Ira Saxena
WAR OF LANKA (RAM CHANDRA SERIES BOOK 4) by By Amish HarperCollins, 2022, 504 pp., INR 499.00
November 2023, volume 47, No 11

The title of the book straightaway points towards the concluding war in the great epic Ramayana, and celebrated during the age-old festival of Dusshera, of the victory of Rama over Ravana, the victory of good over evil, as dramatized in Ramlila throughout India.
This is the fourth book in the Ram Chandra Series written by the well-known writer of mythology, Amish Tripathi. Although the thrilling saga of the great story of Rama has already been covered in other volumes of the series, this book, the final part of the series stands alone as captivating fiction. Once I started reading, it was unputdownable, crisp and riveting.
The story of the war focuses on fragmentary details of preparations of war leading to the main action and the involvement of characters that grip through entrancing descriptions. For sure, the intricacies, the ins and outs and the trivia of the weapons and measures used in those days, the armour, the battle strategies, the amazing formations of battalions are presented with methodical precision, which is always fascinating to the young audience.
In the battle, planning of carrying over the Elephant Corps across the seas is complicated, yet provides added advantage to Rama’s army. The entire scene, the available resources of nature as well as the actions of warriors create the magic of parallel worlds. The author succeeds in enlivening the existence of people living close to nature and excelling efficiently with available wherewithal.
All characters are far removed from their familiar super-hero iconic positions of religious significance; instead, they are ordinary human beings with exemplary training, courage and also weaknesses. Rama is a noble man, miserable after the abduction of his wife, fighting a war to bring back his soul-mate, as well as aspiring to live up to his ideals in this battle for dharma. On the other hand, Ravana, slave of his ego thought he was invincible. Activated by greed, rage, grief, love, the actors of Ramayana assume the commonness of an average human.
A story of war implies the predominance of heroes versus anti-heroes, there is an assortment of worthy warriors and noble soldiers here. The demeanour of Rama, the incarnation of virtuousness and a heartbroken noble, depicts the image of purity and kindness, and is pitted against the anti-hero who is a fine artist, master of the Vedas, a forlorn lover and no less a devil incarnate. Ravana wins sympathy right at the onset when his story of dejected love explains his act of abducting Sita, accomplishing his suicide mission at the hands of Lord Vishnu in his incarnation as Rama. There is an atmosphere of general goodness prevailing among the characters and their actions subscribing to dharma. Ravana adheres to the rules and protocols of humanity and compassion.
The question of dharma is always centrestage in the book, respected at length by important characters in conversation or a dream sequence of Sages Vishwamitra and Vashishta and yet again in flash-back. The entire course of the sequence in the story thrives in the beauty of thought and dharmic practice. The genuine, unyielding Sanatana traditions governing the prescribed standards of living, find confirmation in simple chats, again and again, only to strengthen the rock-solid principles of faith.
The pace of fiction moves along with its philosophic content, neither slowing the action, nor dragging the story. Throughout, the text balances action like a steady flow of a brook to advance the tale, exciting and mysteriously churning events while employing different strategies. The fictional element stays fixed, unwaveringly; it is not intended to be judgemental and examines whether the tale drifted away from the original story. The presentation of the story beautifies the rich emotional content of the plot, adding sparkle to the underlying sentiments of characters.
As it is, the story of Rama-Sita and Ravana is suffused with abundant enchantment, magical events and fascinating characters. The racy fiction of War of Lanka rings with the thrill of adventure inspiring virtues of nobility and heroism,attainable in the smooth flow of a conscientious text delivering the enchantmentof storytelling.