Lord Shiva Myth Redefined in "The Immortals of Meluha"
About the Author - Amish Tripathy
Amish Tripathy is a contemporary Indian fiction writer. He shot to fame with his debut endeavor Immortals of Meluha. The book became a record-breaking best-seller and made him an internationally-acclaimed author.
43 year old Amish worked in the field of finance and marketing for fourteen years before trying his hand at writing. His reinterpretation of the Lord Shiva myth in his Shiva Trilogy has established him as a notable Indian author.
He is a recipient of the Young Achievers Award for his contributions in the field of literature and he has been officially declared as one of India's Newest literary Icons.
Shiva literally means "the auspicious one." He is one of the three principal deities of the Hindu religion along with Brahma and Vishnu.
Deeply revered by Hindus, Shiva is regarded as transcendental in form and a limitless absolute. He has many compassionate and ferocious depictions. In his gracious aspect, he is depicted as an omniscient yogi who lives an ascetic life on Kailash Mountain with wife his Parvati and his two children Ganesha and Kartikeya. In his fierce aspect, he becomes the destroyer and transformer. In this form he is depicted as a powerful demon-slayer and destroyer of Evil.
Shiva is also known as "Adiyogi Shiva" and is regarded as the patron god of yoga, meditation, and the arts. Lord Shiva is considered to be one of the most enthralling gods in Hindu mythology and he signifies passion and strength.
Meaning of Meluha
Scholars suggest that Meluha is the Sumerian name of the Indus Valley Civilization. Early texts seem to indicate that Meluha is to the east, suggesting that it is either the Indus Valley or India. In his book, The Immortals of Meluha, Amish describes terrain and landscapes that resemble the Indus Valley.
Thus, Meluha, as depicted in The Immortals of Meluha, is a state or an empire which corresponds in resemblance and location with the north-western part of contemporary India and some parts of modern day Pakistan. To the east lies Swadeep and to the south lies the vast territory of Panchvati and Dandak forest. The writer also reproduces a thorough map for the setting of his novel to provide some historical orientation to the work.
Map of Meluha and Ancient India
Plot and Setting of the Novel The Immortals of Meluha
Amish sets his story in the historically ancient times of 1900 B.C. Meluha is a near-perfect empire that was created many centuries earlier by Suryavanshi clan leader, Lord Rama. In the novel, the once proud empire is facing a severe crisis as its primary river, Saraswati, is slowly drying up and headed towards extinction.
Meluha also faces devastating terrorist attacks from people in the east, which is the land of the Chandravanshis. The Chandravanshis have joined forces with the Nagas, a cursed race with physical deformities. Now the only hope for the salavation of Meluha is the prophecy of Neelkanth the saviour.
While in the process of finding the Neelkanth, the present king of Meluha, King Daksha, sends his emissaries to Tibet to invite the tribal inhabitants to come and live in Meluha. One of the invited tribes is the Gunas, whose chief Shiva is a brave warrior and their protector. Shiva accepts the proposal and moves to Meluha with his tribe. They reach the city of Srinagar and are received there by Ayurvati, the Chief of Medicine of the Meluhans. Shiva and his tribe are impressed with the Meluhan way of life. On their first night of staying at Srinagar, the Gunas wake up in a state of high fever and intense sweating. The Meluhans, under Ayurvati's orders, perform the healing process. However, Ayurvati notes that Shiva is the only one devoid of these symptoms and that his throat has turned blue, which is an indication that he is the savior they've been waiting for. Shiva is announced as the Neelkanth.
This is where the fated journey of Shiva begins. His character evolves from a mere tribal chief into a godly figure (or "Mahadev"). Shiva is taken to Devagiri, the capital city of Meluha, to meet King Daksha. It is here, he meets the love of his life: his would-be wife, Sati. Sati is the daughter of King Daksha.
In Devagiri he also comes to know about somras (a miraculous potion), and its magical properties. He helps the Syryavanshis (Meluhans) defend themselves against the Chandravanshis (Swadeepans) in war. After victoriously emerging from the war, he comes to learn the truth about the circumstances of the war and soon realizes he's committed a huge folly. For much of the novel Shiva is under the wrong impression that the Nagas are solely responsible for all the Evil.
List of Characters in "The Immortals of Meluha"
Because this story is heavily-based on Hindu Mythology, the novel deals with a large number of characters that are representations of well-known deities. Indian readers will be familiar with some of the characters in the Shiva Trilogy due to their knowledge of Hindu Mythology. The author skillfully recreates these characters and portrays them with an original perspective. There are also some original fictitious characters that the author introduces to readers in this story. The presence of these characters helps the progression of the plot and strengthens the story.
1. Shiva- Shiva is the chief of the Guna tribe. He is the protagonist of the novel.
2. Sati - Sati is the daughter of Emperor Daksha. Shiva falls in love with her and against all odds he succeeds in marrying her.
3. Veerbhadra ( Bhadra) - A close childhood friend of Shiva.
4. Kanakhala - The chief minister of Daksha's royal court, Kanakhala is an extremely learned and intelligent woman.
5. Parvateshvar - Head of Meluhan army, Parvateshvar is loyal to the Meluhan King, Daksha. He eventually becomes a staunch follower of Shiva as he realizes Shiva's quality as a great leader.
6. Ayurvati - The chief of medicine, Ayurvati is an intelligent and skillful doctor. She is the first one to realize that Shiva is the "Neelkanth."
7. Brahaspati - A Meluhan scientist who becomes a very close friend of Shiva.
8. King Daksha - The emperor of Meluha.
9. Nandi - A captain in the Meluhan army. Nandi becomes one of Shiva’s most loyal followers throughout his life.
10. Bhagirath - The prince of Swadweep and the son of Emperor Dilipa. A pragmatic and brave man, whom we will get to know much more about in the sequel novel, The Secret of the Nagas. He has an important role to play in this trilogy.
9. Anandmayi - The princess of Swadweep and the daughter of emperor Dilipa. Passionate, mercurial, and intelligent, Anandmayi makes for the perfect Chandravanshi.
10. Krittika - Krittika is the handmaiden of the Meluhan Princess, Sati. She falls in love with Bhadra and marries him.
11. Kali - Sati’s hidden twin sister, the Queen of the Nagas.
12. Ganesh - Sati’s elder son, whose existence she does not know of.
13. Kartik - Shiva and Sati’s son, born in Kashi and named after Sati’s friend, Krittika.
Critical Analysis of the Protagonist Shiva in "The Immortals of Meluha"
The novel chronicles the transition of a man into a Mahadev. As the Neelkanth, Shiva grows from a common man into an uncommon persona who fights against every kind of social evil. He is a loyal friend, a loving husband and father, a brave warrior, votary of equality and justice in society, and a clear-headed person in his judgement. Like a true leader, he inspires his soldiers to fight against all odds and propagates a slogan - ''Har, Har, Mahadev" which means everyone can be and is a Mahadev. Mahadev means "God of all gods."
The author skillfully shapes Lord Shiva into a credible character. Through this story Shiva becomes a real person, one with feelings and faults, with a charismatic and logical mind. The characterization of Shiva is one of the most intriguing aspects of the entire story. Shiva searches for his destiny as he tries to establish justice. He is curious, virtuous, and respectful. He questions the unjust caste divisions within his society and the concept of vikarma which serves to distance him from Sati.
One specific quality of Shiva's that makes him seem similar to the mythological Lord Shiva is his impeccable dancing and singing skills. Lord Shiva's dance symbolizes the unified rhythm of the cosmic alongside the human existence. Shiva's human charm in its perfection leads him on the path towards becoming a revered Mahadev.
Mythology surely plays an important role in The Immortals of Meluha. Amish Tripathy's abundant knowledge of Hindu mythology and his talent for recreating and conveying the extraordinary charm of ancient times combine well to form an excellent story. Tripathy is a skillful storyteller and he artfully interweaves all the events in the novel with Hindu mythology. The novel can be categorized as an epic fantasy. Amish has been able to spur a wave of interest in epic fantasy by crafting this tale with its compelling plot, appealing characters, and terrific mythological bent.