The Vengeance of Ravana is the penultimate book of the Ramayana Series which is beautifully arranged, illustrated by Ashok Banker. The final book of the series “Sons of Sita” is yet to be released.
Ramayana Series is based on Indian Mythology Ramayana which is the epic written in a new manner by Ashok Banker. I will try to write a review of the book itself here and later would follow it up with the write-up about the Ramayana Series (as promised earlier).
I have admired, adored, fell in love (and many more adjectives I could go on to use) with the Ramayana Series, the penultimate book I delayed reading deliberately as I wanted to keep my relationship with the series going on (I did the same with the HP: Half blood prince).
To begin with I didn’t know what to expect from the book as all of us have heard stories about Rama ascending to the throne of Ayodhya but what happened next only a few know (story of luv-kush is although known to masses but wouldn’t that be the story in Sons of Sita?).
Vengeance of Ravana is an average book compared to the other books in the series. All through the series the one thing I admired the most was the manner in which the author has portrayed the character of Rama, “Maryada Purshottam” the one who always beholds and adhere to “Dharma”. And he seemed to have all the frailties, all the flaws and all the powers (considering every human can achieve with that rigor and practice) of a normal human being. He was portrayed as a character who always took the righteous path even in the face of adversities. And as the reader goes through the series he starts to adore and love Rama (and not necessarily starts worshipping him).
Vengeance of Rama is a disappointment in that regard as it reveals and impresses upon the reader that Rama was indeed an amsa (avatar), as the book calls it of Vishnu and he took birth in the form of Rama the king of Ayodhya to wipe out the menace of Ravana (which is due to another reason, that reason is due to another reason and that reason is again due to a different reason). So in short the reader is led into myriad reasons & gods and goddesses of Indian mythology and I thought it slightly drifted from the story of Ramayana.
The story begins at the point when Rama returns to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana. He has a nightmare one night about Ravana coming back, talking to him. Then there is the story of Atikya (another son of Ravana) who comes at the gates of Ayodhya with his mother Mandodari to avenge the death of his father. Then another revelation comes, when Mandodari declares that Sita is the daughter of Ravana.
Later Mahadev (god Shiva) comes to the mortal realm through a Vortal (opened by Yama) to talk to lord Narayana (who is in the avatar of Rama) to come back to swarg lok to look into the other pressing issues). There is a great confusion that I felt as a reader, as to when does Rama’s nightmare is going on and when are the things happening in reality. Everything mixes up, there are so many revelations, so many characters suddenly (Valmiki, Atikaya, Ravana of earlier age, Yama, Mahadev, etc.) that towards the end the reader suddenly seems to loose the plot. May be a bit more elaboration or breaking it into two volumes or even better not including the part where the revelation of Rama as Vishnu and Sita as Laxmi is done would have been better in terms of “Ramayana”.
Even the term “Vengeance of Ravana” was explained in different (and many) ways and in the end you might scratch your head as to what exactly was the Vengeance of Ravana? The last few lines do try to soothe the nerves where it says that Ravana’s Vengeance was that Adharma will always prevail and even eons after eons Vishnu will have to take avatar to root out the evil. Arya nations would fight among themselves, brothers will fight with brothers and that would be the true Vengeance.
I think it was a problem of plenty, where the author tried to manage lot of details in one book such as Rama’s return to Ayodhya, Rishi Valmiki and his Role, Story of Atikya and Mandodari, light on Bharat & Shatrughan’s role, Revelation of Rama as avatar of Vishnu, Story of why Ramayana happened or what will happen in future, why Ravana did what he did, Sita being Ravana’s daughter, etc.
In the end Rama accuses Sita of hiding the truth about her and his children and sends her into exile.
Now after reading the above it must not be construed that the book has many flaws (none at all) or is not worth a read. The readers of the Ramayana Series will surely read it and for anyone else it would not make much sense unless he reads the entire series. But the point I am trying to stress here is that as a fan of Banker and his Ramayana Series I found this book an average read. He could have done much better if only he has uncomplicated the book a little or not included the part of Rama being an avatar, things would have been more beautiful.
Nevertheless I enjoyed the book and would most definitely read the last book “Sons of Sita” as soon as it is released. Till then I am thinking of Starting Banker’s “Krishna Coriolis”, you see the thing is “Once a Banker’s fan, always a Banker’s fan”!