My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Another tale of two cities
by Ezhuth Aani
The cover is designed by Ajitabha Bose. It shows a temple against the backdrop of red setting sun. This is very beautiful and serene.
Fourteen thirty one is the year remembered for the martyrdom of Joan of Arc. But another landmark event was unfolding in a future French colony. Cambodia was a cultural cauldron of Hinduism, Mahayana Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism. The largest metropolis of the pre industrial era was also facing a climate change calamity. The story unfolds in fifteenth century Cambodia and travels to China, Sri Lanka, India and the Middle East, as Princes Adithya and Mahendra set out to seek help for their beleaguered country. Will the splendid twin cities of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom survive? Who wins the heart of Mandagini, the warrior princess?
The story starts with a young Adithya the king’s envoy is riding his horse Vibhanji. He is going to meet Vajragnani, a mystic in order to save Angkor’s empire. Enroute he meets his daughter Mandagini. She arrests him and then takes him to Vajragnani, her father. He gives him knowledge and a statue of Buddha. Then he sends him on his way alongwith Mandagini. They both fall in love and part ways with heavy hearts. Will they meet again and will he fulfil his destiny? In another part of world in China prince Mahendra vistis there for same reason.
The book has a lot of information of history of different parts of Asia and religions.
I particularly liked this passage on Buddhism and Hinduism:
“Before the Buddha appeared, for a long time in India, the Brahmins were dominant. One’s social status was determined only by his birth. It was the Brahmins who established the social code called Varnaashrama Dharma, or the caste system. They made the people believe that the Brahmins appeared from Lord Brahama’s tounge, and that the Shudras appeared from his legs. Lord Buddha, who brought about a great spiritual revolution, was also responsible for a social revolution. Lord Buddha has stated very clearly that one’s stauts is not determined by his birth. Though Buddha did not totally reject Vranaashrama Dharam. This was because if law and order were to be established in society, each one must carry out the duties allotted to him by birth.”
This description of ladies in the Harem of Chinese emperor is gut wrenching:
“The Harem was merely a gold plated prison. In it, there were hundreds of heroines vying for the attention of one single hero. Though their being part of the harem brought social status and money to their families was there any chance of their physical and menatal needs satisfied in this environmanet. Although there were varuous meanst of entertainment such as music, literature, drama, stages, and libraries, how could one satisfy one’s physical cravings?”
The story is a historical set in a period of fifteenth century. Expanse is quiet large from Cambodia to China, Sri Lanka, Middle East and of course India. This is a story which has everything Romance, Valour, Intrigue, conspiracy, spy craft, lust for women and power. The tender love story of Adithya and Mandagini is heart touching. This is unlike modern day romance where they kiss first and ask name later.
The story is very interesting. English is very good and there are no grammatical. Ezhuth has a good very indepth knowledge of Buddhism and history. Though the story is uneven in pacing it has sufficnet depth to keep you engrossed.
There is a lot of information given about Buddhism and political, social condition prevalent at that time. Though I guess it was important; Still to show his intellectual prowess author got carried away. This slows the pace down and makes it too descriptive and long at places. Some tight editing would have done a lot of good. I got bored at many places and it became a painful traversing those portions.
Recommendation and rating:
I would recommend it all my friends who like to read fiction which has historical setting and has long descriptive portions about that. I give the book a 3/ 5 stars.
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