You know, what I really wanted to write about was the various philosophies of evil – about how differently it’s perceived all over the world. What, we think, is terrible may not necessarily be so. And vice versa, don’t you think?”
When questioned about the first and second part of his hit Shiva Trilogy, Amish Tripathi throws up even more questions than answers. For Tripathi is part of an emerging band of authors who have taken up Indian mythology and history in a big way, translating bare facts into delicious stories that one reader describes as “having all the elements of a fast-paced Bollywood movie.”
Nagas, an ancient empire that existed more than five thousand years ago was filled with eternal wars and the legend of a blue-throated god who would save the world. The Immortals of Meluha certainly was an interesting read – and now, its sequel, The Secret of the Nagas, is about to release.
“It was rejected by at least 35 publishers when I took it around for publication,” Amish Tripathi chuckles. “I was more surprised than anyone else when it was well-received. You see, many publishers rejected it because they couldn’t decide how to market it, who confronted him with questions like ‘was it mythology, because it had Shiva as its hero? Or historical, because it takes place in Meluha, the name of the Indus Valley Civilization in the olden days?’ ”
Amish faced many more questions among critics and masses alike, for his premise that Lord Shiva, part of the Holy Trinity of Hindu religion, was actually, once a human, whose great deeds elevated him to godhood. “I wonder if you’ll believe this, but I used to be an atheist while my family was deeply religious. My grandfather was a pandit in Benares; Hindu mythology is practically in my blood. And yet, I believe Lord Shiva somehow brought me to write this tale, to showcase him as a human being who rose to greatness.
I have actually had youngsters coming up to me, saying they now consider Lord Shiva a dude among gods. He’s cool,” Amish grins. “I mean, he respects his consort; he dances; he lives life to the fullest; he never discriminates between Devas and Asuras when it comes to devotion.”
And yes, historical research was a big part of his work. “Sometimes, I think my whole life has been leading up to this point; I’ve been reading and researching for this trilogy for 25 years.”
Amish laughs out loud. “By rights, if I wanted to stick to how things were in those days, I would have had to write my book in Sanskrit, and refer to India as Jambudweep. But I want my work to reach people. Just the same way I discovered Shakespeare in a simpler version. The more modern the language, the better it will be understood. Even the Buddha spoke to the world only in the language of the masses, Pali.”
So what does Book 2 hold in store for us? Especially as Book 1 ends in a cliff-hanger. “You never know,” Amish says tantalizingly with regards to the next book. “Anyone could die – or spring back to life. I have many theories about evil, and I intend to explore them. But Shiva discovers more about himself. Meluha is not what it appears to be. Get ready for the ride.”