Book Review: The Seeds of War
Ashok Banker is back with what he has been doing for years and what he does best. As the cover of this book claims, he is India’s ‘epic’ storyteller and he takes us forward on the longest series he has ever written. The one he calls MBA series – an 18-book series retelling the Mahabharata in its full grandeur and enormity. After the much loved Forest of Stories, he continues the mega tale with The Seeds of War (book two).
Continuing with stringing the small tales that led to the greatest war in the country now called India and famous in the ancient world as Bharat, Banker in this books leads us towards how the seeds that led to the mega-war came from a fisher women’s brahmin son and sprouted in the royal Puru household. The book starts with the tale of Devayani, asura guru Shukracharya’s only daughter and Kancha, deva guru Brihaspati’s son’s heartfelt love story. The rise of the brahmin girl into a princess and her marriage to a strong raj shatriya – Yayati. Moving on the cycle of time we wade through the events that led to the Puru dynasty attaining its divine boon of strength and logitivity when a son sacrifices his youth for his father. Moving on, generations of illustrious Puru’s later, we are word-witness to the most passionate and unusual love story ever – the story of demi-god incarnate Shantanu and goddess in mortal form – Ganga. Getting closer to the story we have grown up with, this story brings us the birth and growth of Devavrata. Young father Shantanu finds love again but turns Devavrata into Bhishma, the eternal celibate in the next story. Inspite of every effort, the bane of the Puru dynasty and heirs continues and none of the male survive to seed a progeny except the eternal bachelor Bhishma. And as the book ends the one who marked the end of the first book reappears – Krishna Dweipayana Vyasa – as a brother of the Bhishma. The widow-queens are seeded by Vyasa but he is miffed during the act and prophases the birth of a blind and a pale heir to the throne of Hastinapur, the seat of the Purus. Thus the seeds of war are headed towards creation.
Ashok Banker ends the second book of the series at a very crucial juncture where Dritarashtra and Pandu are about to be born and the protective reagent Bhishma is protecting the seat of Puru’s like a hawk. Banker brings alive Indian mythology like never before, giving it more and more historical bearings than anything else. The elaborate descriptions and logical reasoning to many miracles that the tales are spewed with make this one a very attractive read. Connecting the tales that are spread out on the canvas of Indian mythology and knotting them all together to form the mega-tale is commendable and the authors deserves kudos for just attempting this. And what a commendable attempt. The book is well researched and Banker undoubtedly writes like a veteran – entertaining and educating in one go. A brilliant sequel to Forest of Stories, this one is a must read if you want to word-live the mega tale of the mega war fought in this country of mega historicity.
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