Once upon a time, our grandmothers and in my case, my mother has told me many stories related to our gods and goddesses. Well, if we have 33 crore of them, there is never a dearth of stories. Being mythology, I love the story within a story construct. Of course, the highlight of such stories is of how good overcomes evil, always. Those stories which we listened to at nights surrounded by oil-lamps and just the winds from the swaying coconut trees, gave us vivid imaginations. Many of the stories are just oral stories moving on from generation to generation with an added note there and a snip here. This makes the stories more relevant for the current generation.
Of course, now we have serials which show these stories as episodes which are dragged to weeks beyond recognition. But, the stories are a treasure trove of learnings.
In Preetha Kannan’s book, Shiva in the City of Nectar, she has put in 54 short stories. They are related to the city of Madurai which literally translated means the ‘City of Nectar’.
Please forgive my ignorance. I knew that Madurai has the famous Meenakshi temple. I had also seen images of the same and want to visit the place. After reading this book, I want to visit Madurai and look for all the places and objects mentioned in the book. These stories dig deeper into the mythological history of the place. The temple is full of folklores which add to the aura of the temple. Such story books abound in regional languages but difficult to find them in English. The stories need to be read sequentially . Though the stories are not connected, the time period is sequential. It is also beautifully told by the author with a direct, story-telling way. The book does not have a preachy or holier than thou tone. The book is also edited well and you will not find the typical errors which is becoming a norm in Indian books. Lovely book to read aloud to your children.
The book starts with the Goddess Meenakshi invoking Paranjothi, a composer and poet. He is commanded by the goddess to record the Thiruvilaiyadal, the sacred acts of Lord Shiva in Madurai. The stories in the book are inspired from this book which is in Tamil.
The story starts with ‘Brahma-hatti’ where Indra kills not one, but two Brahmans and is subsequently cursed. He also loses his elephant Airavata. It then continues to tell how Sage Durvasava curses Airavata to 100 years of wilderness and living like an ordinary elephant. He will be redeemed only by Lord Shiva. Thus after 100 years, Airavata who has no recollection of himself, reaches the Kadambavanam. He is freed of his curse and resumes duties as Indra’s vehicle. There are more stories about Shiva meeting Meenakshi and his wedding with her, the enemity and friendships between the Pandian and Chola kings, Lord Shiva helping the city whenever they are in need.
The stories do get monotonous by the time you reach story number 30-35. The best way to read it is to not read it at once like a novel. Read a few stories at a time. And you will surely enjoy this more and more as you go along.
The book cover is absolutely lovely and it is in my favourite color too.
Disclaimer : The publisher sent me a copy of the book in return for an honest review.