Three books that promise to give you stories you have not read before.
There are numerous books that narrate stories of bravery and wisdom of our mythological heroes. But what about their trusty side-kicks and mounts? With Hachette India's Myth Quest series you can read exciting stories not only about the popular protagonists but also about the lesser known characters like Indira's celestial white elephant Airavata, the half-bird, half-human vahana of Vishnu and Shesha the serpent king, all retold by Anu Kumar.
Remember the multi-headed snake that helped baby Krishna's father Vasudeva cross the river during a thunder storm? Krishna's older brother Balarama? Lord Ram's loyal brother Lakshman? Well, the first is the serpent king Shesha himself and the latter are his incarnations, reborn as a mortal to accompany his Lord and master Vishnu. In the book, Sheshanaga: The Endless Serpent, you will read about the birth of Shesha, extensive episodes from Ramayana where Lakshman features prominently, and the tales of Krishna and Balarama.
Meanwhile, Airavata: Elephant of the Clouds talks about how the powerful elephant came into being and became the king of heaven, Indra's mount. There are stories about Airavarta's fight with Hanuman, a curse that makes him lose his pearly whiteness leading to his hiding in the Ocean of Milk in embarrassment. He is later found when the ocean is churned by the Devas and Asuras looking for the nectar of eternal life. The stories of war that Airavarta leads along with Indra highlight the elephant's courage and loyalty towards its master.
Garuda: Devourer of Serpents, the high-flyer is quoted to be brave and a proud being.
Serpents and more
Most stories in this book go on to highlight these qualities. As when he rescues his mother from the serpents and how he joins Ram in his battle against Ravana. There's also a time when his pride and arrogance lands him in trouble. Despite these, we come to know that he's also the type who sheds a tear after learning about the fate of a little bird.
You would have read a few of these stories that feature in the books as a part of the more popular mythological classics. But reading them in the context of these characters will help understand their role and importance in the tales you have often heard and read about.
But there are also many new stories to read that are exclusive to Shesha, Garuda or Airavarta. Stories about their quests, fights, revenge, curse and adventures. Some stories even have different versions, owing to the different ancient texts that have been used as reference.
The books make for interesting read for the myth-buff, but don't make for light- reading. They require your focus as there are many plots, sub-plots and numerous names that need to be kept track of. The 50-page books are packed with information and tales, which if you take your time to read promise to keep you engrossed with new facets to old tales and unsung heroes.
MYTH QUEST SHESHANAGA: THE ENDLESS SERPENT, AIRAVATA: ELEPHANT OF THE CLOUDS, GARUDA: DEVOURER OF SERPENTS, Retold by: Anu Kumar, Hachette India, Rs. 99 each