India has one of the richest and most diverse histories and mythologies in the entire world. Starting from the first-ever text known to mankind, the Rig Veda, to hundreds of Upanishads and Puranas. Mythology is basically defined as folklores belonging to a certain culture or religion. The age-old Hindu or Sanatan culture of India has so many texts and schools of thought to offer.
This article has been written to brief you about the best books on Indian mythology. You must have heard many mythological folklores from your elders. Some people do not believe it to be mythology but rather the history of this nation. Either way, there is a lot to learn from these epics. So, read this article to know about the right mythological books to read.
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Let us look at some factors that should be considered before buying yourself a book on Indian mythology. You probably should know the difference between mythology and mythological fiction first. There are ways you can take the reviews on the book beforehand; we have shared all such ways like following Goodreads for rating. So, check out how to choose the best books on Indian mythology in India 2021.
Mythology is studied to know the worldviews of cultures. It sheds light on how people think in a culture. An example of a mythological Indian book is Shiv Purana. Puranas are specifically sacred Sanskrit writings of the Hindu folklore.
One can directly read Shiv Purana and know the story of Shiva. However, one requires a thorough understanding of the Sanskrit language and some knowledge of the basic culture. A mythological fiction, on the other hand, is a book filled with fantasy rooted in traditional tales.
For example, the author Amish Tripathi has gained a lot of popularity for mastering writing mythological fictions. The Shiva Trilogy written by him takes themes from the Puranas, but he gives the ancient stories a different outlook and claims them to be mythological fictions. These books constitute the majority of our list in this article.
It might sound surprising, but writing about mythology can be risky. Even if one has to write mythological fiction, he or she is expected to have read the original mythological texts. To have read those, one must be well-versed with Sanskrit. It is important that you read a little about the author's credentials and critical reviews to get an idea.
We have taken care of this in our list of recommendations. It is also important because many things get lost in translation. It is acceptable if an author claims that the story in the book is his or her rendition of the mythology, as Amish Tripathi does. However, if a writer claims his version to be the translation of the original text, one needs to be careful of the writer's education.
Books on mythology can be really intense. The folklores can sometimes be so exciting that you would not want to stop reading. Many people feel that it is better to read such interesting books in their physical form as they give a lovely feel. On the other hand, there is the convenience of e-books with devices like Kindle. Let's find out the pros and cons of them both.
We all remember the first day of a new session in school. The feel of the new books and the musky scent from them always encouraged most of us to read them. Physical books have that power in them. Many people can only read physical books as it is proven that they facilitate more focus and emotional connection.
You always have an idea of the remaining pages, which makes it a target for you to finish it. This is a good way to give yourself a sense of accomplishment. Also, if you are new to reading, you must definitely start with physical books. They will provide you with a more personal touch and get you hooked.
There are tons of practical benefits of an e-book. In addition to being convenient and portable, they save a lot of paper. You can also sync the books on your mobile phone and read them as per your convenience. It eliminates the need to carry books with you. However, it can strain your eyes more than a regular book would do.
Another big advantage of e-books and devices like Kindle is that you can read them in the dark as well. These devices are backlit and enable you to read them easily while lying in bed at night. Audiobooks are another trendy thing that is quite useful. You can listen to the recorded narrations of books on the go.
Reading mythology can be overwhelming as it might have ideas and words beyond your understanding. It can be heavy, especially for new readers, as it may have complex, entangled ideas. In Indian mythology, particularly, like Mahabharata, there can be hundreds of characters, which can be hard to keep a track of. Many different plots may be running simultaneously too.
Our list of books has only those books that are easy to grasp and take lessons from. The language is simple and fun to read. These books' authors are bestsellers mainly for how interesting they have made mythology for the modern generation. The major reason for this is the authors' efficient and articulate writing skills.
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The Valmiki Ramayana
Read the Timeless Indian Epic
The Greatest Battle Ever Fought
The Shiva Trilogy
The Bestselling Work of Mythological Fiction
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
The Palace of Illusions
Mahabharata From the Perspective of Draupadi
The Siva Purana
The Book as It as - the Story of Lord Shiva and Maa Parvati
Yuganta: The End of an Epoch
One for the Contemporaries
Scion of Ikshvaku
Another Epic by Amish Tripathi
Vanara: The Legend of Baali, Sugreeva and Tara
Story of the Great Brothers - Baali and Sugreeva
Ganga: The Constant Goddess
Goddess Ganga - The Epitome of Purity
Karna's Wife: The Outcast's Queen
Story of Karna Through His Wife's Eyes
Ramayana still lives in the hearts of Indians, and it will never cease to be so. The Valmiki Ramayana by Debroy Bibek tells the tale of the victory of good over evil. This book narrates the entire story of the prince of Ayodhya, Prabhu Shri Ram, recounting his exile and the battle with the demon king Ravana.
Rama's wife Sita and brother Lakshman also go on the 14-year long exile they were levied with on the eve of Rama's coronation ceremony. When life throws problems and miseries on Rama, his stoics and bravery pave the way for an epic revered by billions of people worldwide.
This entire epic is carved out of love, commitment, jealousy, desires, and ambitions. This is the reason why Ramayana inspires people to the day, as it has something for everyone. Rama is worshipped in this country because no matter what life threw at him, he did not crumble. A must-read book if you want to learn about Indian mythology.
Mahabharata is another major epic of Indian mythology. It is also the longest epic in Sanskrit. This concise rendition of Purnaprajna Das of the Mahabharata would be a great read for everyone, beginners and experienced readers alike. So many different stories run parallel, with thousands of characters.
From Bhisma to Sanjaya, from Pandavas to Kauravas, from Krishna to Dronacharya, this tale inculcates all the possibilities of life without making any commandment out of it. This story is relevant for all of us today as we are fighting our mini Mahabharata every day.
Amish Tripathi has made a name for himself as one of the best writers of Hindu mythological fiction. This Shiva trilogy - The Immortals of Meluha, The Secret of the Nagas, and The Oath of the Vayuputras - has become a fan-favorite over the years. Tripathi clearly claims to be writing fiction inspired by classic tales.
These books are a journey of Shiva who becomes Neelkanth and tries to save the Suryavanshi dynasty from various attacks from the Chandravanshis and the Nagas. Even if you are a non-fiction reader, this book will interest you as the author has skillfully crafted the amalgamation of mythology and fiction.
Narrated by Draupadi, the legendary wife of the Pandavas, this novel offers a new interpretation of the Indian epic Mahabharata. This novel focuses on her life, beginning from her birth from fire to the way her husbands were deceived into losing their entire kingdom. Draupadi, despite the humiliation, does not leave the side of her husbands.
Draupadi is an archetype of courage and determination. She not only stays with her husbands but also indulges in strategic duels with her mother-in-law and maintains a complicated friendship with Krishna. We see this courageous woman facing all the odds life could throw at her and yet she never lost sight of her goals.
Puranas are a class of literature that includes religion, philosophy, history, sociology, politics, and other subjects. The Siva Purana by J.L. Shastri is a narration of Lord Shiva's and Maa Parvati's story. Originally written by Romaharshana, the Shiv Purana included over 100,000 verses. This rendition is a concise version of that.
This book makes our list mainly because the verses of the original text have not tampered with this one. Shiva is omnipotent and omnipresent. This Purana talks about the creation of nature and how three energies called Trilokiye - Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva - administer the cycle of life.
Yuganta is a unique book as it presents the Indian mythological tales and heroes from today's perspective. It talks about their fears, hopes, and make them sound like a regular human of today's world. This gives contemporary readers a great way to relate to the characters and stories better.
Irawati Karve has written a collection of essays inspired by the literary tradition of Mahabharata. She keeps a neutral tone throughout and neither judges nor venerates anything extremely. The refreshing new interpretations will be a delight to read for you.
The Scion of Ikshvaku is another mythological fiction by Amish Tripathi. In this book, he has narrated a story of Ram Rajya (a perfect land), with its ramifications. The story is based in 3400 BC when Ayodhya is undermined by divisions. Prince Ram emerges as an unlikely hero to save the people of Ayodhya from the demon king Ravana.
This story narrates the emotions he goes through and how establishing truth comes with a heavy price. The underlying lesson is that peace is won through war and chaos. This is how nature has always worked and will always work. His level-headedness despite all odds is a key element of the character of Ram.
Baali and Sugreeva had a life full of hardships from the very beginning. They were slaves and were often mocked as monkey men. Baali was determined to change the way their lives were, and he, along with Sugreeva, built a country with the capital city of Kishkindha. This country had no discrimination.
What ensues after this is a love triangle among Baali, Sugreeva, and Tara, a tribal doctor's daughter. In this beautiful work of fiction, Baali and Sugreeva chase after this woman, leading to a fraternal war. It is a classic tale of love, lust, and betrayal.
Goddess Ganga has been revered as the epitome of beauty and purity in this culture since time immemorial. She is believed to be the liquid manifestation of Shakti and nurturer of the three worlds. She is a constant Goddess, renowned as a caring mother, a devoted daughter, and a passionate lover.
This book uniquely narrates the story of Ganga. It tells about her magnanimity and generosity as she can give us the precious gift of moksha. Anuja Chandramouli has written this excellent piece, including Ganga's origins, her relationships, and the birth of her two sons - Bhishma and Kartikeya.
Karna is one of the most important characters of Mahabharata. Uruvi, his wife, is a Kshatriya princess who witnesses the roller coaster ride of Karna's fate. She knew that marrying Karna would bring many social implications, but she faced all the challenges. She counseled and guided him throughout Mahabharata.
Karna's blind allegiance to Duryodhana was something beyond Uruvi's control. She was a keen observer of how the entire saga unfolded and linked to the divine design. Karna had a tragic life, and seeing it from his loving wife's eyes dramatizes that more.
Watch this video in which Jay Lakhani articulately discusses the Hindu way of looking at God in His saakaar, nirgun niraakaar, and avatar forms. Saakar is the concept of God with form as in idol worshipping, nirgun niraakaar is the concept of God without form but with attributes, and avatar is the incarnation of God as human. This will help you look at mythology in a completely different light. The video highlights:
1. Concept of God with form
2. Concept of God without form
India can never cease to surprise you. With yoga, spirituality, meditation, warfare, classical music, Vedas, and so much more, this entire culture was built on the principle of constant elevation and liberation. Even the relatively modern history is filled with tales of bravery, love, and commitment. You may start exploring the richness of this land by reading a few books from the following review articles.
It is not easy to read the entire Indian mythology as it is so rich and diverse; The books mentioned in this article can be a good start. That's the thing about reading - you start with one, and the subsequent books start coming to you.
Indian or Hindu mythology has something for everyone. Every story has thousands of characters for you to associate with. There are numerous lessons to learn, and the best part is that these lessons are still relevant in modern times.
No. 1: Debroy Bibek | The Valmiki Ramayana
No. 2: Purnaprajna Das | Mahabharata
No. 3: Amish Tripathi | The Shiva Trilogy
No. 4: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni | The Palace of Illusions
No. 5: J.L. Shastri | The Siva Purana
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