To retell the story of Ramayana – the holy epic that is found in almost every Hindu household, and exuberantly promoted in the television – needs a lot of courage and diligence, and it is here that Ravi, the author of the book: “The Exiled Prince” has passed the litmus test! He has given a fresh perspective to Ramayana, which I believe makes the book different.
Of course, a lot of it had been seen or heard before, but through his simple, yet refreshing narrative, the author has managed to create an impact to readers. The book tells the story from Rama’s perspective, in his old age, as he narrates his life events to Hanuman and his sons Lav and Kush – his birth, challenges, values, marriage continuing up to his exile.
While doing so, the author presents some astounding facts – some of which are little known to many. Rama’s childhood adventures, his relationship with his brothers, discussions with Rishi Vashistha and his admiration for his father king Dasaratha add to the beauty and integrity of the story.
What needs a special mention is the force with which the book depicts Queen Kaikeyi’s character. While on one hand, she is aware of Rama’s destiny, and plays the villainous act, on the other, its she who leads Rama to the path of his destiny, and in a way, plays a role in his triumph – the triumph of good over the evil, and in turn the triumph of mankind (the reason why Rama is known in history and mythology as the greatest king of all times!)
Throughout she maintains a strong disposition, which brings out the strength and brevity within her, but also paints a picture of her cold and overbearing personality (the latter part unfortunately is emphasized in most books on Ramayana). The queen’s unique relationship with King Dasaratha and her special bond with Prince Rama were beautifully portrayed in this book.
The journey to find the Crystal of Creation – Rama’s search for the crystal before anyone else does gives a whole new dimension to the story. It is not just a fight against Ravana, the demon king as we commonly understand, but much more than that… for the part where the celestial Guru explains to Rama: “Your purpose is not to kill Ravana, but protect the crystal. You cannot destroy the soul of Ravana, it will be born and reborn…so your purpose is to protect the crystal from those who threaten it now…” It made me think. At any age and day, we cannot kill the soul, (whether it is of a saint or an evil) which is anyway immortal. The same applies to Ravana as well. But through our own good deeds and path of righteousness, we can protect ourselves and those around us from the evil.
However, the importance of the crystal search somewhere got lost with very little mention – something I would want to see in Ravi’s subsequent books from this series. There are also several sub-plots making the story an interesting read. These stories are well researched and are adapted from different folklore.
Ravi has a simple, yet fluid writing style… there’s something in his writing that holds your attention. You would want to know: what’s next? As you read the book, you can visualize the events happening in front of you. Whether it’s about the description of the palace, conversation between the brothers, Kaikeyi’s command over her son, or Sita’s eagerness to be with her Lord – you feel you are very much a part of their world!
If you are a total conformist, you may completely dismiss the book. However, if you are the curious type who is fond of knowing that “extra bit” and also a bookaholic, I can bet you will be immersed in the world of Rama – the exiled prince.