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Monday, 21 March 2016

Shiva in the City of the Nectar - Book Review

Mythology is the flavour of the season. Preetha Rajah Kannan’s Shiva in the City of the Nectar tries to fit into this popular genre with a difference. It contains mythological tales from the South India, more particularly Tamil Nadu. The writer has culled out fifty-four stories from the folk lore, Thriruvilaiyadal Puranam and fleshed them up with her imagination. 

Now the city of Nectar is the city of Madurai. Lord Shiva is its ruling deity. So he is the hero of all the tales. The stories are also about power struggles between two mighty clans the Cholas and Pandians. Both are ardent devotees of Lord Shiva. Ukkiran, Abhishegan, Raajasekaran, Vikraman, Sekkaran, Rajaraja are the rulers of the city of Nectar. The stories are weaved around them and many other rulers of the city. The book has interesting tales about the births of Durvasa, Markandeya and Airavata. This being the book regarding South Indian mythology it can not be complete without Agasti Muni known as Agasthiar in the south. There are curses and ways of redemption too.

To read mythology set in South India where a siddhar appears instead of a Sadhu or Sage and where Shiva is referred to as Sundaran is a refreshing read. I really liked the story about the Devdasi and her Shiva of gold. I am sure lovers of mythology will love this book. The writer sounds very contemporary while describing these stories. So a child in one of the stories goes to a school and not Gurukul. yaazh

But speaking of the lessons that the book imparts I have some reservations. May be perhaps the reservations are not only with regard to the book but the mythological stories. There is lot of violence involved. Manickavasagar spends the gold given to him to by the King to buy horses in building the magnificent temple. When confronted by the King, he prays to the Lord. The Lord comes to his rescue and transforms jackals into horses who become jackals again in the night and fly to the jungles. When the King confronts him again, there is a deluge which tries to submerge Madurai. What kind of message are we passing through such stories? Also in the story the singing woodcutter, the Lord makes the unworthy singer win through deceit. Similarly in Dharumi’s story the Lord makes an ignorant person win a contest by resorting to plagiarism. Also when another poet Nakkeerar tries to point out a flaw in the answer, he is killed. This story tells us that this land was always intolerant.

Yet, I congratulate the author for bringing something new in the market which is inundated with books of mythological genre.

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