Okay, so my initial reason for reading this book was pretty stupid, I’ll admit that. The reason was, I liked the way it sounded when the title of the book was said in a fancy British accent. I know, its stupid, but the word ‘Meluha’ is so interesting phonetically, at least for me it is! But, once I got past that (okay no, I didn’t get past it, I still say it in a British accent for kicks), I thought the premise was also pretty interesting. I’m not sure if any of you are familiar with Hindu mythology, but this book imagines that the Hindu gods in religious books were initially humans who turned into Gods through their amazing feats/ lives. Accordingly then, this book assumes Shiva, a powerful Hindu God, was once a human and proceeds to tell his story. I’m actually not very familiar with Hindu mythology so I’m not sure if the story the book tells is accurate or not. But, it was pretty entertaining so I enjoyed reading it and hence will review it. Again, spoiler-filled review (I feel like that’s my style now) below.
The book begins with the introduction of the main character, Shiva. He’s the leader of a small tribe, the Gunas. These tribes live in difficult circumstances as they are often required to protect themselves in violent ways in order to survive conquest. Hence, when Shiva receives invitation from the Meluhan Empire to establish base there (i.e. move the Gunas to Meluha), he agrees in order to ensure the protection of his people. On their first day in the Empire, the Gunas fall quite sick. The Meluhan doctor assigned to them, to ensure that the Gunas have proper vaccinations so they don’t contaminate the rest of the Empire with their foreign diseases, attends to them and eventually everyone heals. However, in this chaos, another interesting and important development occurs, Shiva’s neck turns blue. This causes joy for many Meluhans and especially the ruling family, the Suryavanshi’s, as for them, the blue neck signified their fabled warrior. According to Meluhan legend, while the Empire was founded years ago by the great Lord Ram, it had eventually began to fall into despair as its water source, the Saraswati River, was beginning to dry and they were falling under increasing attacks from their neighbours, the Chandravanshi’s and the cursed deformed Nagas. The legend posited that a blue-necked individual would come and save the empire and restore it to its glory days — the individual being Shiva in their eyes.
Hence, Shiva’s life changes, he stops being the leader of his tribe and instead becomes a de-facto leader for the Suryavanshi’s. Throughout his stay in Meluha, Shiva meets and becomes enchanted with a solemn looking beautiful woman, Sati. Sati, is it revealed, is not only the daughter of the Suryavanshi king, Daksha, but she is also a part of the Vikrama, untouchables who were expected to suffer due to their past sins. As a result, despite Shiva’s desire to marry her, she is unable to as her social status as a Vikarma makes it so that she cannot accept his proposal. In order to combat this, Shiva fully and publicly accepts to being the fabled warrior — the Neelkanth, and decides to destroy the concept of Vikarma, allowing Sati to marry him (before the Sati revelation, Shiva was actually quite hesitant about the whole Neelkanth thing and wasn’t sure if he wanted to take up its mantle or not).
Shiva’s time in Meluha also alerts him to the existence of Somras. The Somras, it is revealed, is a liquid made from the Saraswati River that allows individuals to receive partial immortality. It is through the Somras that the Suryavanshi’s have been able to live for so long and that the Meluhan Empire is so successful (hence why the drying of the Saraswati River is so bad for them). In fact, the Somras was what actually turned Shiva’s neck blue — again pointing to his Neelkanth persona. Manufactured on a mountain, Shiva and the Suryavanshi’s check out the Somras and Shiva makes a good friend, the scientist Brihaspati who helps with Somra production. It is actually Brihaspati’s body’s absence and the Naga insignia that appear after the Somra-making mountain is bombed, that causes Shiva to wage war against the Chandravashi’s. Shiva begins believing in the Meluhan idea that the Chandravanshi’s and Naga’s entered an alliance to vanquish the Suryavanshi’s and take over the Meluhan Empire. As Shiva has prior fighting experience due to his previous position as tribe leader, the Suryavanshi’s are able to easily win over the Chandravanshi’s.
Here’s where the story gets interesting. After being captured, the Chandravanshi King’s daughter reveals that they too had heard of the legend of the Neelkanth. In fact, according to the Chandravanshi’s, the blue-necked Neelkanth was supposed to be their saviour against the warring Suryavanshi’s. In other words then, both ruling families had heard of the Neelkanth and both expected the Neelkanth to save them from the ‘evil’ other. Of course, this quandary troubles Shiva greatly as its unclear exactly who the evil is. The Suryavanshi’s claim that the Chandravanshi’s are evil due to their attacks and wild way of life, whereas the Chandravanshi’s claim the Suryavanshi’s to be ‘evil’ in their restrictive lifestyle and attacks. In order to clear his head, Shiva heads to Lord Ram’s famous temple in Ayodhya, conveniently based in Chandravashi’s land, Swadeep. In the temple, he talks with a priest over the importance of karma, decisions, and fate. The book ends with a cliff-hanger, as was expected as this book is a part of a trilogy.
On that note, I actually really enjoyed reading this story. The story itself was pretty engrossing with all the twists and turns. And I think it actually functioned really well as the beginning point for a trilogy. The reader is given an introduction to this world and its characters, and I think Amish did a great job at making the characters. I enjoyed reading Shiva’s perspective. He’s depicted as a human in this book and hence I like how he struggles often and has flaws. He has his own backstory and often deliberates about his decisions, unless his anger takes over and causes him to act impulsive. In general, I think Amish did a really good job depicting a future God as a human. Similarly, I also enjoyed Amish’s writing style. The book was written in a relatively clear way with some nice imagery. That said, some of the language in the book was definitely kind of weird and awkward and I actually found myself rereading quite a few passes in order to ascertain that I interpreted the passage correctly the first time. But, I think that perhaps might just be my bias rather than actual criticism. Ehh, not really sure. And I actually would’ve liked to see more insights into other characters and their thought processes as well, not just Shiva. But, it was still a pretty engrossing read.
My rating: Read it to go on a pretty cool adventure and familiarize yourself with some fascinating Hindi mythology.