Semmanthaka is a mythological cum historical fiction that spans across various eras of human existence as per the Santana Dharma beliefs. I enjoy reading the re-interpretations of our ancient texts and concepts and stories. So, this book was something I knew I would enjoy reading.
The story starts somewhere in the current times. It travels back in time with the story of Jarra Baba and his past lives – all of which were in the Kaliyuga. The story though goes back to the end of Treta yug – the time when Lord Krishna was living his last days. He can foresee the next Yuga – Kali Yuga – the age that we are living in now. He needs to take care of the critical events in the next yuga so he devises a mechanism that would take care of those events even without his presence. Characters like Chanakya, Shivaji and Subhash Chandra Bose make an appearance in the story. He touched upon some things that have been long debated in the Indian history.
There is marine archaeology, history, mythology, science, mountaineering, iconography, time travel, mystery, mystique – everything in this story. It is not easy to combine so many elements across time. Dr. Syd K definitely deserves a big applause for that. Since the story is about archaeologists and scientists – I would have wanted more in-depth inclusion of scientific concepts. In the closing scene, some logical conclusion would have made sense.
The best part of Seemmanthaka is the storytelling – it keeps you gripped. You are curious to know what happens next. Since there are so many elements, you are not even sure if the story would stay in the same realm or would move to another or will create a new realm. The canvas is so vast that author had a lot of space to play, and he played so well. You mixed them and created a concoction that is intoxicating and exhilarating. I was so intrigued by the Semmanthaka gem that I searched Google to see if any gem ever existed in the history or mythology of India.
You know it is fiction, but at places, the Semmanthaka story takes the imagination too far. There were 2-3 episodes that I took time to accept. At places, the scenes were stretched too much – especially the scenes where man-animal fights are depicted. These fights are not even significant to the story except they establish the strength of the human involved in them. Shortening them would make the story very crisp.
The only mistake I found was the use of name Benaras for Kashi in an era when it was yet to get that name. Benaras name came during the Buddhist. Benaras is the Pali version of Varanasi.
The story of Semmanthaka is in a way dedication to Lord Krishna. Though the Krishna is present in the story throughout – from beginning to end, it is towards the end of the story that you find a new aspect of Krishna story.
Language is simple. I would have liked a bit of period feel in the language. It would have been brilliant if language moved with the eras. However, that is a skill not many contemporary historical fiction writers have. As a story that touched upon many important points in history and brings in characters from there, a bit more research into those subjects or the backdrops would have helped. The book also assumes that you know the stories touched upon in the story like the Buddhist narratives of Jataka Tales do in sculpture. Incidentally, today a creative person’s canvas is much wider than a Buddhist monastery’s so authors need to keep that in mind.
Buy Semmanthaka – The Second Quest by Dr. Syd K at Amazon
Overall, a very enjoyable read. Read it.
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