The first book of the Shiva trilogy explores mythology from a new angle- by the humanization of one of Hinduism’s reverented Gods and creators. The book sets up a realistic timeline and sends a tribal avatar of Lord Shiva to shatter the forces of evil. Called into the land of Meluha by the advanced Suryavanshi clan whose folklore is interspersed with references to a savior who will be recognizable through his Neelkanth (blue throat), Shiva is entrusted with the task of bringing within grasp what the Meluhans believe is their stolen birthright- the sacred Ayodhya of Lord Ram, where their nemesis reside in the form of the Chandravanshi clan. As Shiva struggles to find his identity, he starts to embrace the truth of his destiny. How right is he, though?
Keeping the basics straight, The Immortals of Meluha strings together a story of war and love along with a straightforward presentation of the “values” laid down in Hinduism- but with a modern twist.
Immortals of Meluha is light entertainment which aims to connect with its readers by presenting a relatable protagonist who is nonetheless hailed to be God and protector of the realm of Meluha- where opposing clans remain at loggerheads with each other over questions of superiority. While one believes in practicing constraint and disciplinary, the other insists on giving its people the freedom to engage in whatever they see fit, which may include vandalism and rebellion.
The modern rendition of Lord Shiva curses, cusses and blasphemes his way through the narrative. Intentionally likeable but very cult-pulp-heroed, he comes across as a devilishly charming character from an 80’s movie- he wins his heroine over with cheesy punchlines and easy stalking and delivers his villains punches which send them flailing like a house of cards. If Shiva is meant to be flawed and human, however, the object of his affections Sati is equally shown to be the epitome of perfection in woman. Proud, coy, lethal and seductive in equal parts, she craves respect and affection but chooses to disguise her wants underneath a layer of self-righteousness which Shiva cracks through by following her around and watching her activities, often interrupting them with remarks of his own, further strengthening the Indian illusion that women admire and fall for men who stalk them.
However, I need to compliment the book for its simplified but dignified approach to the issues of the caste system and the Vikarmas (explicitly referred to as those mortals who are deemed unfit for normal existence because their poor luck apparently reflects mortifying acts from a previous life for which they must now pay by being ostracized). Where there was good, there was bad- like Shiva’s easy acceptance of Lord Ram as the idol of perfection, the similar easy acceptance of Shiva as a Lord in his own right by the other characters and the system of supposed fairness that was idealized in the book as the only method of unfairly judging and qualifying children into categories according to their skills- by taking them away from their mothers after childbirth and allowing families to adopt teens when they were ready to be put back into the caste system.
The narrative was weak and superflous, fluency was missing. It was marked by weak descriptions and lazy introductions to characters who were often taken for granted and wafer-thin for the most part. The book could have been a lot more than it turned out to be. It could have been deeper and have had more impact if the characters were given more space to grow, more transition period and finer justifications. However, as far as taking a break from serious literature goes, it was quite a pleasant change of pace for me.