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The Vaishnodevi Experience 2023

My first trip to Vaishnodevi was unimpressive. Climbing was hard, and it only served to highlight how badly out of shape I was, while my in-laws managed to cope so much better. Further, I hadn’t quite realized that the cave experience wouldn’t be the same as I had imagined, since the original cave was only opened at certain times a year, and that we only entered a newly created tunnel, one far easier to access, and hence more manageable with the crowds that thronged the mountain shrine. The resulting experience at the shrine, for barely a fraction of a second, hardly compared to what I had expected / imagined / heard about. So, for me, Vaishnodevi was like any other temple, nothing to write home about, something that was reflected (though not explicitly mentioned) in the blog post I wrote then.

Book Review: Warlord of Ayodhya - Rebellion , by Shatrujeet Nath

Ayodhya is synonymous with Rama, which is why it is a pleasure to read a book about Ayodhya, where there is no Ram. The events of “Warlord of Ayodhya” occur in the city, when Rama is in exile. It is Bharat who is at the centre of this story, an unwilling character forced to play the lead. While he rules the kingdom with his brother’s sandals on the throne’s footrest, and remembers his brother’s words of advice to him, it is his father he seeks to emulate as king. After all, it is his father who has ruled the kingdom all those years. While Rama is the prince, the rightful heir, it is still Dashrath who is the ideal king in Bharat’s eyes. It is these subtleties that make Shatrujeet Nath’s newest book a riveting read.

While centered around Ayodhya, the book does not limit itself to the city. The author skillfully puts Ayodhya in the context of the larger subcontinent – of the River Kingdoms and Gandhara, of Madhupura and the trade routes, and the much farther Lanka looming ominously in the shadows.

The narrative also follows not only the kings, but also the servants in and out of the palace, the traders, the soldiers, those with and without power. There is intrigue, and the author skillfully holds a lot of separate threads in his hands as he weaves the story together. If his previous books are any indication, we can look forward to all the separate threads coming together to form an intricate story that holds together beautifully as the series progresses.

As with his Vikramaditya Veergatha series, the story brings together mythology and fantasy. While there are no superheroes in this series, there is magic. And the author’s conception of magic is just as intriguing as his conception of the superpowers of his heroes in the previous series. As with his other books, this one too is fast paced. The characters are all conceptualized in great detail, and each one begins to take shape in our mind as we read about them. however, that’s where the similarities end. There are no gods here so far, though the rakshashas have already made their appearance. And the story revolves as much around the internal problems faced by the city as the external threats. Above all, so far it feels like the coming-of-age story of a king. How the author takes Bharat’s story forward and how he handles the hand-over of the throne to Rama eventually already intrigues me, and makes me wait impatiently for the next books in the series.

The only thing I’m not a fan of, in the book, is its cover. I much preferred the cover art of the Vikramaditya Veergatha series, especially the first three books. However, as they say, “Never judge a book by its cover”, so that hardly matters.

Please note: The book was sent to me for review by the author. However, the views expressed are all my own. 


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