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Abhaya: The Legend of Diwali (Narakasura Vadha) Reimagined by [Iyer, Saiswaroopa]
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Abhaya: The Legend of Diwali (Narakasura Vadha) Reimagined Kindle Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Length: 333 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2112 KB
  • Print Length: 333 pages
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B018ITMZ3Y
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  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #836,428 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Excellent read. Worth buying. Recommend this throughly.
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‘Abhaya’: Adventure in Feminism and Dharma.

It’s not every day that one comes across a debut novel with well-formed human characters that grip the imagination but which also simultaneously uses voices to impart philosophy and practical “street cred” wisdoms borne out of the corpus of the underlying culture in which the story is set. Sai Swaroopa Iyer’s “Abhaya” manages to do this enjoyably.

The novel, with a feisty princess of a small kingdom as its heroine, is set in an ancient Indian landscape, interweaving fictional characters with multiple narratives on life, the universe and much else that abounds in the Mahabharata, and the Lord Vishnu as human incarnate in the form of Krishna Vasudeva.

Indians, Hindus, have liberally accepted the western induced use of the word “Mythology” to categorise and explain their literary and religious corpus, therefore it’s no surprise that “Abhaya” is categorised as mythology.

However, the meanings behind mythological narrative is nowhere more open to skewed interpretation than those of the Indic tradition in general and Hinduism especially. Whilst even the strangest stories from the desert and modern Western culture are given an allegorical spin to project hidden spiritual meanings that assume transcendence over literal text, Hindu stories, even though they be core to a spiritual living tradition, are considered to firmly lie in the interpretive realm of myth, simply articles of blind belief that are patently not true.

For this reason, reading “Abhaya” throws up questions of its classification: is it Mythology or Mythological Fiction, is it Religion or Religious Fiction, or is it Religious Allegory, or Dharmic Allegory?
Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars 20 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good attempt by a budding author. 3 July 2016
By Sandesh Karanth - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Off-late there is a surge in amount of novels, specially in English written on Indian classics. I wouldn't dare call it mythology because I don't believe that it is all a myth (Thanks to the British for spreading the rumour)

Of all such novels I have read, I could mostly categorize them into two (of course there are exceptions).

1. Pure bland versions of the history re-told. It is a good read for those who have no idea of the intricacies of Indian epics, not for those who have some initiation into it.
2. Bring in too much of fiction and unnecessary characters and too much technological advancements (of today's caliber) while making it modern. In the process, I have read some Ramayana characters in Mahabharata stories; Some of them have some "trained venom spewing courtesans" trying to tumble the plan of the protagonist.

I would say, Abhaya doesn't fall under any of them. It is a rendition of a not so popular story of Mahabharata (not many actually know about Narakasura, though they celebrate Deepavali) in the author's own way.

Though the author quotes that no words can completely describe Krishna, the strong character he is, the way he has been portrayed is amusing. Most of the times he is naughty/quick-witted but when it requires, his decisions based on the political agenda on one single notion binding the whole of Aryavarta, not hesitating for a battle shows the author's strong hold on Mahabharata. The sub-stories of Mahabharata have been rightly linked to the actual story without deviating from the plot.

Another point to highlight is the concept of feminism (not like the feminism you mostly find in today's world) but the actual companionship with the male and its depiction throughout the novel is something I read after a long long time.

We can also find subtle lines drawn to the current situation in the novel.

All in all, its a good read. I don't want to spill the beans. Go check it out! I'm sure you'll not be disappointed.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It is a joy to rediscover Indian history 21 Sept. 2016
By Ramesh N. Rao - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It is a joy to rediscover Indian history, past, past as myth, myth as history, and history as myth, especially when it is wrapped in a rollicking tale well told. When a first time author is able to guide us through some of the labyrinths of the Mahabharata, make us fall in love with Ms. Fearless -- whose seemingly modern day concerns are woven seamlessly into the fabric of the tale -- warn us of the dangers of religion/culture/spirituality becoming putty in the hands of the scheming, and show us the adult Krishna as human but also the embodiment of serenity we need to praise her, we need to shower her with more praise, and urge her to write more!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful retelling of an ancient epic. 20 Dec. 2015
By Aditya - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The rise of Indian Historical Fiction is among the greatest things to have happened to our literary scene over the last decade or so. Though there is always an argument that it isn't fiction, since writers take liberties in their writing after basing their book on a set of 'facts' as espoused by our scriptures, lets call it fiction so as to be politically correct.
Yes, the books are bringing our history closer to the young generation of India. But more importantly, they are bridging the gap between tradition and science, and as a part of the narrative, they so ably answer contradictions about our culture.
Abhaya is a modern retelling of an ancient story, and the author clearly wants the book to be read as fiction without worrying about its scriptural references. But again, it is obvious that the author Sai Swaroopa values her mythology so much, that she takes her liberties very carefully! Every single character, every quirk they display, the way they go about their relationships, everything has carefully constructed boundaries. And it is quite a joy to read. There are no confusions in the author's mind, and hardly any controversy for us to debate about.
The story the author chooses is a rare gem - Narakasura Vadha, and till the last chapter, the correlation with the story we have been told as children is kept under wraps.
The plot, I won't divulge. There is no absolute protagonist in this tale, and that makes it quite enjoyable! There are Abhaya, Krishna, Vikram, Bhauma, Dhatri, and a host of others whose characters are etched out beautifully, and they each take center stage as the story progresses. The plot doesn't lose pace, and the books reads uniformly well all through - no mean achievement for a first-time author!
But again, the real beauty of the book is the way it weaves through traditions without losing a beat, answers questions which have haunted us for so long, and also throws up new thinking points about how our ancestors were so much more mature and wise than we are today. There is only an e-version available. Get it. Hope the publishers manage to put out a print version of the book too.
5.0 out of 5 stars Abhaya: An Adventure in Feminism and Dharma 12 Dec. 2016
By Jay Jina - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
‘Abhaya’: Adventure in Feminism and Dharma.

It’s not every day that one comes across a debut novel with well-formed human characters that grip the imagination but which also simultaneously uses voices to impart philosophy and practical “street cred” wisdoms borne out of the corpus of the underlying culture in which the story is set. Sai Swaroopa Iyer’s “Abhaya” manages to do this enjoyably.

The novel, with a feisty princess of a small kingdom as its heroine, is set in an ancient Indian landscape, interweaving fictional characters with multiple narratives on life, the universe and much else that abounds in the Mahabharata, and the Lord Vishnu as human incarnate in the form of Krishna Vasudeva.

Indians, Hindus, have liberally accepted the western induced use of the word “Mythology” to categorise and explain their literary and religious corpus, therefore it’s no surprise that “Abhaya” is categorised as mythology.

However, the meanings behind mythological narrative is nowhere more open to skewed interpretation than those of the Indic tradition in general and Hinduism especially. Whilst even the strangest stories from the desert and modern Western culture are given an allegorical spin to project hidden spiritual meanings that assume transcendence over literal text, Hindu stories, even though they be core to a spiritual living tradition, are considered to firmly lie in the interpretive realm of myth, simply articles of blind belief that are patently not true.

For this reason, reading “Abhaya” throws up questions of its classification: is it Mythology or Mythological Fiction, is it Religion or Religious Fiction, or is it Religious Allegory, or Dharmic Allegory?

Recently, the BBC, more as a part of continual reinforcement of their Victorian interpretations of Hinduism in the minds of their white middle class audience than for any accidental positive self-affirmation by Hindus of their own traditions, dedicated 40 minutes to a rather vacuous radio program on the Hindu Goddess Laxmi.

The academic panel and their host cogitated in mutually-congratulatory tones over previously regurgitated, stale material. To the average person from the Indic tradition, these deliberations, where “polytheism serves variety very well…” and Goddesses to whom Hindus offer prayers are of a “transactional nature”, presented an unrecognisable interpretation of Laxmi and Durga, quite alien to lived experience of Hindus.
To see how far the real Laxmi and Durga, with their wise, allegorical narratives within the Hindu corpus are from what the BBC presented in a manner they would dare to do about any other tradition, consider this: the program reduced Hindu deities to “a swirl of Gods and Goddesses”, making up a mythology of “ideas” that are believed by people who go about “inventing Gods and Goddesses that represent whatever they want them to be”.

As an antidote, enter stage right, Abhaya, where Saiswaroopa achieves, through telling and sharing the real, experiential, lived knowledge of attributes of the Dharmic Goddess.

Here’s an exciting tale of the adventures of a strong willed, three-dimensional young woman who exhibits many traits and has experiences that are conventionally considered to be new and contemporary: complex social dynamics, the nature of a positive feminism as a response to chauvinism, pro-choice in matters of religious belief, intricate questions on relationships, empowerment of women’s leadership in personal and public life, probing the nature of civilization, and more.

Interwoven in the allegorical narrative are characters, both male and female, from the Mahabharata, other Indic stories as well as from the authors imagination, who project the attributes of the divine that are so extensively represented in the Hindu spiritual and literary corpus. The plural, saguna manifestations of Devi Sri, Laxmi, Durga, project through the voices not just of Abhaya as Dhaarmaseni, but also from the voices of other characters, echoing messages from the Atharva Veda, the Upanishads and the Strotas.

Abhaya is a feminist, with the resolve to repulse adharma in the form of male chauvinism, but be at ease with and freely able to love men as father, friends, brothers, lover; reconciling perfectly the conjoined divine of the male and the feminine, pondering on matters such as women as property vs. women as needing protection and questioning the morality of polygamy.

It’s a pleasure to find nuggets of civilizational commentary on women as Human and Goddess such as “The poets, the bards and the rishis, all of them have the heart of a woman. … those who cannot see the feminine side of the universe never get to become a poet or a rishi… and, one who takes women for granted can never win them over to his side”.

The story speaks with contemporary voices on freedom of religion over dogma in pursuit of the defence of civilization, the value of life over frenzied belief and death; of hope over despair; of Dharma that balances and sustains, which strengthens one from within and against weakness and fear.
It speaks of home; the pain of the displaced refugee yearning for home, even in the comfort of the open heartedness of those who openly receives her, the obligation and moral gratitude that a refugee feels to not be a burden and the urge to be free.

That an accessible story is threaded with metaphors on big issues like the environment, governance, social equity, prosperity, aspiration, leadership, and the nature of social revolution makes Abhaya a joy. It’s so much easier to reflect upon and digest ideas on societal transformation when beautiful voices project forth on transforming hearts, challenging thoughts, not egos; to defeat the methods of adharma, that it is better to set example; that which does not help progress should be shown to fail and not just by calling out faults; that to look for solutions and inspire action is everyone’s responsibility.

Among many takeaways from a young writer is “The purpose of life often beckons to us in the guise of a challenge or a hopeless situation. We define our worth based on whether we choose to ignore it or face the challenge”.

Mythology is an oft used word to describe all aspects of Indic traditions and religion. If such Mythology can help displace negative religious dogma, then we should all be for Mythology.

This Review also published on Creative India at [...]
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Abhaya - Enjoyable mythological fiction 15 Mar. 2016
By Vamsee - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Mythological fiction becomes enjoyable as long as the author understands the essence of the person he/she is dealing with. The author weaves a nice story of beautiful young princess Abhaya who is caught in the middle of political upheavals of ancient India. The reader travels into the ancient, mystical land and experiences the events through the eyes of the princess. As we progress through our journey, we will unconsciously start rooting for the success of Abhaya.

Mythological fiction is gaining popularity in India. For fans of that genre like me it is a great news. Hope to see Author Saiswaroopa write more novels in this category.
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