Harappa and its sequel Pralay are the renowned entrepreneur Vineet Bajpai’s first works of fiction. The novels explore a new take on the unexplained and mysterious end of the Harappan civilization and draw from Hindu mythology and history at several instances.
The plot is divided into two major timelines that run simultaneously through the book—one of Vidyut Shastri, a young and successful entrepreneur who has made his mark in the tech industry; and the other of Vivasvan Pujari, the great and revered Surya of Harappa, soon to be appointed as the chief priest. Both the protagonists share a common link, that of being half-human and half-god, or in other words, a devta.
The first book of a four-part series, Harappa: Curse of the Blood River, begins with Vidyut being summoned to Banaras by an old teacher. He is informed that his great-grandfather and the matthadheesh of the Dev-Raakshasa Matth, Dwarka Shastri, is on his deathbed. In his final few days, the leader of the Brahmin clan has decided that the time has arrived for Vidyut to come to Kashi and learn of his ancestral lineage and why he was kept away from his home town. Vidyut is the only one who can reveal what is written in an ancient scroll kept in the Black temple, at the prophesied sacred hour, which was so far kept a secret by his ancestors. It is to end the curse that was brought about by his ancestor Vivasvan Pujari 3700 years ago that not only resulted in the destruction of an entire civilization but also obliterated its truth.
Bajpai takes up the colossal task of taking the reader on an expedition through time, crossing millennia. He intelligently uses the gaps in what little is known of the Harappan civilization to weave a remarkable plot. Harappa is illustrated as an ancient civilization whose inhabitants are believers of God and also worship the Great Saraswati, the river on the banks of which Harappa is situated. It is a highly organized city with a parliamentary and judicial structure in place along with its own set of laws and education system.
Bajpai also takes the reader into Varanasi in the present day and age, through the eyes of Vidyut. Considered the spiritual capital of India and the oldest city in the world, the roots of Kashi go beyond history. Bajpai doesn’t miss a beat in capturing its essence, from the narrow stinky galis (streets) to the finest sweet and savory Indian delicacies one can devour. He aptly defines it as ‘not everyone’s cup of tea’.
While the ‘godliness’ of the two protagonists remains vague for the most part, it is their simple human characteristics that make them relatable. Bajpai falls short when it comes to substantiating—through incidents—what it is that make the protagonists singular and so one has to settle for what is reflected through dialogue or thoughts of other characters. However, he delves deeply into the simple human sentiments exhibited by each character, from making Priyamvada’s gluttony trigger suffering upon Vivasvan and his family, and consequently over the entire civilization; to the desolation both Vivasvan and Vidyut feel due to afflictions faced by or loss of loved ones.
Even as Vidyut leads a modern life similar to that of the rich in the society, his roots peek through every now and then. His extensive knowledge of the Vedas akin to his predecessors’, intense yogic practices, belief in astrology and mastery of Kalaripayattu—the Indian form of martial arts, are all evidence to that.
Analogous to any other work of fiction, the Harappa series too has a set of antagonists. It works well as a thriller with its combination of assassins, other worldly creatures, tantrics, and the ultimate enemy, The Big Man. With a constant aura of mystery around this man, a reader can only postulate the extent of his supremacy as not much is revealed about him either in Harappa or Pralay; but it is quite apparent he wants Vidyut dead. Both books have ample amount of action sequences and gruesome and heart-wrenching deaths.
The narrative is written in third person from multiple perspectives permitting the author to furnish multi-faceted insight into the plot and characters. Vineet provokes the reader to think, ask questions and absorb information. The language is simple and easy to understand. While Harappa may still seem a raw read, Pralay with its introduction to Matsya (the first avatar of Vishnu), the ambiguity regarding The Black Temple and increasing penetration of the philosophy of a New World Order makes the series riveting.
Vineet Bajpai provides an avoidable introduction in the first few pages of Harappa in which he presents us a summarized version of the plot. This takes away from the rest of the book as what follows is just a more detailed version of the events that occurred resulting in the downfall of Harappa.
Pralay on the other hand, recounts the events of Harappa, which is a wonderful addition for someone catching up on the story after a long time.
Vineet Bajpai is a first-generation entrepreneur and is the founder and CEO of Magnon Solutions. He has won several entrepreneurship and corporate excellence awards including Entrepreneur of the Year 2016. He has written three best-selling management and inspirational books—Build from Scratch, The Street to the Highway, and The 30 Something CEO. Harappa and Pralay are the first two books of a four-part fictional series. Kashi: The Secret of the Black Temple, the third instalment in the series is now available on Amazon.
Tanishta Chhabra is an undergraduate student currently pursuing Business Economics from Gargi College.