The Immortals of Meluha: Book Review

The First Book of Amish Tripathi's Shiva Trilogy

The Immortals of Meluha is the first book of the 'Shiva Trilogy' by Amish Tripathi. What makes this book, and the following two, a good read is the simplicity of language and an easy and racy narrative style. The plot hardly ever slows down enough for the reader to lose interest as one event leads to another.

The story is set in a country not yet named India and at a time when the mountainous abode of Shiva was not known by the name of Tibet.

Don't try to dig deep for factual data as this is not a historical report!

Coming from a Hindu family, I grew up listening to valiant tales of the Gods and Goddesses on how they punish the wrong doers and shower blessings and boons on the righteous. The mythological stories I heard and read were always very formal in their tone and structure because our deities are meant to be worshiped and held in respectful awe.

So it comes as a bit of a jolt when you read about the Shiva in this book casually swearing a la modern mortals - 'dammit', 'rubbish', 'bloody hell', 'wow' and 'what a woman' and enjoying a good time with his marijuana chillum.

For the first time ever, I have come across a 'humane' God. Here is a person who was not born a God but was thrust into the role of one and fulfilled His destiny by making all the right choices and doing his duty towards mankind. If one thinks about this, we all have the potential to fulfil our destinies by following the path of righteousness too.

Perhaps it is along these lines that Amish interprets the common chant of all devout Shaivites 'Har Har Mahadev' to mean 'all of us are Mahadevs'.

Further, Amish reintroduces us to some very basic tenets of human nature when he speaks of the prominent features of the Suryavanshi and Chandravanshi societies (the clan of the sun and the moon) and their differences.

Mulling over this concept, I realized that in our real world, we can actually classify people into Suryavanshis and Chandravanshis too, based on their characteristics and personalities. Asuras or demons and Suryavanshis represent the male characteristics, while the Devas or gods and Chandravanshis represent the female features.

In fact, Vedic astrology still classifies 'janam kundlis' or birth charts and horoscopes as essentially 'deva-gana' or 'asura-gana,' i.e., godly or ungodly. In essence, it symbolizes the yin-yang of life, both so different and yet so essential to the other's existence—the male and female, the positive and negative.

Another very important after-thought that this book leaves the reader with is the interpretation, or rather, the misinterpretation of good and evil. As the levels of intolerance for other cultures, religions and communities rise driving unrest and widening rifts, it is refreshing to be reminded of the 'bigger picture.'

What is perceived as evil by someone may not necessarily be so in the eyes of another. As the Mahadev learns, 'the difference between two dissimilar ways of life gets portrayed as a fight between good and evil; just because someone is different doesn't make them evil."

Amish cleverly portrays how the Suryavanshis want the Mahadev to help them annihilate the Chandravanshis while the Chandravanshis are expecting Him to join their side against the Suryavanshis. The truth instead is that the Mahadev has to look beyond the petty bickering of the two clans and instead tackle a larger evil among them – all that threatens the very existence of humanity.

Whether the book fires your imagination to dwell on the larger questions of life or not, it certainly is a populist page-turner. Perhaps Amish himself has fulfilled his destiny by writing this light-hearted trilogy that speaks to the current generation in a relatable tone and yet brings with it an underlying message from the beginning of time – the message of karma and dharma, tolerance for all forms of life and the realization that there is indeed a much bigger picture than what meets the eye!