Shambuka Rama by Mukunda Rao revisits the three episodes from the epics Mahabharata and Ramayana. You probably heard of them in passing as a small episode in a larger than life story. Mukunda Rao, however, dives deep into these episodes in a way that they may have been the defining moments in the lives of these three characters.
In the first story, he takes us to the forest where Bheema and Hidimbi meet, marry and give birth to Ghatotkach. Mukunda Rao explores the mental dilemma of Bheema when he has to leave his young wife and new-born child as per the agreement between his wife and his mother. Kunti, his mother too focused on getting the Hastinapur throne for her sons can not allow anything that can hold them back or break their unity. She can allow a few detours, as long as the path to Hastinapur’s throne is pursued.
Read More – Hidimba by Narendra Kohli
Bheema’s moment of truth when he is willing to give up the luxury as well as the duty of being a prince for the simple pleasure of being with his family,y is heart-wrenching. No one is able to change his mind, well till Krishna walks in and the rest is history.
The second story is about Duryodhana. He is lying soaked in blood and dust near some pond in Kurukshetra. He is suddenly devoid of his key driving force – his hatred for Pandavas and his lust for the throne. And he suddenly sees the futility of everything. He wonders about various characters and what was driving them. However, he is unable to convey his change to his friends and stop Ashwatthama from doing what he does.
Read More – Gandhari ki Atmakatha by Manu Sharma
The story makes you think, do you really get detached and objective closer to death. Do you really get an outsider’s perspective of your life? Is it possible to get this perspective without being so close to the death? Is it not worthwhile to get it earlier and lead a simple, easy life than keep chasing mirages only to realize it in your last minutes? This story meanders a bit and is not as focused as the Bheema story.
Buy Shambuka Rama – Three Tales Retold by Mukunda Rao at Amazon
The longest story is the title story – Shambuka Rama. This story takes the trio of Rama, Sita, and Laxmana from Ayodhya to the hermitage of Valmiki. He is still figuring out the character of his magnum opus. Does he know who is his hero or is he still weaving it in his mind – it is anyone’s guess. While the environment of hermitage etched out by Mukunda Rao is interesting, the conversations between Ram & Sita, between Sita & Parvati and between Ram and Ram are interesting.
Here the trio also meets Shudra Shambuka and that is when Ram goes through his own monologues. Why did he leave Ayodhya and chose exile? Did he choose it or was it thrust upon him? Was he fooled around? Did he really want to be the king or was he looking forward to pursuing his own knowledge of the ultimate truth? There is a dialogue on the Brahmanas and their manipulations, which is like plugging the current day issues into a well know ancient epic.
Read More – Rama and Ayodhya by Meenakshi Jain
Shambuka Rama is a small easy to read a book, that would make you think about the stories you already know. You may or may not agree with Mukunda Rao, but he definitely makes you see his perspective. Language is easy and flows naturally. The book assumes the prior knowledge of the Epic stories.
Language chooses the perfect Indian words to create the Indic environment for the English reader. This is something that many historical fiction writers fail to balance. The mature writing makes it a delight to read. It never distracts, it gently pushes you with the flow of the story. I think language is a highlight of this storytelling.
Read it if the Epic Stories interest you.