For many amongst us, all the stories known as a child, especially the epics, can be recalled to grandma's telling of it or reading it in Amar Chitra Katha comics.
Released this Navaratri, drawing from the timeless Valmiki Ramayana, The Ramayana Bala Kand begins with the origins of Ramayana, of how Valmiki came to compose it.
The stage is set by a visit from Narada, the saint on whose lips is the perpetual chant of 'Narayana, Narayana'. This son of Brahma, takes leave of Valmiki after relating the story of Rama.
A little later, Valmiki spots two Krauncha birds or sarus cranes. When a hunter's arrows kill one, the sorrow of its mate angers Valmiki, who curses the hunter, which takes the form of a verse, whose meter he uses then for the Ramayana. The reader's sojourn of the epic begins when the two young boys, also Rama's sons, Luv and Kush are taken to Ayodhya, Rama's kingdom.
Divided into four sections across 136 pages, 'Bala Kand' takes readers through the formative years of Rama's life - from the birth of Dasharatha's four sons to their wedding. Interwoven are also other tales that provide a context to various events that take place. While they add to the reader's knowledge and aid understanding, the sub-plots do hamper the flow of the main story.
The book also contains a glossary and a few 'Author's Notes' on the likes of food habits during the Vedic times, the oral tradition of passing on knowledge, Gods of the Hindu pantheon and many more. Footnotes explaining Sanskrit
terms used in the text make for better understanding, while the
illustrations aid visualisation.
As the first of a seven-part comic book series, one can observe a hint of foreshadow to introducing the Vanaras and Jambavan when Vishnu's plans to rid the earth of Ravana are discussed in the heavens and when Rama fights Maricha to protect Vishwamitra's sacrifice.
'Rama and Sita lived hapily together, radiating prosperity and harmony like Vishnu and Lakshmi.' This is the text that goes with the last of the illustrations and one
could interpret as an 'happily-ever-after' end if one is not familiar with the epic.