All Gods were men once, we assume. They did extraordinary things which caused them to be worshiped like Gods. In India these myths are still alive. These stories are integrated into religious tracts and listened to with devotion and complete faith. In such a scenario, it is difficult to fictionalize mythology further. The initial mythology is so oft repeated and believed that it is taken as a fact. If you mess with that, it can be viewed as blasphemy. A while ago I had read The Pregnant King by Devdutt Pattnaik which was peripheral mythological story expanded into a beautiful novel. Would the retelling of Shiva's story succeed? Can Shiva be depicted as an extraordinary man who was later idolized as a God?
The Immortals of Meluha:
The story begins with Shiva fending off yet another attack on his tribe high on the mountains of Kailasa. He is visited by Nandi with an offer to join his brethren in Meluha where they can live a civilized life. He is reminded of his uncle who had prophesied that his destiny lay far beyond the mountains of Kailasa. He decides to accompany Nandi. On his arrival at one of the border towns of Meluha in Kashmir, his tribe is quarantined and given medicine to cleanse them. The medicine has a strange effect on Shiva, it gives him a blue throat, a Neelkanth. He is thence catapulated into centre-stage of Meluhan aristocracy where things are expected of him, where he finds love, but also many barriers. He has to fight wars for a cause that is rapidly becoming his own.
The Secret of the Nagas:
Shiva finds himself undertaking a journey across India to uncover truths. Nothing seems to be as he had first perceived it. The Chandravanshi's are not the murderous terrorists they had been portrayed as. The Brangas have a genuine reason for being hand in glove with the Nagas, now seen as the enemy No.1 of India. But are they? They have a secret too. Shiva finds he cannot rest until he knows the absolute truth. His quest is for the evil that he is supposed to destroy. But where is this evil? Who are the Vasudevs? Are they misleading him?
The pace of the books is breathtaking, they are quite a page-turners. The conceptualization of the story is simply fabulous. As Shiva is himself learning about the Meluhan and later, many other Indian civilization, we get to learn many 'facts'. The world of the time, 4000 years BC is well mapped. The fictional world is drawn with accuracy and confidence. The author is extremely surefooted about his subject.
The only point where the book falters is the conversation. It can get a wee bit irritating to read 'You are extremely intelligent My Lord' for the umpteenth time. At times the intelligence of the reader is insulted when the proceedings are explained painstakingly. A little more skill in writing could have come in very very handy. Especially as the subject is so overpoweringly strong. Despite this, the books are a must read.
They are as heady as Shiva's chillum.