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Book Review: Ashok Banker The Ramayana Books 1-3

Before I get to the main course of this post a quick note on the whole Terry Schiavo thing. It was with a huge sigh of relief that I heard the poor women finally passed over. Its a huge regret that some people feel it is essential to impose their own morality on others. Thankfully the people who founded the United States set up their famous series of checks and balances: Three levels of government, President, Congress, and the Judiciary to keep each other in line. It looks like the next major political battle in the steps will be how much the Conservative Christian Right can influence the shaping of the Supreme Court. Keep eyes open for danger signs.

I can't think of a greater delight then the discovery of an author previously unknown. In the last few months I've been fortunate to discover four such wonders. Even better, as far as I was concerned, was that each of them have published either a continuing series of books or a completed series, so there is no end of fodder for my considerable appetite. I have to have something to do while waiting for the next installment of Harry Potter!!!

Ashok K. Banker's adaptation of the 3,000 year old epic Ramayana is in some ways the most exotic, and therefore to Western eyes, perhaps the least approachable. But the author has ensured that no ones enjoyment be diminished no matter what their cultural background(interestingly enough he has been forced to re-issue the book for a strictly Indian audience, the international edition containing information redundant to that public) The inclusion of an extensive glossary of Sanskrit words and concepts and the back of each volume hastens enjoyment and comprehension.

The Ramayana was written by the original good thief Valamika who far predates the one mentioned in the story of Christ. As atonement for his past sins Valamika became a sage and created this story to teach the values needed to lead the exemplary life. As in all epics there is a Hero, Crown Prince Rama of Ayodhya, a beautiful princess(his wife Sita), his loyal companions, the flawed but basically good father, and a villain, in this case the personification of Evil the head of the demon world Ravana.

Lushly written with love and devotion the books are a fine introduction for those of us who have little or no understanding of the culture and history of one of the oldest societies in the world. If you are like me your and understanding of India has been limited to seeing the occasional Bollywood movie and various western interpretations of eastern beliefs these books are a breath of fresh air. Alive and vital they manage to entertain and educate simultaneously.

At no time during the reading of the stories did I feel Mr. Banker overtly explaining concepts and ideas central to the belief system extolled to the detriment of the story. His wise use of incidents and characters (which is the manner of all good epics and parables)served to fill in the copious blanks in my knowledge with out once making me feel like the story was being interrupted. Soon after beginning I was able to just sit back and enjoy the lush panorama unfolding before me without worrying about missing out on any key points of the tale.

A word of warning. Do not do what I did. That was sit down and attempt to read through all three books in sequence one after the other. As with all piquant items one must give the palate a rest between courses or risk a dulling of the senses. These are books to be savored as a delicacy, take your time and don't rush or you run the risk of missing out on the nuances of taste at your disposal.

cheers

gypsyman


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