Scion of Ikshvaku is Amish Tripathi’s 4th book in the historical fiction genre. The first 3, a trilogy, narrated the story of a man, Shiva, who is ascribed Godlike status by the inhabitants of a land called Melhua. Shiva is also hailed as Mahadev, meaning Great God.
But was Amish’s Shiva really a Mahadev? That’s the question raised by Ravish Mani in a series of exchanges with this blogger, triggered by a review of Scion of Ikshvaku she wrote titled A Twenty-First Century Ramayana.
Ravish’s viewpoint was so thought-provoking and lucid, I felt it deserved to be published as a post in itself. I would like to thank Ravish for so readily agreeing. I would also like to state here that I thoroughly enjoyed my exchanges with this thoughtful young man who has so quickly won my respect. Before I go on, do meet Ravish through a picture of himself he so kindly sent me.
Now that you know what Ravish looks like, I am hoping that you will read and carefully consider his viewpoint. That’s not all I am hoping. I am so impressed by what Ravish has to say that I am hoping this post will reach the author himself. Calling the attention of @authoramish and @TeamAuthorAmish.
Here are the exchanges. I know they form quiet a lengthy post but believe me, every word of Ravish is worth reading and your time will be well spent. After reading what Ravish has to say, do let both Ravish and yours truly know whether Amish’s Shiva was a God or a Godman. It doesn’t matter whether you have read the Shiva trilogy or not. Ravish’s arguments still beg the question and clearly enunciate the difference between a mere Godman and a true God.
“Lata, I’ve bought the book. I love Amish’s style, his philosophy and its presentation with suitable analogies; though, I didn’t like the end of the Shiva Trilogy. I felt that Shiva didn’t become Mahadeva. When he was required to reflect his wisdom through his actions, he failed. He behaved like any ordinary human being instead of a Great Mahadeva. He didn’t rise from the human plane to enter into a spiritual realm. I feel, if Amish really wanted the revenge of Sati’s death, it could have been executed by Ganesha or Kartikeyan, and later Shiva could have explained to them the complexities of their human behaviour. Shiva himself didn’t need to get involved in the revengeful act.
Well, I’m really looking forward to know now how Amish sees the renunciation of pregnant Sita by Ram – from the spiritual plane or human one?”
“Ravish, I, too, am looking forward to see how Amish handles the agni pariksha bit. About the Mahadev and the ‘revengeful’ act, perhaps you have a point. There is another way to look at it though. And, that is, perhaps the larger point the author was trying to make is that humans make a person into God but in the end, the Gods have their failings. The ancient Greeks (I think) tried to make the same point in their literature. Is patthar ko bhagwan banaya insaan ne (this stone was made into a God by humans)? The famous opening line of Raj Kapoor’s Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram (Truth, Purity, Beauty). What happens then when a mere mortal is made into a God? The Melhua trilogy begins with the man with the blue neck and the myth surrounding the appearance of such a man?”
“Lata, if the author tries to give a larger message that humans make a person into God but in the end, the Gods Have Their Failings, then don’t you think that it’s just justification of one’s faults? Don’t you think that the very message is discouraging – Instead of overcoming ones limitation, he is encouraging that one should not strive for it, because Gods too have their failings? Isn’t it an escape from one’s responsibility, and indulging the blame game?
It isn’t about being God but being Good. Humans should also learn to forgive in order to become better humans. Buddha, Jesus also were mere humans. There should be a difference between humans & animals. In jungle, might is right. The only intention behind the origin of culture is that the meek have rights too. Revengeful attitude in the name of justice is the manifestation of our animal instinct in a subtle way.
Don’t you think that there’s a beauty, when a mere mortal could turn into a God by his or her DEEDS? It’s ones deeds that make one a God or Human. Everyone has the same potential; there’s no discrimination, even dacoits like Valmiki & Angulimaal too had ample opportunities. When Angulimaal, after being initiated by Buddha, went to beg for alms in a village, he was stoned to death. He, who had killed 999 people earlier, didn’t even resist, and forgave the people who were throwing stones at him. It is said that he was relieved from the bondage of Karma at that very moment.
Forgiveness is the key to liberation from the bondage of Karma, and Faith can churn mountains. ‘It was the faith of ‘others’ that brought about Shiva’s faith in himself, and he was able to move mountains’ – that is a more positive, encouraging message. In my opinion, it should have been the larger message. Throughout the book, he was directing readers towards this message, but in the end to gain sympathy of humans, he gave that twist, I guess.”
“Ravish, you have a point…you do! The debate we have had shows Amish is a successful author:) One more counter point, though! Could it be argued that forgiveness when taken to the extreme allows the manipulative and selfish to gain the upper hand? Can one always turn the other cheek? Could Siva’s final act be construed as teaching a lesson? Wouldn’t it, in the end, depend on motivation? And, if yes, how does one measure that? I don’t remember the finer details of the book and so, raising these questions more generally:)”
“Lata, there’s no doubt that Amish is a successful author. And you are also absolutely right regarding the motivation behind an act. Act is neutral; it’s the intent behind the act that makes it good or evil. In fact, one could kill out of compassion too. Suppose one is suffering from unbearable cancer pain, and wants to die. In that case, if someone helps him in dying, it would be called killing out of compassion.
Shiva’s act could not be construed as teaching a lesson, because he destroyed a whole kingdom in order to punish a single evil king. He killed millions of innocent citizens to pacify his outrage. The author gave ample evidence that Shiva’s act was not motivated by conscious decision but anger and revengeful attitude. He heard his uncle calling out: “Forgive them! Forget them! Your only true enemy is Evil!” He ignored it and launched the nuclear missiles.
He was out of his mind. He was hallucinating about his dead wife as if she was calling him for help. He was shouting: “Leave her alone, you b*#&tards! Fight me!” after firing nuclear missiles. He further showed his thinking “Take me with you, Sati. There’s nothing left for me to do. I’m done.” This clearly shows Shiva’s attachment to his wife. He didn’t rise in love. I don’t find these dilemmas in Coelho’s work. In Alchemist, Coelho said “Love never keeps a man from pursuing his Personal Legend. If he abandons that pursuit, it’s because it wasn’t true love.”
As far as your question regarding forgiveness is concerned, then Forgiveness comes out of Compassion, and compassion arises out of Egolessness. Human actions can be broadly divided into two categories on the basis of motivation involved: Actions out of Ego, and Actions out of Egolessness.
The idea of ‘Gaining UPPER Hand’ is an indication of subtle ego in it. When it is said that Forgiveness liberates the soul, it means that forgiveness is an act out of egolessness. Liberation is a state of no-ego. We aren’t able to forgive, because our ego comes in between.
We have to understand why Jesus said: “When someone slaps your cheek, offer him the other cheek.” He wasn’t saying that by offering our cheeks, the offender would melt by the humility. In fact, Nietzsche found it very inhuman, very egotistical. He compared it with the idiom: “Dogs may bark but an elephant keeps on walking.” He found it very egotistical to say: “I’m a pure soul. You slapped me, here, have the other cheek too.” It may infuriate the other instead of calming him down.
Jesus was just saying that keep the imprints on the cheeks only; don’t let it enter within; don’t generate a ripple out of it; don’t make it an ego issue; don’t get caught in the net of Karma.
It is normal to be clouded with emotions in such situations, but a Mahadeva is expected to come out of it, instead of getting trapped.
When Jesus was crucified, he looked at the sky and shouted with anguish: “Oh God! Why have you forsaken me?” He, too, got worried for a moment, but immediately realized his mistake. His next words were “Do as you wish. You know my welfare better than me. I surrender to you.” This realization of his mistake made him Christ; otherwise, he would have remained some ordinary man called Jesus.
It’s also true that if Jesus had shown normal human reactions, people wouldn’t have connected with him. People put him on a higher pedestal, because he showed courage amidst fearful circumstances. Courage is not the absence fear, but the ability to act ‘right’ even when you’re afraid.
I was expecting something of this type of action from Amish in the Shiva Trilogy. I wanted him to give the message that feelings are not under our control, but our actions are; we do not need to act upon every thought that crosses our mind. I wanted Amish to convey that Mahadeva was not someone who didn’t have emotional problems; Mahadeva was someone who despite having personal emotional disturbances acted out of compassion. I thought this would be a greater inspirational message.”
Well, what were the emotions you felt while reading what Ravish had to say? What thoughts were triggered? Do tell us.
About Ravish Mani – Ravish is a motivational blogger, known in the blogosphere for his philosophical content & analytical reviews. After reading his exchanges with me, I am sure Ravish’s philosophical bent of mind is evident.
Featured Cover Image Credit: The Immortals of Melhua book cover shot by Lata Subramanian from her kindle