Book Review: The Himalayan Revelation
An accidental discovery of the insignia of an ancient empire on a wooden prayer wheel at a Ladakhi monastery, soon turns into a dangerous chase between two nations trying to discover and establish ownership of a remote location in India, the existence of which was a secret until then. The only man with any knowledge of this location is Xhan Jiezi, a Chinese traveler who made trips to India in the 18th century! The discovery of his travelogues at the monastery’s library, triggers a cat and mouse game between two nations touted to be the new superpowers of the future.
A racy nail biting thriller that takes its readers from the beautiful mountains of Ladakh to the dusty ruins of Hampi – The Himalayan Revelation is a fictional treat for history buffs!
My thoughts about the book are manifold. What worked for the book were the chapters on Xhan Jiezi’s travelogues. Every page transports the reader to 18th Century Hampi popular for its architecturally marvelous palaces and temples, the majestic markets that freely traded rubies, diamonds and other precious gems and a culture filled with art, dance, music, scriptures and sculptures which enveloped the city and its citizens in all walks of their lives. I have always been intrigued about Hampi, and reading this book made me wish that I had lived in those times! In a way the book was like a time machine which transported me to an India that awed me with the cultural brilliance of the legendary Vijayanagar Empire. This was one journey that I wished did not end!
Ever heard about the wealth of the Vijayanagar empire? Legend has it that, just before the fall of Hampi, tons of gold, silver and precious stones were loaded onto 550 elephants to be taken away to a secret location known only to the Vijayanagar kings, who hoped to use the treasure to re-build their dream city again. The most important of these was a gold, life sized statue of Goddess Durga adorned with jewellery made from gold and set with precious gems riding her tiger. Till date, the treasure has never been discovered. Time and history have sidelined this into the stuff of myths and legends, but what if the treasure really did exist? Just as you start sinking into these details wondering if the book is about a treasure hunt, the plot changes in way that you would never expect!
Speaking about the plot, it keeps the readers attention and the speed with which it moves across multiple historical timelines, locations and time zones is appreciable. The research seems immaculate. I am not sure how many readers have knowledge of the functioning of RAW or the golden age of Hampi. The sections about the highly intelligent and brilliantly technical world of RAW will extract a jaw dropping reaction from the readers. I couldn’t help but compare the RAW offices and their missions to that of the inimitable PENTAGON.
What I couldn’t help but ignore was how the book had all the right characters to crack every problem and break down any barrier that can possibly occur on a treasure hunt. First you have Gaurav, an intelligent IT manager with a love for travel and Natasha, a historian with a PhD. And then the clichés: Natasha’s dad happens to be a very popular historian who can read an older dialect of Chinese, the same ones used in Xhan Jiezi’s travelogues! Now, if this was not enough, Gaurav’s dad is an atomic research scientist and to top it all the main protagonists have to fall in love and get some action between the sheets, which just occupied some unnecessary pages in an otherwise brilliant book!
Back to Hampi and its legendary treasure, was it ever discovered? The answer on the last page of the book will leave you wanting more from the author. At the risk of sounding repetitive, if you have never thought about visiting Hampi, this book will definitely bring out the wanderlust and adventurer in you.
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