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Author: Anant Pai
Publisher: India Book House
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8175081465 et al
This boxed collection includes 10 illustrated books on epical stories from India's ancient past.
1. Tales of Balarama:
Balarama is also known as Baladeva and Balabhadra. Some episodes from his childhood and the tale of his wedding are narrated in this Amar Chitra Katha. The first story in this volume encapsulates a series of adventures with friends and demons. In the second story, Balarama changes the course of the River Yamuna to solve the water problems of a group of farmers. The tale of Balarama’s wedding to Revati is charmingly narrated in the third story. The last story is that of princess Lakshmana who loves Krishna. Her swayamwara is deliberately arranged to be so challenging that only Krishna could win.
2. Tales of Narada:
The divine sage Narada is the most popular figure in Puranic lore. No event of significance takes place in the Puranas that Narada does not have a hand in. He is depicted as a messenger always on the move, visiting the devas, the manavas and the asuras and honoured by all. He is a great devotee of Vishnu.
Although Narada is always referred to with respect in mythology, he is often misunderstood and ridiculed by the common people as a carrier of tales and a mischief-maker. However, Narada’s so-called mischief invariably brings about the downfall of the wicked and furthers the cause of the good.
He is credited with the invention of the Veena – the musical instrument – and the authorship of a code of laws, and of Narada Bakti Sutra (aphorisms on devotion).
The three tales include here are based on the Shiva Purana and some popular legends. They tell us how Narada, although a divine sage, at times fell a prey to temptation, and became conceited. Fortunately, for Narada, Vishnu was beside him to pull him up every time he succumbed to human weaknesses. Gradually, Narada became free from human failings and attained true equanimity of mind.
3. Aruni and Uttanka:
The stories of Aruni and Uttanka illustrate the special relationship that ought to exist between the teacher (guru) and the disciple (shishya). The faith of the student in his teacher is matched by the latter’s perception of the pupil’s abilities. The first story tells us of Aruni’s remarkable loyalty and perseverance towards his guru, Dhoumya, for whom he is willing to risk even his life. In the second story, Sage Gautama singles out Uttanka for tests more arduous than those he imposes on his other disciple, because he has complete faith in him.
The story of Andhaka, the offspring of Shiva and Parvati, is given in the Shiva and Vamana Puranas. Andhaka is born blind and hideous inform, from the sweat of Parvati’s hand and the heat of Shiva’s eye. When given away as a boon to asura king. Hiranyaksha, Andhaka is surrounded by the crudeness and arrogance of the asuras through his growing years.
Since his origins are divine, however, there is a different destiny in store for him. Through a boon, he gains physical beauty, but his heart continues to harbour evil.
His parents are instrumental in bringing about his ultimate spiritual transformation. Andhaka’s story aptly traces the journey of the soul and its ordeals through fire before it attains liberation.
5. KRISHNA AND RUKMINI:
Krishna is the great lover of Indian mythology. Yet the details of the women he had wooed won and wed are surprisingly limited and perhaps should be confined ton his conquest of Rukmini. Here is the unalloyed romantic tale of none but the brave deserving the fair. Krishna here is the romantic hero par excellence who recklessly carries away his lady-love under the very nose of his rivals. Rukmini is a perfect foil to Krishna in this idyllic tale.
6. The Golden Mongoose and Other Tales from The Mahabharata :
Atithidevo Bhava, or may your guest be a god to you, says one of the Upanishads. The Golden Mongoose and The Pigeon’s Sacrifice are stories that tell of the extent to which hospitality was carried in the old days.
The Enlightened Butcher speaks of duty, virtue, and the inseparable link between the two in one’s quest for truth. All three stories in this Chitra Katha are retold from the Mahabharata.
Draupadi sprang full grown from the fire but no other heroine in Hindu mythology was as earthy as she.
Her birth, sought by King Drupada, presaged a purpose. Her steely will, which often gleams through her helpless married life, was shaped by the power and plenty that she knew as the beloved daughter of the wealthy king of Panchala. But for this, her tale would have been as passive as that of any other woman of that era, which was less than kind to women. Even as she lived as a woman typical of her times, her fiery personality lent a glow to everything that she did.
Draupadi was the total woman; complex and yet feminine.
8. DRONA :
Drona, the valiant archer, is second only to Bheeshma among the respected elders of the Mahabharata. Yet he remains an outsider. He added a streak of personal vendetta to that tale of family feud.
Drona had studied together with Drupada, who later become king of Panchala, in the ashram of Agnivesha.
It seems very cruel on his part to have demanded the thumb of Ekalavya, the great archer, but her again his won motives left him little choice but to pamper Arjuna.
Ghototkacha was one of the finest characters in the Mahabharata-affectionate and kind even though he was a Rakshasa. Perhaps that was because he was only half a Rakshasa, being the son of Bheema and the Rakshasi Hidimbaa. From his mother he learnt all the arts of the Rakshasas. From his father he inherited an affectionate and chivalrous temperament. He was an invaluable ally to the Pandavas in times of trouble-he appeared before them whenever they thought of him.
The theme of Vatsala’s wedding, a very popular one in South India, is much exploited in ballads and stories. It was Ghatotkacha, who with his Rakshasa hordes and their magical powers, made the wedding of Abhimanyu and Vatsala possible. This story is not found in the Mahabharata or in Sanskrit literature. It seems to have evolved at a much later date, as a legend, in Telugu and Kannada. The exponents of the art of Harikatha count this story as the most popular one in their repertoire and it has been handed down by word of mouth for generations. Our Amar Chitra Katha is derived partly from the Mahabharata and partly from the legend.
The Mahabharata is a gallery of heroes and Karna is the most heroic of them. Fate denied him all his dues. But he fought and achieved all that a man could aspire to have. He was as much a Pandava prince as any of the other five. But he never knew his lineage. At last, when he knew it, he could not but disown it.
He was brought up as a commoner and therefore humiliated. Teachers would not teach him. His equals shunned him. He received no honour despite his valour but he never lost heart. Duryodhana, the Kaurava prince, offered him kingship. For this act of kindness, he remained loyal to Duryodhana till the very end.
1. Tales of Balarama
2. Tales of Narada
3. Aruni and Uttanka
5. Krishna and Rukmini
6. The golden Mongoose