of thought. The implicit themes of good versus evil, the ill effects of hubris and power, the single minded adherence to truth and righteousness in the face of difficulties, the true responsibilities of the ruler and the ruled are a given in these stories and Narayan does not stray away from these time tested themes. However, what is especially endearing is Narayan‘s ability to bring an impactful loftiness to the conversations of various Gods, Humans and Demons that populate this book. In doing so Narayan leaves his unique stamp of authorial elegance on these much heard and much retold stories

Narayan generously attributes a lot to the ingenuity of Indian story teller who he portrays as being integral part of the Indian village scene. Even as recent as two decades ago, this story teller did exist in some morphed form in the Indian rural setting but was he as elegant as what Narayan makes him out to be is debatable. Notwithstanding this, “Gods, Demons and Others” is a thoroughly enjoyable and enriching read which can be read many times over and across generations. For anyone interested in getting exposed to Hindu mythology this book stands as a source second to none

2 Responses to “Gods, Demons and Others – R.K.Narayan”

  1. Anand said

    Vish, thanks for discovery of another treasure..ordering it..


  2. souri said

    Hi Vish

    Happy new year.

    Not long ago did i come across the book by Gurucharan Das on the Mahabaratha and so many reviews for that book.
    Never new that RK narayan wrote a book like that and little wonder that no one reviews the book except some one like you!.
    Btw looks like the theme of your story is panning out in the centre stage in Bangalore now.

    Best regards


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