With his recently-released novel The Oath of the Vayuputras, Amish Tripathi has finally completed his celebrated and highly successful Shiva Trilogy. Given the astounding success of the previous two books in the series, The Immortals of Meluha and The Secret of the Nagas, great things are expected of the third installment as well. In a hurried interview, in between a packed schedule of book releases and other functions, Amish Tripathi tells Sharad Raghavan what inspired him to write about Lord Shiva, why the god of destruction still resonates with the public today and what he thinks about Karan Johars plans to make a movie based on The Immortals of Meluha. Edited excerpts:
What sources did you refer to while researching stories centred around Lord Shiva
As far as some of the historical portions were concerned, such as the location of the Saraswati river, I referred to the work of Michel Danino (author of The Lost River: On The Trail Of The Sarasvati), who has done extensive research on the subject. Otherwise, I would divide my work into two partsthe mythological portion and the stories. The mythological portion and the philosophical aspects were drawn from the Vedas, Upanishads and are a product of family discussions on philosophy. In addition, I referred to the scriptures of other religions as well. For example, the whole issue of karma was a product of Buddhist scriptures, while I also consulted the Quran.
As far as stories go, a major source were the Puranas. Now, the Puranas are divided into three sectionsthe Brahma Puranas, Vaishnavite Puranas and Shaivite Puranas. Naturally, I referred to the Shiva Puranas much more as my central character is Shiva. Of the Shiva Puranas, the Skanda Purana, the longest Purana across the three sections, was a major inspiration for stories. But, I must clarify, my stories are interpretations of the stories found in the Puranas; they are not the same.
What was your inspiration for the character of Nandi, one of the most interesting characters in the books
Nandi was a devoted follower of Shiva, and has always been. That is what all the stories tell us. His stories, too, were inspired by the Puranas. My endeavour in this entire project has been to try to delve into the possible true stories that gave rise to the myths surrounding these characters today.
Why do you think Lord Shiva, in particular, finds so much resonance today
These gods are a part of our heritage, a part of being Indian. I feel everybody relates to all the gods, not just Shiva, but also Vishnu, Brahma and the rest. This resonance has been in the population for thousands of years. Religiosity is a part of Indian culture, so I feel it is natural for there to be such a resonance to stories about the Hindu gods. And, among all the gods, Lord Shiva has been one of the favourites for millennia...
There are rumours that Bollywood is planning to take up The Immortals of Meluha and make it into a movie. In fact, Karan Johar has been named as one of the producers in line for the project. How do you feel about this
Karan Johar has been confirmed as the producer of the movie. He told me that he would make a film worthy of Lord Shiva, and I believe him. He will make a film worthy of Lord Shiva.
In The Oath of the Vayuputras, your latest book, you have mentioned that there is a need to revisit the Mahabharata as well. Is that part of your future plans
I have various ideas in the mythological space, but I have not settled on any one topic as of now.
Excerpt: The Oath of The Vayuputras
My Lord, a bird courier has just arrived with a message for your eyes only, said Kanakhala, the Meluhan prime minister. Thats why I brought it personally.
Daksha occupied his private chambers, a worried Veerini seated beside him. He took the letter from Kanakhala and dismissed her. With a polite Namaste towards her Emperor and Empress, Kanakhala turned to leave. Glancing back, she glimpsed a rare intimate moment between them as they held each others hands. The last few months had inured her to the strange goings-on in Meluha. Dakshas past betrayal of Sati during her first pregnancy had shocked her enormously. Kanakhala had lost all respect for her emperor. She continued with her job because she remained loyal to Meluha. She had even stopped questioning the strange orders from her lord; like the one hed given the previous day about making arrangements for Bhrigu and Dilipa to travel to the ruins of Mount Mandar. She could understand Maharishi Bhrigus interest in going there. But what earthly reason could there be for the Swadweepan emperor to go as well Kanakhala saw Daksha letting go of Veerinis hand and breaking the seal of the letter as she shut the door quietly behind her.
Daksha began to cry. Veerini immediately reached over and snatched the letter from him. As she read through it quickly, Veerini let out a deep sigh of relief as tears escaped from her eyes. Shes safe. Theyre
On the surface, the plan to assassinate the Neelkanth worked towards the unique interests of all the three main conspirators, Maharishi Bhrigu, Emperor Daksha and Emperor Dilipa. For Bhrigu, the gain was obvious. For Dilipa it meant the killing of two birds with a single stone. Not only would he continue to receive the elixir from Bhrigu, but hed also do away with Bhagirath, his heir and greatest threat. Daksha would be rid of the troublesome Neelkanth and be able to blame all ills on the Nagas once again. The plan was perfect. Except that Daksha could not countenance the killing of his daughter. He was willing to put everything on the line to ensure that Sati was left unharmed. Bhrigu and Dilipa had hoped that with the rupture in relations between Daksha and his daughter, the Meluhan emperor would support this mission wholeheartedly. They were wrong. Dakshas love for Sati was deeper than his hatred for Shiva.
Upon Veerinis advice, Daksha had sent the Arishtanemi brigadier Mayashrenik, known for his blind loyalty to Meluha and deep devotion to the Neelkanth, on a secret mission. Mayashrenik was to accompany the five ships that had been sent to attack the Neelkanths convoy. Veerini had covertly kept in touch with her daughter Kali through all these years of strife, and had made Daksha aware of the river warning and defence system of the Nagas. All that had to be done was to get the alarm triggered in time. Mayashreniks mission was to ensure that the alarms went off. He was to escape and return to Meluha after that. The Arishtanemi brigadier and acting general of the Meluhan army had carried a homing pigeon with him to deliver the news of the subsequent battle to Daksha. The happy message for the Meluhan emperor was that the progeny Daksha cared forSati and Kartikwere alive and safe.
Veerini looked at her husband. If only you would listen to me a bit more.
Printed with permission from Westland Ltd