In this exclusive interview, the popular author talks about War of Lanka, the much-anticipated fourth installment of his Ram Chandra Series, and why he will take a long to write the fifth and the final book of the series.
One of India’s highest-selling authors, Amish Tripathi, launched his latest book, War of Lanka, the fourth in his blockbuster Ram Chandra series, amid much fanfare in Mumbai earlier this month.
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Published by HarperCollins, it merges the parallel multi-linear narratives of the first three books of the series — Ram: Scion of Ikshvaku, Sita: Warrior of Mithila, and Raavan: Enemy of Aryavarta — into a single story featuring all the three protagonists and other key players. It starts from where the first three books end — Sita’s abduction. The story is also available as an audiobook on Audible.
The Ram Chandra series is the second fastest-selling book series in the history of Indian publishing after Tripathi’s Shiva trilogy (The Immortals of Meluha, The Secret of the Nagas, and The Oath of the Vayuputras). Tripathi discusses War of Lanka, his love for religious history, why he feels that mythology is sacred and shouldn’t be taken liberties with, and his plans for the fifth and the final book of the series.
Q. What took you so long to come out with War of Lanka?
A. It did take a little longer as I had to tie up all the threads that were unveiled in the first three books of the series, which were in a multi-linear narrative. My apologies to my readers for the delay. I cherish their love for my books, even their tough love when they complain about delays.
Q. How is this one different from the previous three books of the Ram Chandra series?
A. The first three books of the Ram Chandra series were written in a multi-linear narrative; they began with the birth of the main characters — Lord Ram, Goddess Sita, and Raavan — and had a common ending, i.e., the kidnapping of Goddess Sita. The fourth book — War of Lanka — is where all the narratives merge into a common one. So this book tells the tale from the kidnapping of Goddess Sita to the death of Raavan and the return of the royal couple to Ayodhya.
Q. Which texts and resources did you rely on for research?
A. I have had the privilege of reading or being told various versions of the Ramayana, from the original Valmiki Ramayana to Adbhut Ramayana, Ananda Ramayana, Ramcharitmanas, Kritibhashi Ramayana, Kamba Ramayanam and even the folk versions of Lord Ram’s tale. My books have been informed by all these versions.
Q. What draws you to religious history and mythology?
A. My family background is a primary factor in this. I come from a deeply religious and traditional family. Additionally, my deep love and passion for our great ancient culture play a major role too.
Q. Why narrate such a popular story that has been told countless times already?
A. Indians never tire of hearing these stories. We want to hear them again and again from various different perspectives and interpretations. This is because we never stop learning from these tales. I believe that it is our love for the stories of our gods and goddesses which keeps our culture alive.
Q. At a time when books are having to compete with social media and global streaming giants for attention, what do you think makes your stories so compelling?
A. I do not think it will be correct for me to answer this question. This is best answered by others. Having said that, I am very grateful for the consistent love that my readers bless me with.
Q. There is a stark difference between mithya and itihasa. But oftentimes, writers of mythological fiction blur that boundary in the name of creative liberty. Where do you draw the line?
A. I think creative liberty is a term coined by the west and its use in the retelling of our ancient tales is incorrect. Creative liberty as a term denotes a rebellion by a ‘brave artist’ against the establishment. That is not how we devotees see it. We do not take creative liberties. We simply make another respectful interpretation at the feet of the gods and goddesses we worship. Many writers have written with this attitude, and it is no surprise that such writers never generate controversy.
Q. What will the fifth installment of the series focus on? Have you started work on it already?
A. Please wait for an announcement on this. I will release this book many years later. But the fourth book, War of Lanka, will give a sense of conclusion to the readers. Because War of Lanka ends at a point where, in the eyes of modern Indians, the traditional Ramayana usually ends.
Q. What do you prefer — reading or listening to an audiobook?
A. I like both! I read in the mornings and before going to sleep. And I listen to audiobooks while walking or jogging. In fact, my latest book War of Lanka is also available on Audible as an audiobook. If you prefer an audiobook over reading, you should listen to it there.
First Published: IST