Entry no. #10Debut Indian Writers Month: October 2012

Part of Debut Indian Writers Challenge and South Asian Challenge 2012

Title: The Aryavarta Chronicles Book I: Govinda
Author: Krishna Udayasankar
Publisher: Hachette India
ISBN: 978-93-5009-446-4
Pages: 444
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3.75 of 5
Reviewed for: Hachette India

Image: Flipkart
Image: Flipkart

Last week OMG Oh My God on celluloid and this week Govinda on the pulp, you would say its Krishna overdose for me but I would not really! No, no I don’t pick up my phone and answer every call with Jai Shri Krishn; not a staunch devotee at all but its only because Krishna Udayasankar’s Krishna (confusing eh?) ok so Krishna Udayashankar’s Govinda is no god, he’s not even called Krishna – he is called Govinda Shauri – Cowherd turned commander of the glorious island nation of Dwarka.

I love history and mythology, not that there ever was much differentiation between the two. There had always been a very thin line between the two especially concerning Mahabharat and Udayashankar brings alive a story that makes the whole epic all the more humane and believable. Govinda, which is the first book of the series, narrates the tale of the gigantic empire of Aryavarta, which is mostly divided into smaller warring, scheming kingdoms while the most powerful state is Magadha ruled by the power driven Jarasandha. After introducing all the characters, all of who have been stripped of their divinity and extravagant heroism and doused in the grey that would have been a more practical characterization had these men really walked the earth, the story mainly deals with Govinda planning, plotting and implementing all his clever schemes singularly aimed at making Dharma the emperor of Aryavarta. The story does not follow the mainstream Mahabharata approach, confirmed from the fact that, the Kurus are just vassals of Jarasandha just like a lot of neighboring states, Arjun is Partha, Dritarashtra is Dharma and the pandava brothers stay in Hastinapura, as guests of their Kuru cousins and not as princes of the kingdom, the fight between Bhim and Jarasandha is a wrestling match between two men who have agreed to fight till death and Panchali is the fiery feminist who secretly longs for Govinda’s affection.

Why Govinda steers all his energies, intellect and time to make Dharma the emperor of Aryavarta is the mystery that runs through the book and will very well make us wait for the sequel – is it his hatred for the Firewrights, an ancient order of weapon makers and inventors who have contributed immensely towards the progress of Aryavarta and have been in position of immense power or is it his move to usurp Jarasandha who has been his adversary in the past and a pricking thorn in the heel for the whole of Aryavarta. The fight between the Firewrights and the Firstborns, whom Govinda favors and who want his favors, is another string that runs through the book and hints at unraveling in the sequel giving this book an enigmatic feel of whether Govinda is the master player or is he being played with?

The author brings to us a tale within the tale that we have grown up watching every Sunday, which makes Govinda a very interesting read because it is not a stranger that we don’t know nor is it the lover we know. Playing with mainstream Mahabharata characters in a not so mainstream story Udayashankar presents a story that is finely plotted, well narrated, in a simplified language at the right pace. The intelligence employed in plotting a story within a mainstream story indicates at the through research and she builds well in this book to plough deep in the sequel – The Firewrights. The book ends with a very intriguing climax like before the interval of any movie and it would be very appropriate to say ‘can’t wait for the sequel’, though would love Udayashankar to linger on some scenes a bit longer, elaborate them some more because though Govinda was an enjoyable read you feel like being left high and dry at some junctures.

The stage is set for fantasy realism with not completely good but not evil characters and a story from within a story with an enjoyable character like Govinda – I would say it is as enthralling and enigmatic as its protagonist.

Happy Reading.

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