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The Forest Of Stories (Book 1) is the first in the series of books written by Ashok Banker on the great Indian epic, The Mahabharata.
Summary Of The Book
The story starts in forest of Naimisha, which is the setting for the narration of a part of the great epic, The Mahabharata, in this book. This book is the first in a series of around 18 books planned by the author in his bid to retell the Indian legend, and the story is carried forward by its subsequent sequels, The Seeds of War and The Children of Midnight.
The book begins when members of Kulapati Shaunaka’s ashram are startled with the arrival of a weary traveller. He turns out to be Ugrasrava Lomarsana, a Suta Pauranika, a reciter of histories and epics. He is also called Sauti, and is a disciple of Sage Vyasa himself. He brings the sad news of the death of the great Vyasa.
The sages at the ashram greet him with affection and respect, offer some food to eat, and give him time to recover from his long journey. Eventually, they ask him to recite to them the great epic composed by Vyasa. Sauti obliges and begins the story. Just like in the great epic, the beginning of the story is entirely disconnected from the crux of the great epic and its central characters.
The main characters are summed up in a small introduction by Sauti. Then the story branches out. It starts with the story of creation and then goes on to trace the lineages and stories of the various races that have been created - Nagas, Yakshas, Asuras, Devas, and humans.
The story of Parashurama is told in detail in this book. It begins with the stealing of the holy cow, Kamadhenu, from Sage Jamadhagni’s Ashram. It then goes on to narrate how the great Sage Jamadhagni is then killed by the king Arjuna Kartavirya’s sons. Parashurama vows his terrible vengeance, and sets out to wipe the entire generation of Kshatriyas off the face of the earth.
This book also describes the great Sarpa Yaga conducted by Parikshit’s son Janamejaya to avenge his father’s death and destroy all the snakes in the world. As foretold, this Yagna does not really succeed in what it sets out to do. The other story shared in this book is the well-known one of Shakuntala and Dushyanta, the couple that started the Bharata clan.
Through its varied stories that cover a range of different races and times, The Forest Of Stories (Book 1) sets the tone for the vastness and splendour of The Mahabharata.
About Ashok K. Banker
Ashok Banker is an author, and he is best known for his Ramayana Series, a fantastic retelling of the ancient epic that combines the traditional story with sci-fi and fantasy elements. The series was a bestseller and even spawned a TV series.
He has also written other traditional Hindu stories in the same style, and some of his books include Bridge of Rama, Siege of Mithila, King of Ayodhya, Demons of Chitrakut, Prince of Ayodhya, The Valmiki Syndrome: Finding the Work-Life Balance, Gods of War, and Bollywood.
In his retelling of The Mahabharata, Ashok Banker has refrained from modifying the story to cover other genres. The Forest of Stories (Book 1) is just a straightforward retelling of the original story. The story is narrated in his dynamic style, and this book serves as an excellent introduction to the series for the younger generations.
Ashok Banker lives with his family in Mumbai.
|Author||Ashok K. Banker|
|Number of Pages||376 Pages|
I still remember the first time i read the "Prince of Ayodhya". I just couldnt put the book down!!! I finished it in a day and a half and the next day i went back to the library and borrowed "siege of mithila" I was not disappointed. In the same voracious manner i devoured the whole Ramayan series and instead of being satiated i craved for more and more (gluttony, in this case, is not a sin!!!). I bought three of the Krishna Series and I'm nearly done with them....
The MBA, on the other hand, was not what i expected....
To be fair to the author, he has warned us in the Introduction and i quote " This is not an epic fantasy. It's not a sci-fi rendition. It's not a futuristic version. If you're expecting any of those things, you're going to be disappointed". Ladies and gentlemen...no truer words have been spoken. I went into the book expecting it to be another Ramayan...It wasnt. What it is, is what it is...the Mahabharath...researched right down to the "T" (or rather the H). Banker has obviously put his heart and soul into his book...Its his greatest piece yet and he needs to be appreciated for that...but unfortunately the book doesnt appeal to me...maybe it will 10 years down the line when my life has slowed down enough to soak in and absorb all the intricate details...
Ashok K Banker, you have impressed me once again! you're an inspiration to all the young Indian authors out there!!! I applaud you.
(Flipkart....what can I say...you have managed to find a loyal customer in me!!! keep up the good work!!)
This book is not the Ramayana. And it is not written in the same style in which Mr. Banker wrote the Ramayana. Whereas the Ramayana flows from one book to the other in seamless perfection, this epic endeavor is written like a collection (indeed, a forest) of stories. Do not be too disheartened by that though. There is enough in this book to make for an absorbing reading experience.
This is the author’s telling of the great epic. This much he has stated in the introduction. And he has chosen to tell it via the narration of one of the characters in his tale. This has the effect of giving the reader a third-person view of how literary epics might have been passed down from one generation to another in days long past.
This book is indeed a ‘forest’ of stories. There are many large and small stories told one after the other, and in some places I found myself overwhelmed trying to keep track between them and got lost in the jungle. But I soon found that getting lost here has its own merits. There isn’t a plot here that connects the tales, just the occasional reminder of the narrator reciting the epic he learnt from his guru to an assemblage of hermits. The stories are to be enjoyed one at a time, and not as logically connected parts of a big epic.
Among the stories that are told here, I would rank Parasuram’s tale as the best. Those who have read Mr. Banker’s Ramayana would remember Rama’s encounter with his axe-wielding namesake on the way back to Ayodhya after his marriage to Sita. The author had given a brief background there on how ‘Rama of the axe’ became the legend he was. In this book, that story is told in brilliant detail. I almost felt like reading the Ramayana again.
Other stories include Garuda’s tale, Shakuntala’s saga, the Sarpa Sutra etc. These are also told in detail, but more like a recollection of events. The origin of gods and demons is also told in similar fashion, though it does get a bit dull due the author’s attempt to enumerate almost every noteworthy member of the devas and asuras. The churning of the great sea by the gods to obtain the nectar of immortality is also told in great detail.
I really missed Mr. Banker’s signature writing style in this book. However, I look forward to reading the other books in this series and hope he entertains us with more stories like that of Parasuram’s.
Flipkart’s service lived up to its reputation again. Great work there guys!
I was introduced to the Mahabharatha epic through the evergreen Amar Chitra Katha vignettes and C Rajagopalachari's Mahabharatha. As a kid, the stories were sugar coated for my tastes and I was happy to gobble what ever was served
However this book seems to be a different version, where all the "goody goody" heavenly characters are portrayed as normal beings with all the regular misgivings any human being can have.
Truly enjoyed the parts in the book that told us the story of Parashurama and the tale of Dushyantha and Shakuntala. It was also interesting to see a lot of research. However chapters like the one where the author spells out the lineage of all the races, gods, animals, seems like an exercise to portray his research and does not really merit any literary excellence.
Barring a few, this book is mostly readable and indeed gives a different insight to the stories of lore that we have heard so many times over and over again.
I first discovered Ashok Banker's Prince of Ayodhya in my school's library and since then I have eagerly read all of his works. His Ramayana, Krishna Coriolis and now the Mahabharata. The Mahabharata is his magnum opus as he deftly strings together one story after the other. I loved it. In fact, some of the stories mentioned here are completely new to me which enthralled me. Go and pick this up now!!
Even if you have watched, heard or read the Mahabharata many times in different forms, you will still have much more to learn and experience through this book by Ashok K. Banker.
The book elaborates many of the lesser discussed tales and mysteries of the Mahabharata in a descriptive and captivating manner. Since this is the first book in the MBA Mahabharata series and there are, apparently, 17 more in line after this, the book begins with the stories not very commonly accepted as a part of the Mahbaharata. A reader impatient to jump to the Kaurava-Pandava feud might become restless reading the tales of Parshuram or the stories of Nagas. However, this restlessness will soon disappear as the reader will enter the world of imagination created by the descriptive narration.
The book elaborates the Sarpa Satra of Janamajeya with great detail and makes it a live experience for the readers while connecting the tale to the mainstream Mahabharata story. It was the chapter I loved reading the most. The last chapter of the book about Dushyanta and Shakuntala introduces the roots of the geneology that shall grow into the vast tree with several branches as the story moves on.
The extra-ordinary details and explanations have a brilliant effect on the reader's mind and speak in great deal about Ashok's dedication that went into writing this book. I would agree with what he said in the book trailer as well as the preface that this book is no less than a 3D Mahabharat Experience.
A book worth reading is worth buying! And so is this one, especially, for those who have deep interest in the Mahabharata and Indian Mythology.
I've always enjoyed the Mahabharata as a more enthralling tale that the Ramayana. As a kid, I used to sift through my grandmoth...Read More
Even if you have watched, heard or read the Mahabharata many times in different forms, you will still have much more to learn a...Read More
This is an interesting retelling of one of India's greatest classics. It is faithful to the original, and complete in every sen...Read More
Since I have been reading on Indian mythology since quite long, so this book did not have much to offer me. But anybody who is...Read More