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Reviews of Demons of Chitrakut (2004)

Review by kanjisheik (2007-04-29)
Demons of Chitrakut is the third part of Indian author Ashok Banker's Ramayana series, and continues Rama's epic tale beautifully.

Rama weds Sita and returns to Ayodhya, after an encounter with Parashurama on the way. Meanwhile, under the spell of Manthara's intrigues, Kaikeyi "persuades" Dasaratha to banish Rama and make Bharata the yuvaraja instead. The scene where Rama tells Sita that he has been exiled is probably the most touching moment of the book. And eventually, they walk out with Lakshmana by their side towards the forests of Dandaka, where they must stay in exile for 14 years. Rama' evolution into a great persona, who follows his dharma steadfastly, no matter what the obstacles may be, is almost palpable.

Eventually, the Supanakha episode is played out. The mutilated rakshasi calls on her brother Khara and Dooshana to avenge her, and a fourteen thousand strong regiment of bloodthirsty demons march from Janasthana to settle scores.

After the heady action of the first two parts, Banker slows down and concentrates on the diverse threads in the storyline. Demons of Chitrakut is so interesting because he retells the incidents- that Indians all know so well- in such a refreshingly new manner. Truly, this Ramayana is his very own.

Each character is unique and hence stands out- devious Manthara, serving the dark lord Ravana, and manipulating Kaikeyi; helpless Dasaratha, who is forced to send Rama to the forest; wise Vibhishana, who wishes to create a righteous Lanka; Ravana trapped inside a rock, powerless; the girlish yet forthright queen Sumitra;the vulture king Jatayu, who comes to Rama's aid...

Banker has the enviable ability to slip into the "skin" of the character, and it shows. The end result is truly a masterpiece. I feel that this Ramayana series will achieve the same exalted status that Valmiki's Ramayana in Sanskrit, Kamban's Tamil epic, Sant Tulsidas's Ramacharitamanas, Ezhuthachan's Malayalam version, and lots of other Ramayanas retold by literary geniuses in their own vernaculars were able to attain. Truly an epic!!!! This book gets a 9 on 10.

Review by archren (2006-04-02)
This is the third book out of a series of six, and it starts to suffer from “middle book of the trilogy” syndrome. It is almost needless to say that it would be a very bad idea to try to pick this book up without reading the first two, which I recommend.

With Rama having defeated a demon army 10 million strong and sent the demon lord into catatonia, we now turn back to the family politics of Ayodhya, which by any measure is a little less dramatic. The second wife (reminiscent of the evil step-mother in non-polygamous European fairy tales) calls in old favors and insists that Rama be exiled for fourteen years and that her son ascend the throne. Even though absolutely everyone, including the king, his entire family, all the politicians involved, some uninvolved rulers, and even the second queen herself within a few hours ALL agree that this is incredibly stupid, Rama must follow his dharma (duty) and goes into dangerous exile. The only people he allows to join him are his wife Sita and his devoted brother/sidekick Lakshman.

This volume moves a little slower than the previous ones, and stops right when the action gets going. There’s a lot of talking, and one almost wishes to smack the perfect rajkumar (prince) Rama upside the head. Some of my favorite characters from the previous volume seem to have disappeared without a trace, which was disappointing. And the glossary was a little less attuned to the text, so in some cases words from the text fail to show up there at all. Compared to the almost perfect glossary in volume 2, I found this quite surprising.

This is a weaker volume than the previous ones, but the action seems sure to pick up again in book four. And despite all its flaws, it is still undeniably interesting and educating in showing us more of Hindu Indian culture and history. It will be awhile before I will be able to pick up the next volume, but I’m certainly looking forward to it.

©Steven Jeffery /, 2017
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