Between The Lines In A Bold New Worship

Publishers are welcoming mythology-based fiction and its popularity encourages a renewed relationship with the supreme consciousness. Hopefully, future generations will take old stories, says Anuja Chandramouli.

In the recent times, the tidal wave of interest in mythology has become something of a publishing phenomenon. Thanks to the extraordinary success of Anand Neelakantan, Amish Tripathi, Devdutt Pattnaik, and Ashwin Sanghi among others, the supposedly 33 crore deities from the Hindu pantheon have been retrieved from the musty passageways of memory and legend — dusted off, polished, retrofitted and propelled into the collective consciousness with gleaming, often glamourous avatars.

The reading populace can’t get enough, it seems. Mythology, it seems, has become a safe bet as far as the publishers are concerned and hence, an endless stream of myth-based fiction is making its way to the marketplace. Is this surfeit of a good thing really a good thing?

As it happens, those with an appreciation for our glorious culture and heritage are no doubt thrilled that youngsters have taken to Puranic lore in such a big way. Others, however, are less than ecstatic with the artistic liberties taken with the sacrosanct material they received on the laps of grandmothers, who told the edifying stories just so, the way, they themselves imbibed from their elders.

It is hoped that aspiring wordsmiths stick to genres they care about instead of jumping headlong into the mad race to make a killing with the mythological themes. But that would be indicative of selfish self-interest as this writer has a finger in the mythology pie and it would behove her to look at this question from an objective angle.

In this brave new world, the Gods are no longer all-powerful entities who leave the pious quaking with love, awe or fear but they have been brought to the level of the mortals where one may get up close and personal with them and, I daresay, find a wart or two and even grey hair  — sorry — shades. This brand new relationship that has been forged with the supreme consciousness, appalling as it may be to some, is nevertheless a wonderful thing. Allow me to elaborate.

Indian culture with its grandiose, sweeping range and a major chunk of traditions — religious and otherwise — handed down over the millennia, has survived despite repeated attacks by invaders who made short work of entire civilisations. It is not a fluke.

The powerful Gods from Roman and Greek mythology rule only in the pages of charming fiction, but are otherwise forgotten and certainly not worshipped. Youngsters hardly know the Norse Gods, excepting Thor and Loki, the mighty God of Thunder and his nemesis, who many believe to be the work of Stan Lee at his most creative. Have the Egyptian Gods or the way of life that came into being with the magnificent Nile – valley civilization retained their relevance?  What about the Incans, Maya or Aztecs? What spared India from a similar fate?

While it has not been worked down to a science, the general consensus is that Indians have always had the ability to assimilate the best from other religions, cultures and traditions — even if it comes from a hated conqueror. It is through this remarkably symbiotic process that the gifts of our predecessors in art, science, philosophy and other fields have been preserved. We ensure that the presents of the past survive the merciless sands of time. Isn’t that beautiful?

Likewise, if the modern era demands that we re-examine the way we choose to connect with our Gods and Goddesses, treating them as friends, adversaries or intriguing puzzles that need to be scrutinised every which way, surely there is nothing wrong with it. Readers pick up these new-fangled books not merely because they are a fad or out of amusing curiosity, but out of an underlying sense of love and deep respect for a culture and heritage that is exclusively our own and one we can take rightful pride in.

This abiding affinity for all things Indian, be it myth or pickles, allows us to stay connected to our roots and feel the sanctuary of a grandmother’s lap even as we find ourselves barrelling across the highway of life, heading for strange shores to make our homes, embracing cutting-edge technology and contributing to it or wrapping our heads around ideas and notions that are entirely foreign but have been accepted as the norm. Why then, should we disparage authors for taking the mythology, that is common to all of us, and doing with it what they will, if it means that our children and their children will keep the treasure trove of the best of our ancient beliefs close to their hearts and value it forever?

Hopefully future generations will take the old stories, add a little something new in keeping with their times and infuse it with a delicious irreverence that may seem shocking to the old guard but will nonetheless be replete with wisdom as well as wit. Now that would be something! Ultimately, we cannot have too much of a good thing when it is our good thing.



—  Anuja is the bestselling author of Arjuna, Kama, Shakti and Yama’s Lieutenant.






  • Aditya Vardhan Madabhushani

    Absolute unadulterated BS.

    Amish Tripathi in his slime fest of a book, made Shiva as Sati’s second husband !!!

    Maa Sati, who spent an eternity for the love of Shiva, married to someone else.

    Imagine if some idiot said your father was born from an affair of your grandmother, when you know it is not true, but defends it by saying that atleast the scandal would help you remember your grandparents right???

  • ರಗಳೆ

    Nonsense.Firstly, What really is mythology– ”Anything that we cannot explain”?
    It is simply: ”lack of creativity”.These Amishs, Devdutts, etc.. cannot ‘think anyhing new’, which is anyways ‘agreeable’ to modern audience who neither have patience or time of intelligence to think or contemplate on the philosophy behind the so-called ”mythology”.
    You cannot substitute/excuse deliberate distortions,commissions in the name of ”artistic freedom”.
    Say, even after another 500 years people will remember Valmiki,Vedavyasa etc..but people will forget all these pseudo-writers(all of them who have been listed here).

  • BR

    Yes, a stupid column. Dont know why Swarajya gave this some airtime.

    Draw off your stupid Westernized blinders, you silly people. Dont view the Indic tradition like the Greek or the Roman or the Norse. NO.
    The devathas are not similar to the gods of rome or greece, in which case, they can be made inferior to the god of the vatican.
    The devathas and puranas have continuously been reinterpreted, revisualized and reimagined every generation, by most Indic peoples. That is the point. All that you can say is these are stupid and pale imaginations of Devi or Siva, by deracinated and alienated Anglicized writers, more felicitous in English, and practical illiterates in any other Bhasha. Can Neelakantan or Tripathi or anyone of these authors actually read some of the Prabandhas or Kavyas, in Tamil, Telugu, Bengali or Avadhi?