“The time scheme of the epic is somewhat puzzling to us who are habituated to a mere horizontal sequence of events. Valmiki composed (Ramayana) as if he had a past tale to tell, and yet it was broadcast to the world by Kusa and Lava, the sons of Rama, who heard it directly from the author.
One has to set aside all one’s habitual notions of movement and get used to a narrative going backwards and forwards and sideways.
When we take into consideration the fact that a king ruled for sixty thousand or more years, enjoying an appropriate longevity, it seems quite feasible that the character whose past or middle period is being written about continues to live and turns up to have a word with the historian.”An excerpt from R.K Narayan’s book ‘Gods, Demons and Others’, Chapter 3, Valmiki
The myths, the legends, the folktales, the epic victories and defeats, the deaths and rebirths simplify the reality of the extraordinary spirit – confounded and weakened often by tribulations or lulled by indolence – that resides within us all.
These stories take myriad routes, journeying from the world of Gods to the world of Demons, concluding on a high and happy note, introducing one to the game of life, entrusting then the secrets to win.
Every emotion makes an appearance here; ego clashes until it shatters to accept change; Gods create obstacles almost breaking one’s spirit, but blesses the resilient one in the end with immortality and splendour.
These unfathomable, and at times a bit ridiculous, tales are the means to measure the unfathomable, ridiculous reality we live in; these tales, the bases of our culture, our rituals and an amalgamation of past societies, lead us.
Splendidly well-adjusted to change, it accepts deletions, additions, revisions without much hullaballoo. It revels in various versions and shades read throughout the country. Same gods-goddesses, demons, sages, avatars… often playing different roles, but embarking on similar journeys.
Written in a playful and ambitious tone these valued legends, retold by storytellers in every generation, are our inheritance; it holds a secret for every tenacious individual.
It is not a particular theme that is the moral of the story here but the journey, the journey with its endless possibilities and absurdities, twists crafted by the capricious fate and the supremacy of time that gives us insight into our understanding of life.
And such has been the role of the myths, legends and epics and of course, the storytellers and it continues.
The renowned author R. K Narayan’s Gods, Demons and Others is an interesting and engaging read, one that opens the gates to Indian mythology for one and all.
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