Mythology has been a part of Indian culture since ancient times. Indian mythology is a treasure trove of stories and characters that can be recited and repurposed for young readers and have been since the early days of Indian literature. It goes way back to ancient times, from the birth of the gods to the great epics; some stories are told and retold generation after generation as Mythological Fiction.
Mythological fiction has gained a vast number of readers over time. It has become a base for Indian authors to pen their stories, which is hardly a surprise. Our Indian authors have a vivid way of interpreting the myths and aptly concluding them.
- Here are the 5 best Indian Mythological Fiction Books of all time:
Here are the 5 best Indian Mythological Fiction Books of all time:
1. The Shiva Trilogy By Amish Tripathi:
The story is set in the land of Meluha(where modern Indians call it Indus valley civilization), 4000 years ago.
It interprets the journey of Shiva, the chief of the Guna tribe – from a mere mortal to the Mahadev, which uniquely emphasizes the essence of God by creating a story that implies a man with good deeds will lead the path of a God. Shiva apprehends that evil is evil because it is portrayed as such. Sometimes, evil is something that lives within us.
The story chronicles into 3 books with catchy lines:
“Whether a man is a legend or not is decided by history, not fortune-tellers.”
“Evil is not a person, it is an idea or belief.”
“Standing by and doing nothing while a sin is committed is as bad as committing the sin itself”
“And if there is anything that appears like a miracle, the only explanation is that a scientific reason for it has not been discovered as yet.”
Every character, be it Shiva, Sati, Nandi, or a Naga – has been beautifully created and portrayed. The book has a vernacular writing style, great characterizations, and glorious mythological depiction.
The story transpires through the context of a contemporary look with the touch of science and fiction, which makes it worth reading!
2. The Palace of Illusions By Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni:
It is a rendition of a holy epic, the Mahabharata – narrated from the perspective of a maligned and all-powerful woman, Draupadi. Mahabharata being a timeless epic – is revered by generations and also is familiarized by every Indian.
The book unfolds from the magical birth of Draupadi in a fire as a daughter of King Drupad to her final moments that mark the end of the third age of Hinduism. It unfolds her struggles in her domestic life and her endurance of stormy civil war. Meanwhile, it traces her childhood as a rebellious princess, her friendship with Krishna, and her revenge for her humiliation.
“I am buoyant and expansive and uncontainable–but I always was so, only I never knew it!”
“Because ultimately only the witness — and not the actors — knows the truth (Vyasa to Draupadi)”
“She who sows vengeance must reap its bloody fruit.”
“The heart itself is beyond control. That is its power, and its weakness.”
“Above us our palace waits, the only one I’ve ever needed. Its walls are space, its floor is sky, its center everywhere. We rise; the shapes cluster around us in welcome, dissolving and forming again like fireflies in a summer evening.”
It gives insight into the life of the most compelling and enigmatic female of all time. It won’t replace the real Mahabharata, but it can be a kickoff.
Banerjee never fails to mesmerize her audience with her ingenious narratives, and this novel isn’t an exception.
3. Dharmyoddha Kalki By Kevin Missal:
At the beginning of the book, the author states that this book isn’t a retelling of mythology but a complete fiction. Kalki reincarnates as the 10th avatar of Lord Vishu, born in Kal yuga to destroy the Adharm and bring back peace and Dharam.
Born in a small village, Kalki, son of Vishnuyath and Simati, learns his true heritage and travels North to learn the ways of Lord Vishnu. Amidst the war, betrayals, political intrigue, incumbent kings, and corrupt officials, Kalki sets his quest to face the catastrophe that awaits his village and is determined to follow the path of fate.
“Whenever there is a decline in righteousness and an upsurge in unrighteousness, at that time, I take birth again.” – Lord Govind
“But instead of fear in the boy’s eyes, there was something else. There was hope. And then, the boy did the unthinkable. He Smiled.”
“Perhaps big doesn’t always matter. It’s also the little things, specks of happiness that we go through in a day that we should look out for. It’s funny how grief makes you realize the good things you have overlooked in life”
“You can have all the strength in the world son but if you don’t know how to use it, what is the point of it.”
“Fighters change the outcome of the battle but a reader can change someone’s world by his knowledge.”
This book, from its stunning cover, character names to plot, has stolen the hearts of myth lovers. It is more plot-driven than being character-centric. If you think such plots are found only in Amish books, you should read Kevin Missal’s Kalki trilogy.
4. Asura: Tale Of The Vanquished By Anand Neelakantan:
As we know, Myths are the writings of victors, and the tale of the vanquished remains in silence. But Neelakantan’s attempt of narrating a story from a defeater’s point of view is fascinating. It depicts the viewpoints of two protagonists – Ravana, the great evil king, and his loyal servant, Bhadra.
This novel is the tale of Ravana and his people, asuras. Asuras, who were under oppression by Devas, look up to a young savior in the belief of a better world awaiting them.
The story begins from the conclusion of the epic Ramayana. The book caresses Ravana’s childhood struggles, his different roles from a soldier to king and an emperor by fighting against the social norms.
“The rich did not care who ruled, as long as they were allowed to be rich. The poor could not afford to care and nobody asked their opinion in any case. Only the middle class mattered and any half-witted ruler knows how to pamper them.”
“I had lived as Ravana and I would die as Ravana. I did not intend to become Rama, the perfect man, and God. There was no dearth of gods in my country. It only lacked men.”
“Anger is the lowest emotion. It clouds the intellect and can make you do foolish things. You become blind to reason and react only with your body, without thinking. This leads to failure in every sphere. Uproot this evil from your system.”
“That is a good piece of propaganda, I must admit. Claim that God is with you, or better, you are God, then anything you do, any Adharma you commit, becomes divine play.”
While we know the essential part of the story, this book demystifies both bigger and smaller details of the myth. Like the caste systems, Sita’s captivity, the reason behind ten heads of Ravana, Pushpak being a flying machine prototype, and more.
Neelakantan’s attempt at making us realize that there is always another side of the story is remarkable.
5. The Aryavarta Chronicles By Krishna Udayasankar:
Mahabharatha is an eye-catching story among all epics due to its outstanding characters, political prowess, the great war, and the backstories of every character that overshadows their victory or doom.
But why read a retelling when you already know the story?
The Chronicle with 3 books – is a mind-blowing aspect by Krishna Udayasankar that allures you into the re-interpretation of the story with themes of social cause, gender equality, honor, vengeance, and philosophy.
The plot is about the rivalry between the Firstborns – scholars, protectors of the divine order on Earth and Firewrigths – inventors and scientists. Parallel to this, the lineage of Pandavas and Kurus of the Aryavartha empire struggle for power. One common thread between them is Govinda Shauri (Krishna). His role in war, peace, politics, marriage alliances, and delivering philosophical thoughts makes him an unequivocal protagonist.
Key figures that have facetime are Draupadi(a feminist standing among a male dominant patriarchal rule), Partha alias Arjuna(the most gifted archers of all time), Shikandin (a trans-gender – a fearless warrior), Suyodhan(Duryodhan – a logical person torn between fate and duty), and also other minor characters that play important roles.
“No empire lasts forever, no dynasty continues unbroken. Some day, you and I will be mere legends. All that matters is whether we did what we could with the life that was given to us.“
“… the greatest mystery, the greatest wonder of creation is that we are capable of both relentless reason and boundless love … It is not about what we are, but what we can become.”
“There are no such things in life as compromises without resentment, only delayed reactions.”
“To preserve one notion of goodness and righteousness you destroy another. To uphold one principle you sacrifice another.”
“Peace is one thing, revolution is another. You were either impatient or highly optimistic to think one would lead to the other.”
The main characters are not divine but mythical and ordinary. Krishna illustrates the characters in the grey rather than painting them in extreme goodness or badness.
To quench the thirst for complexity in the great epic, you can read this debut novel with logical interpretations.
Writing mythological fiction is a bit tricky. Authors should thread dangerous waters of criticism since it concerns mythology. But that never stopped them from recreating the stories elegantly and publishing them.
Fill up your TBR list with these books… You will not regret it!
Don’t forget to tell me some of your favorite Mythological Fiction books in the comments!