PLOT: 4.5/5 CHARACTERS: 4.5/5 WRITING: 4/5 ADVENTURE & ENTERTAINMENT: 4.5/5 OVERALL: 4.5/5
“Rama sat silently. Every word his father spoke was clear and true. Dharma protected, protects. Dharma neglected, ruins. It was one’s duty to protect dharma – duty towards the gods, one’s ancestors, and importantly, to oneself. To tolerate that which is intolerant in dharma was treason to one’s own soul.”– Ranjith Radhakrishnan, Rama of the Axe: The Epic Saga of Parashurama
Although I haven’t read many mythological fiction books this year, the ones I did read turned out to be quite enjoyable. From Vivek Shukla’s “The Immortal Secret Mantra” to Indica Book’s anthology “Aryaa: An Anthology of Vedic Women,” these books not only provided entertainment but also stayed true to the essence of the Vedas, scriptures, and ancient texts.
They managed to creatively incorporate these elements without distorting or tarnishing their meanings and significance.
This streak of good luck continued when I recently finished reading Rama of the Axe: The Epic Saga of Parashurama. Not only did this book captivate me with its entertainment value, but it also deepened my understanding of dharma (along with the moral and ethical duties it entails).
In this captivating read, the author skilfully blends entertainment with elements of mystery, thrill, action, and adventure, which added an extra layer of excitement to the overall experience.
However, before diving into the review, let’s first delve into the story itself.
The story as it goes
The book retells the extraordinary tale of Lord Parashurama, the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
Within the ashram of the revered Saptarishi Jamadagni, something remarkable is unfolding. The youngest son of the wise sage has been entrusted with a monumental task. He bears the weight of an important prophecy on his strong shoulders.
Yet, he is not merely a son of the sage, a Rishi Putra; he is much more than that. His mastery of martial arts serves as a testament to the extraordinary destiny that lies ahead. As the days pass, forces seen and unseen diligently groom him for the role of the incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
However, the path to greatness is rarely devoid of challenges. When his revered father, his Guru is cruelly taken away from him, Parashurama realizes that violence becomes necessary. He is determined to avenge the irreparable loss at any cost.
But before he can do so, he must first master himself. This is a tale of bravery, courage, dharma, the eternal struggle between righteousness and wrongdoing, and a remarkable transformation.
Rama of the Axe: The Epic Saga of Parashurama thus chronicles the incredible journey of Ramabhadra’s evolution into the great Parashurama.
Who can read?
The book employs a language that is ornate and lavish. Additionally, certain fundamental concepts discussed within its pages may assume familiarity with Hindu dharma and culture. Due to these factors, the book may not be as accessible to all beginners as I initially anticipated. However, the exquisite language undeniably renders it a masterpiece of beauty and artistry.
Rama of the Axe: The Epic Saga of Parashurama begins with an exhilarating start. In the very first chapter, we are introduced to a young boy named Ramabhadra, whose path takes an unexpected turn when he encounters a Barasingha deep within the forest. The ambiance, the surroundings, and the enigmatic presence of the animal create an air of mystery and excitement, foreshadowing the thrilling adventure that awaits within the book. This opening chapter effectively establishes a strong groundwork for what lies ahead.
As the story unfolds, we become acquainted with a host of significant characters who hold pivotal roles in Ramabhadra’s journey. These include his father, the esteemed Saptarishi Jamadagni, his mother, the famed healer Renuka, his martial arts mentor Veera, and eventually his trusted companion Akritavrana.
Each of these characters contributes profoundly to the narrative, shaping Ramabhadra’s path and influencing his remarkable tale.
The story introduces tension through the formidable presence of Karthavirya Arjuna, a renowned warrior who has remained undefeated for countless years. Notably, he possesses a thousand arms, earning him the name Sahasrabahu. As a Chakravarti Samrat, he holds immense power, but unfortunately, his insatiable thirst for power has led him astray. He now threatens to undermine the very dharma he is entrusted to uphold as a Kshatriya. This clash of ideals adds a compelling layer of conflict to the narrative.
Thus arises the necessity for the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. However, in a departure from the usual pattern, the Lord chooses to manifest in a partial form known as an amsha avatar, which is embodied in Lord Parashurama.
What did I love?
In just a few lines, it’s hard to capture the full essence of this book. It skillfully weaves together various elements from the entertainment genre, offering a rich assortment of experiences. Within its pages, you’ll discover an intriguing blend of mystery, thrilling adventures, heartfelt emotions, a compelling coming-of-age narrative, intricate family dynamics, profound friendships, transformative journeys, an unparalleled surrender to the divine, unmatched devotion (bhakti), and, of course, an abundance of exhilarating action.
But what truly sets this book apart is its unflinching commitment to imparting and interpreting dharma. While the author skillfully employs creative liberties and weaves a captivating narrative, he remains steadfast in presenting dharma without imposing personal biases or whims. The book handles the interpretation of dharma with integrity, ensuring that it resonates authentically with its essence.
In that regard, the book presents numerous subtle lessons and teachings that are both enlightening and valuable. It delves into socially relevant causes and themes that are often the subject of intense debate and, unfortunately, misinterpretation. These include important topics such as social justice, the varna system, the roles and responsibilities of Brahmins and Kshatriyas, the significance of Ahimsa (non-violence), iconoclasm, intolerance, and more. By exploring these subjects, the book invites readers to gain a deeper understanding and reflect upon these complex issues.
“All it takes is for good men to do nothing for adharma to spread.”
“One who looks outside, dreams, but the one who looks inside, awakens.”
“Not to bear arms to defend dharma is unbecoming of a Kshatriya. That amounts to dharma brasht – moral corruption.”
“Compassion for the guilty is treason against the innocent.”
Compassion for the innocent and anger for the guilty is dharma.”
What I didn’t like?
I have just a couple of points to address. Firstly, the book could benefit from improved pacing in certain sections. This would involve trimming down certain parts to enhance the overall pace and keep readers more engaged. Secondly, if the book had employed simpler language, it would have appealed to a broader range of readers and allowed the story and its message to reach a larger audience.
In the end
In the end, Rama of the Axe: The Epic Saga of Parashurama is an extraordinary mythological fiction that beautifully depicts the awe-inspiring and transformative odyssey of Ramabhadra, ultimately becoming Lord Parashurama. It captures the magnificence and grandeur of this larger-than-life journey with sheer brilliance.
Cannot wait to read it? Buy your copy of Rama of the Axe: The Epic Saga of Parashurama using the link below.