Thanks to Blogadda, I had a wonderful time reading The Forest of Stories by Ashok K. Banker. This is his first book in the MBA (Mahabharata) Series.
To say that I had a wonderful time reading the book would be an understatement, as I was literally transported to the jungles of Naimishavan or to the Janamajaya’s Sarpa Yagna or to the beautiful riverside of Malini where Shakuntala grew up. The descriptions are so vivid and live, that the reader traverses to the beautiful locales in search of the characters.
Ashok K. Banker is a familiar author to me through his amazing and awesome Ramayana series. Never before the story of Rama made me so excited. What made it even more appealing was that he made me understand Rama as a human being, which was very important to understand why he was worshiped later.
Even though I missed the Krishna series, I am glad to have made it to the MBA series.
This Forest of Stories gives us a beautiful introduction to the great Mahabharata epic and lays the foundation for the main drama to take place. The understanding of the situations which led to the great War and the characters which made the War happen is very important and this Book One does all that.
The forest amazes a traveller with the varieties of flora, fauna, living beings and the inter-woven dependency between the various natural elements in it. Similarly, the Forest of Stories leaves the reader spell-bound with the varieties of stories and characters and their inter-dependency, who later gave rise to the awesome epic Mahabharata.
One also needs to note that this great epic is a representation from the minds of the great Sage Vyasa in his attempt to propagate Dharma or the path of righteousness through the web of stories, which happened eons ago and where he played a great part as well.
Stories which I loved, especially narrating to my children – The story of the amrit pot, The story on Eclipse, The story on how the snakes got their tongues forked, The story on the amazing strength of Garuda.
The Shakuntala-Dushyanta story is slightly different from what we have been reading so long. But I re-read it again to enjoy the emotional outburst of Shakuntala when Dushyanta refuses to acknowledge their relationship.
The prelude to the Janamajaya’s Sarpa Yagna is fantastic and not to be missed.
That part on the lineage with so many names is totally confusing for the common mind, but they provide a lot of detail into understanding the people who were part of the Great War.
I’ve read Mahabharata in two different versions before and even watched the famous serial telecast during my younger years.
But, never have I had this experience of being there and watching things unfold before my eyes. Sometimes I literally felt like Sanjaya watching the War through his third eye. Such are the powers of Ashok’s words and I am totally spell-bound by it.
The efforts on research and understanding and translating the Sanskrit shlokas as told by Sage Vyasa needs special mention.
This book assures Ashok K. Banker’s place as a master story-teller, without any doubt.