Book Review: Citadel of Love
Citadel of Love by Pratibha Ray was first written in Odiya as Silapama and is the winner of Odisha Sahitya Academy Award. Translated into English by Monalisa Jena, if there is one word that can describe the experience of reading this book, it is – brilliant! For one the book doesn’t read like a translation and therein lies the biggest achievement for Jena. As for Ray, she takes us on a visual journey to Konark temple and invades your soul with her words.
Citadel of Love begins with a footloose architect-traveller Charles and his mysterious connection with the ruins of the Konark temple that makes him come back to it again and again. One who has no roots to bind him anywhere, develops roots unknowingly at Konark. There he meets Prachiprava – a history scholar in love with Lord Jagannath and the sun temple. Charles falls for the simple Indian girl and her beliefs but Prachiprava’s past stands between her and Charles. While exploring the origins of Konark, they chance upon a palm-leaf manuscript written by an artisan who helped build man’s greatest tribute to the Sun god in the form of the chariot temple – Konark. Everyday Charles and Prachiprava are read a part of the manuscript and they get to know the happenings of that age and the lives of the 1200 artisans who worked for 12 years, leaving behind their families, to complete the rock tribute to the Sun god.
When I started reading the book I wondered why a book that talks about a sun temple is titled – Citadel of Love. By the end of it I knew there could not have been a better title. Ray takes the reader into the India of 13th century and shows us the commitment, passion and integrity it takes to build a 229 feet tall structure out of Khondalite rocks. The lives and loves of many who lived apart for 12 long years so that Konark could be completed, without any distraction, is the highlight of the book and Ray does a good job of ingraining the pain and hurdles of the characters into the reader. The writing has a visual quality and one can nearly see what Ray talks about. The book is a tribute to the 1200 artisans who gave up 12 important years of their lives for the magnificent rock structure but hardly ever find a mention. The world remembers the king who commissioned the temple – Narasimhadeva I, the dynasty that the king belonged to – Eastern Ganga Dynasty but no one knows the name of even one artisan who chiseled out those magnificent artefacts from stone. The book showcases what they sacrificed for the glory of their king and dynasty.
The books brings to life some charming love stories of – the forbidden love of Charles and Prachiprava, the incomplete love of Chandrabhaga and Kamal Maharana (the chief artisan at Konark) and the unconditional love of King Narsimha and Silpa. It brings about a tale of love, sacrifice, ideals, dharma, hate, commercialisation, hope and heartbreak. The only thing that didn’t work for me is the pace of the book. It is nowhere close to a breezy read but it doesn’t allow you to stay away from it too.
Definitely recommended. The story has a pull, maybe this is what Charles experiences with Konark.
Title: Citadel of Love
Author: Pratibha Ray | Translator:
Publisher/ Imprint: Rupa Publications
Genre/ Sub-Genre: Fiction/ Drama
Rating: 4.75 of 5.00
Reviewed for: Personal Copy
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