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_Prince of Ayodhya_
Ramayana, Valmiki's ancient epic, has recently been rendered into a fantasy series by A.K. Banker. _Prince of Ayodhya_ is the first book in this series.
Then there are the linguistic errors: he apparently loved the concept of his characters speaking High Sanskrit...except he gets only *two* Sanskrit phrases right in the entire book. The Gayatri Mantra on the dedication page and a three word phrase somewhere around page 289. Every other phrase is wrong. Not only does he try to pass off Hindustani [the common language of Northern India - a mix of Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi and a few other dialects] as 'High Sanskrit', he gets the translation of most of the other phrases wrong. Well, he gets the phrases wrong to begin with. He has Vishwamitra spouting lines from the Gita [Gita came centuries after the Ramayana], fractured lines at that: 'Karmanye swahikaaraste, mahaphaleshu'. *Maha*phaleshua? And what about the huge fruits then, sire? Idiot! [Not the ancient rishi, the author].
Then there are the conceptual errors: according to his book, all brahmins could claim guru-dakshina from all kshatriyas. Bzzzzzzzt! Try again! Guru-dakshina was given to the Guru, the teacher, at the end of one's education. Daan is the name of the contract between Brahmins and kshatriyas in general. He makes grandiose claims all throughout the book, claims about the nature of the Arya society and its traditions - and they are mostly wrong. He even gets confused between 'varna' and 'jati'. Frankly, I wish a foreigner had written this book. Then, I could have ignored these details and just focused on what he did to the story. I will get to that soon enough, right after I air one more quibble: I wish he would make up his mind about whether Ravana was defeated in the last Devasur Sangram [as half his characters claim through half of the book] or if he is the undefeated, fearsome demon lord [as he describes Ravana upon the latter's appearance]. Both can't be true, not in the same universe.
Moving onto the story and the characters itself: I have no objections to him playing around with the order of their birth but I am a bit surprised to see his Lakshman as a gentle soul and his Shatrughan channelling Bheem from Mahabharata. I also wonder why he resurrected ancient playground jokes and had the twins call each other 'Shot' and 'Luck'. I really liked what he did with Ravana [and this is when I like Ravana and have always appreciated Valmiki's portrayal of him as a scholar] but it couldn't have cost much time to get the geography right. I spent major portions of the book muttering 'but that is called the Dandaka van....etc.,etc.' While writing this story, Banker not only borrows from Heinlein [his prologue and epilogue titles are taken from Heinlein's books], he also borrow from Donaldson's Covenant series and Feist's 'Riftwar' saga. The descriptions are overblown, too many Indian words are unnecessarily used in the narration and the prose is somewhat stilted. Still, if you persevere, it is an entertaining enough read.
Perhaps the most accurate description of the book would be to call it a 21st century, Bollywood-style retelling of the Ramayana. It is kitsch but it is entertaining kitsch. Hell, Rama even sings in the book.....