Review: Kartikeya: The Destroyer's Son

Kartikeya: The Destroyer's Son Kartikeya: The Destroyer's Son by Anuja Chandramouli
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster . . . when you gaze long into the abyss the abyss also gazes into you”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

The eternal fight of good and evil is not all black and white. This is my second book of Anuja. First one was “Shakti, The Divine feminine”. I see some common themes in her two books though I am writing about “Kartikeya” here. The story of Kartikeya is not very well known in north India from where I belong. Ganesh is more popular elder son of Shiva in these quarters. Though in south India Kartikeya (aka Murugan in Tamil Nadu) is worshipped with fervour. This books says that Karti is elder.

Indra is petrified to death due to rising power of Soora and his brothers Simha and Taraka. The rotten manipulator as he is, he approaches Vishnu for help. This is what he always does. It is foretold that Shiva’s son will kill Soora. So Vishnu ask him to wait patiently. Ananga (Kamdeva) and his wife Rati are distressed because Shiva incinerated him. Eventually Karti comes to world. Indra and Sachi are happy. Ajamukhi is daughter of Maya and beloved sister of Soora and company. Ajamukhi has nothing to do with their barbaric ways and happy to live away from them. She is killed by Sachi and they are livid. This sets up a deadly war. Indra’s daughter Devsena is Karti’s consort.

1. The best thing I found is language. It is powerful, intelligent, lyrical & poetic. It says so much in one sentence. I marvel at the beauty of it. I savored each sentence many times. The other writer who creates magic like this is Arundhati Roy. If all things are equal these two will score above all with their language. Language is first rate but I need to keep looking up the dictionary :).

2. The book is full of metaphors, symbols and allusions. It is poetry in prose and each reader can draw his own conclusions. I can give many examples but these two should suffice:

a) The instance where Devsena tells how her father took Surya’s chariot and took them for a ride. Surya was apoplectic as he himself denied that privilege to his own children. Don’t we see this everyday happening in modern India? People in position of power bend, flout and usurp rules at their whims and fancy. This is a satire on so called VVIP culture where might is right and different rules for poor and rich.
b) Description of Karti birth. The come of Shiva flew in universe and held by Agni, Vayu and Ganga. This is a clear indication of him being Ganga son though Parvati accepts him as her own. The gods are treated as humans here and though they have super powers they also have human traits.

3. Devas and Asuras are two sides of same coin. Indra is not above reproach. He has all the failings of Asura. He is manipulative, insecure and use every trick in the book to retain power. So after all Nietzsche is right. This is evident from his fall from grace in later religious texts and finally Krishna asks not to worship him (Goverdhan episode). This is happening in today’s politics well. All political parties use every dirty trick to stay in power. There is so little to distinguish them and we just vote according to our own prejudice, insecurities, paradigms and justify every bad action of the party we support. But the better course of action will be to oppose wrongdoings of every political party.

4. I don’t know anything about Kartikeya and hence there is no reference point unlike other mythical retellings. I liked Narendra Kohli’s retelling of Ramayan and Mahabharat in Hindi. He gave a socialist spin. Amish writes fantasy with epic/ mythic/ religious characters. Devdutt has some absurd conclusions/ interpretations in Jaya and other works. In Anuja’s books there are religious characters but treatment is very progressive and feminist. I see this as a very liberal interpretation of religion which is call of the hour. In the day and age of Beef ban, grih vapsi, religion sanctioned terrorism (called Jehad) these kind of books may help us to put things in perspective. My understanding is that our Vedic society was progressive, liberal and matriarchal but later on it became patriarchal and regressive during medieval period.

5. These books are for readers for want something to ponder about and not just some pot boilers (A la Chetan Bhagat). Anuja is a bestselling author and it makes clear that there a market for intelligent literature.

I give the book 5/ 5 stars.

P.S. I asked some questions to extremely talented Ms Anuja Chandramouli. She graciously and kindly granted me her valuable time from extremely busy schedule. This may throw some light on her thinking process for those who are keen to know more. Here is the link

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