Book Review: Krishna Coriolis 1- Slayer of Kamsa
Part of South Asian Challenge 2012
‘VISHNU, I AM COMING FOR YOU.’ – your uncle, ‘Child Slayer’ Kamsa
What do you do when the last page of a book screams those six words in caps? Can’t do much really, except wait for the next part, prodding the author on twitter and cursing the publisher. Especially if the book deals with India’s naughtiest god – Vasudeva putra Krishna and the words are flowing out of the country’s inspiration to re-read epics – Ashok Banker.
The Krishna Coriolis is part of what the author calls the ‘Epic India Library’ and promises to deal with the action-adventures of the curd thief-bashful lover-charioteer adviser-blue god, in an eight book series of which this is the first. A 325 pager where ironically the hero is hardly there; he is just born you see in the culminating pages of the book but still as a reader I was struck, sucked and drowning in the world that the author successfully re-created.
What does the book offer to a nation that’s grown up watching the child-god’s heroics on channels ranging from DD to cartoon network? Don’t we know every episode the nandlala entertained the land with millions of eons ago? What you need to read the book is for the realism that Banker brings to his re-tellings. Krishna and his saga has always been an Archaeopteryx* between mythology and history of this land and the book makes the reader’s beliefs biased a tad towards the historicity of the tale. Within the pages of the book is a land where Krishna’s biological father Vasudeva is the chief of a clan of peaceful people called Suras who heralds the peace treaty with King Ugrasena of Andhaka nation, his future father-in-law. Both the yadu nations rejoice in the impending calm except Ugrasena’s son – the famed villain in the tale – Prince Kamsa. What follows is Kamsa’s effort to kill Vasudeva for he thinks peace is for cowards and those cowherds, not the valiant Mathuran prince. Ugrasena and his daughter Devaki’s preference for Vasudeva’s style mean not a dime for Kamsa. When defeated by Vasudeva in peace and arms, Kamsa is ego hit and ventures out to find some answers. What follows is his encounter with the celestial traveler Narad Muni who explains to him the secret of travels between realms and prophecies Kamsa’s rise and doom, his taken refugee under Jarasandha of Magadha, his turning an apprentice with the Magadhan and finally discovering the secret to be the demon that he eventually becomes.
Kamsa returns to Mathura a changed man, devil-er and stronger beyond any yadu imagination and juts his iron wicked hands into the kingdom, imprisoning his parents and Vasudev-Devaki on the day of their wedding. While he discovers a lot of treachery and conspiracy that was disguised as help, he has nothing to fear except the prophecy – he lives only till his sister’s eighth child decides not to kill him. Drunk in power, Kamsa decides to write away his doom and nothing WILL stop him; in the meanwhile the preserver god Vishnu has decided to take birth as Kasmsa’s eighth nephew and nothing CAN stop him!
In spite of knowing most of the story, having been exposed to it in various forms – from Uncle Pai’s Amar Chitra Katha to the local priest’s satsangs – the book holds the attention like a story unheard off. The narration is swift and the palpitations of reading the known, in an unknown setting pushes you the last page. Finally when you realize that the last two pages are acknowledgements, there is a grief that only a well-told story’s end can bring. But there is hope in the form of the second book – The Dance of Govinda. It is 1-love in the bout between Vishnu and Kamsa. Krishna is born and very well. The stage is set for the next book – a clash of titans: a man-demon vs. a god-man!
* The first bird, a transitional fossil between reptiles (dinosaurs) and birds
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