Sandwiched between the mighty Himalayas in the North and the Vindhyachala mountains in the South, and a little West of the path that River Yamuna takes as it meanders in south-easterly direction to meet the River Ganga at a place called Pratishthana, lies the region of Aryavarta. Did I write the conjoining place of Rivers Ganga and Yamuna as Pratishthana? And not Prayag or Allahabad, as the place is known today! Yes, it is true! And have you in all your history books ever heard or read of a kingdom by the name of Aryavarta? No! This is so because the reality ends somewhere as you read and gets replaced by fiction. So much so that that River Saraswati actually flows in south westerly direction till it meets the sea, Srinagar is called Sringara, the place which is known as the Tibetan Plateau is named Bhota (and not Bhutan) and the region where the Thar Desert lies today is named The Parsua Wastes in the beautiful narrative ‘The Seal of Surya’ penned by Amritanshu Pandey, published by Pirates – the publishers.
It is indeed remarkable how Amritanshu Pandey weaves the plot with characters who seem to appear out of our great mythology but are actually fictional characters with no place in history books. The manner in which the young author has weaved fiction around a map purposefully created with many true places and names that seem to have a close resemblance to characters of India’s past history bespeaks of the mature mind that the young Amritanshu carries over his young frame. The novel, first by Amritanshu, not only reveals the hidden genius but has the potential to catapult the young author to the realm of greatness. The manner in which he draws maps with several true places and a lot many fictional ones resembling as places from our glorious history and also goes on to give Family Tree of his characters reminds of the manner in which the great English writer Thomas Hardy mapped the medieval English countryside in his fictional stories like The Mayor of Casterbridge and also in Far From the Madding Crowd in which a Sergeant Troy romanced his lady love Bathsheba while Gabriel Oak secretly yearned for her.
Though an amateur, Amritanshu has shown the genius of a master in his narrative. The story, set more than a thousand years before Rama, in what Amritanshu calls the Seventh Era, is his imagination of the Vedic and pre-Vedic history of India, and is a natural product of his life-long interest in ancient Indian history. It is described as the story of the first king of our land, of the valiant boy called Ikshvaku who rose to found the mighty Suryavanshi kingdom – the first Kingdom in the Indian subcontinent. The story, as it progresses, presents a mix of betrayal and loyalty, of wars and massacres, and of death and destruction.
Truly speaking, it is all fiction. Yet when you read it, you feel as if it is the depiction of our real history. This, to me, is the only flip side of the book. Those uninitiated with our true history may start considering this fictional tale as a true story from past, just as our kids consider the fictional depiction of Krishna, Hanuman or Narada in soaps on TV as true narration from their lives. But this, if it happens with ‘The Seal of Surya’ will add another feather to the genius of Amritanshu Pandey in weaving fictional plots that appear so real to truth.
The Seal of Surya
Author: Amritanshu Pandey (www.scrollsofaryavarta.com)
Publisher: Pirates (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Pages: 222; Price: Rs. 175
Review by Aziz Haider for Lifewatch/RNI