'The Scion of Ikshvaku' is a 2015 book by Indian author Amish Tripathi, known for his Shiva Trilogy. It is the first book of the still continuing Ram Chandra series, which is still ongoing. It talks about the life of Ram, the next Vishnu after Parshu Ram; and the story is based off the Ramayana, the holy book.
I had keenly wanted to buy this book so as to re-read the Ramayana, the story of which I was familiar with. But to other who are wanting to read it, I would like to remind them that this is not exactly that same Ramayana that you have read. This could be taken as an intepretation of the Ramayana. Now Amish is not the only one who has done this. There goes many historic men like Tunchatu Ramajunan Eyuttachan who have their own versions of it. However, we could hold Amish as the modern intepretor of the Ramayana. He brings several changes to the existing story; and this could be taken in a good and a bad sense. These changes are what we are going to describe below.
There are several ways in which the story is changed. For eg., Manthara, a maid by what we know of the Ramayana, is now a rich merchant here. And Raavan, a demon with 10 heads, now has 1. Characters like Shatrughan, a character largely ignored in the Ramayana is given a bit more of value as he now has a special character, as the person of knowledge. Also, Amish has introduced some new characters, like Roshni, Manthara's daughter and Dhenuka, the son of the neighbouring village chief. It's wonderful to see what Amish has done with these characters.
Amish has also followed all the basic patterns of the original Ramayana in his work, like all others. And, for those who haven't still digested the modifications of the book should realise that in 'technicality'(for those who have read the book, get that word?), he hasn't explicitely mentioned 'Ramayana', it is called the 'Ram Chandra Series'. In my opinion, I have enjoyed Amish's well crafted work.
The story begins from Ram's childhood, from being a blamed and ignored child; to his adulthood, being praised and loved by his people, and his marriage with Sita and his exile. The story ends at Ram's 13th year of exile and the remaining is left for the next book in the series.
Throughout the book I had been well-capitated with the story and I especially applaud Amish for his choice of words which adds a new flavour to the historical story. Whenever a new character appeared, I was always exhilarated to see if the character was the same as I guessed from the original story.
There is however one character which is present throughout the story in a mysterius fashion; a character who is ally with Guru Vashishta. Towards the end of the story, we come to know his appearance. But that confusion still remains on his identity. And we may come to know that in the second book, which I haven't yet read.
In the story, Guru Vashishta and Guru Vishwamitra are appeared at odds, which I don't understand why. Many of us have heard the story of the relation between the 2 gurus; Guru Vashishta is responsible for the evolution of Kaushik into Sage Vishwamitra(if you haven't read that story, definitely recommend you to check that out). In that case, Guru Vishwamitra should be thankful towards the former. But that doesn't happen here. Now thinking about it, that is a place where Amish's story has defied mythology and slightly irritated me.
Also, Guru Vishwamitra is supposedly potrayed as villaneous and bruesome here for some reason. Does not quite fit mythology as it never explicitely says that, but we will have to see to future books of the series for the reason of his conduct.
Now, there are parts in the story which are quickly drifted by, like Ram's childhood ot his exile. It is not explained in detail. However, Amish has did that in a style which doesn't muddle with the reader's mind. It is done in a graceful way, unlike what I can say for many other books.
What I liked about the story:
- Well captivating plot apt for current audience: This book could probably instigate interest for mythology in many people for the younger audience to take an interest in mythology, which is a part of Indian culture.
- Every character has a distinct and individual character: Ram, for example, has a calm and self-controlling attitude. Bharat has a liberating and rebellious attitude, etc.
- Introducing new characters and developing on existing characters: A perfect example for this is Roshni, a sweet and peace-loving lady who treats people. Shatrughan, who isn't given much importance in the original Ramayana, is characterized to be a knowlede-seeking person in here.
- Able to explain contradicting ideas which hold equal competence against each other: Ram and Bharat are suitable examples for the this. Ram is a law-abiding person who is always in calm comportment while Bharat is rebellious and believes to extricate the society of as many laws as possible. Their ideas hold equal merit against each other. Another example is Ram and Sita.
- Various verses from holy texts included: I like the fact that Amish included verses from many holy texts like the Upanishads. It is a a potential inspiration for many to deep more into these texts.
- Human emotions are present: This is a godly story; and in most cases people associate their godly characters to possess no hatred or any negative emotions, only positive ones. Amish however has fixed that problem by given even the most divine of characters positive as well as negative ones. Ram not only has a calm attitude, he also possesses a hatred towards Ravan for destroying his childhood. Sita, turns towards Vishwamitra in a sense of anger at him having forced Ram to use the daivi astra. Humans have emotions of all kinds and even gods do possess those emotions when incarnated to humanly forms. Thus, Amish has appropriately represented that.
What I didn't like about the book:
- Opinion imposition in characters: I felt sometimes, Amish was imposing his own views in charcaters. For eg. Ram believed that the Suryavanshis he belonged to should be called as the Clan of Ikshvaku instead of the clan of Raghu. Did he really believe like that? In another case, Guru Vishwamitra hates Guru Vashishta. It is never mentioned in the book like that; quite the contrary.
- There are certain incomplete facts in the story: Kubaer was the predecessor of Raavan, who ruled Lanka. Later, Kubaer is nowhere to be seen. What happened to him? And why are traders ruling a country?
- Countries?:There is mention of countries in Ram's time like Shukracharya based off Egypt and various mentions of India. Amish clearly states the time is 3400 BCE; there were clearly no countries formed at the time. (I know this is fiction, just stating an opinion)
- More explanaion: This is just a tip, but I felt Dashrath's death could have been more explained. And Ram's desolation could have been more appropriately represented. We all know the reason for Dashrath's death.
In short, I think Amish's Ram Chandra series is a good layer to the original version. This adds that extra spiciness to the story and makes it more apt for the current audience. I would suggest buying it if you would like for your children or anyone young to get more involved in mythology. I would like to again congratulate the author for providing some verses from holy texts, I really do enjoy knowing about them. I do not contempt Amish; his work was extraordinary, and he has yet again proved to us this through this book. And I think most of the Indian and international society agrees to that.