When we talk mythology many would shy away from the subject not wanting to get into a discussion on religion. It’s a very thin line that differentiates the two. So when a book like the Myth Quest makes it to the stands one needs to understand as to why such a book is very important today.
Mythology has always been an intriguing part of storytelling. Be it Indian, Greek or Egyptian, the mystifying beings in a myth have fascinated and left us in awe and making us to want to know more.
And that’s what Anu Kumar’s books have done. They have demystified the myths. The simplified language meant for young readers is perfect and the narration is smooth. Anyone who would like to know more about the fantastical beings of Indian Mythology can take a plunge straight in and start away.
Garuda the Devourer of Serpents and Airavata the Elephant of the Clouds are two fantastic characters that Anu Kumar has very splendidly described in these two books for young readers.
The story of Garuda starts with his magnificent birth. His might and fierce countenance put even the Gods in an uncomfortable position that he had to take a milder form of a half eagle half man.
There’s a tale about how Garuda rescues his mother Vinata from Patala where she is held a slave to Kadru her sister. He makes a daring and dangerous flight into heaven to get the much coveted Amrita. Garuda manages to get the elixir from the Gods and on his way back is encountered by Vishnu who is greatly impressed by him and requests him to be his Vahana.
And so begins the adventures of the mighty Garuda and Lord Vishnu. He even comes to the aide of Prince Rama an avatar of Lord Vishnu and also assists Krishna another Vishnu avatar in battles against the asuras.
There are a wonderful array of tales of adventure and sacrifice, of might and humility. The eight chapters in this 50 page book which can be quickly read over a weekend would keep the reader engrossed and entertained till the end.
The story about the magnificent divine white elephant Airavata, Indra’s mount is a lore that can confuse you in the beginning. But as you advance the stories fall in place and connect so well with the various characters and events.
The book begins with the birth of Airavata and has eight stories in it which are the various adventures and conquests that he comes across. There are two versions of his birth story, both are equally fascinating. The source of a legend is always difficult to trace. But nevertheless it makes for interesting read.
There’s another story of how elephants could fly and a sage’s curse that takes away their fabulous wings. Yet Airavata the celestial being could stride across the heavens.
The tale about the encounter between Hanuman the son of Vayu and Airavata is another fascinating tale of might, pride and valour which draws your interest deeper into the magnificence of the divine king of elephants.
“A Garland and a Curse” is another interesting tale in the book, about how Airavata unknowingly offends a sage and has to face his wrath and curse. This leads to a guilty and embarrassed Airavata going into hiding in the ocean of milk, and leaves the Gods very powerless. Following this, the asuras and the Gods get into a fight to acquire the much coveted amrita from the Ocean where Airavata is in hiding.
There are a few tales how Airavata assists Indra in battles and comes out victorious. It’s also about the diehard friendship and bonding between the two that leaves you in awe at the splendid form in which the stories unfold themselves in 50 pages of narrative enhanced with some fine visuals which give a wonderful relief to the reader. The cover art shows Indra mounted on Airavata and makes for an interesting cover, enough to encourage a teen to pick up the book off the stands.
These books in the series of Myth Quest by Anu Kumar are a perfect introduction to any novice into the world of Indian mythology.
By Savio Mascarenhas
Garuda – Devourer of Serpents
Airavata- Elephant of the clouds
Retold: Anu Kumar
Illustrator: Maya Magical Studios
Price: Rs. 99.00
Publisher: Hachette India, 2011
Subject category: Mythology/Series
Age group: 10+