The Immortals of Meluha

OK, you can call me a fan. I picked it up at the airport bookshop mostly because at 200 Rs and 400 pages it seemed like a rather low-cost bet, and I figured that I could use it to while away at least some time after my phone battery runs out. I ended up almost finishing it over the course of the next 3 hours, and I could hardly wait to finish the last few pages after I got back home.

The Immortals of Meluha

The Immortals of Meluha (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The book is set in some version of the Indus Valley Civilization called “Meluha”, and this first volume of the Shiva trilogy tells the story of the young tribal chief Shiva and his introduction to Meluha society and their acceptance of him as the “Mahadev”. It is a fascinatingly plotted tale and it is told at a very joyful speed, even where the issues are grave and complex. I am the sort of reader that looks to lose myself in books, if only they would let me. This book certainly does that, even if the writing can tend to chunky and there are occasional errors (phrases are repeated in conversations, and not to good rhetorical effect; at one point it uses “council” for the verb “counsel”, etc). It deals with a variety of moral issues without appearing to proselytize, and it is easy enough to empathize with the characters in their moral quandries, something that most authors cannot get me to do. Even when I harboured suspicions that I was being “sold” some version of Hinduism in the guise of fiction, I was able to find something to empathize with, so that at least it is a version I would probably be able to live with.

I doubt that it is in any way intentional, but I found the similarities between Meluha and Eragon, by Christopher Paolini, quite striking. The way Shiva approaches the Meluhans’ “perfect” civilization is very much like Eragon and the elves; the way Eragon/Shiva falls instantly and deeply for the “perfect” aristocratic lady with a tragic past (a 100 years older than the respective messiahs in both cases); the initially divided, eventually faithful responses of the Elves/Meluhans to Eragon/Shiva – it’s an arc joined at many points, but since both stories keep me entertained I shan’t complain.

The author Amish Tripathi goes by just “Amish” on the cover, and is (yet another) IIM-grad/former financier turned immensely popular fiction author. I’m really looking forward to reading the next two books, which I believe are already out.

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6 thoughts on “The Immortals of Meluha

  1. I got the vague impression from reviews that the book grafts right-wing Hindu fantasies onto the inscrutable IVC… not too obtrusive I take it?

    I’d love to have a mental picture of the IVC, even if it’s fictitious. It’s a bit sad that I have a better mental picture of ancient Egypt than I do of ancient India!

    • That is just a little bit true, alas. I mean, he does come out against the caste system and all sorts of injustices that we know of the hindu system as she is/was practiced, but the book starts out describing Meluha the way you’d probably think some ideal Hindu state should be. He points out the flaws quickly enough, though, and the ending does turn the whole thing on its head somewhat. (Er, spoiler alert, I guess?) Even so, the selling of Hinduism I referred to does happen, to some extent.

    • Not sure if you’d really want this book as a mental picture of the IVC though. Firstly because I don’t think it’s very accurate, but also because the more you treat this as a historical narrative and not fiction the less you’ll enjoy the story and focus on how this is portraying actual hindus or actual hindu philosophies or the india-pakistan relationship. That last I wanted to write about in the review because you get the feeling that there are strong allusions – persistent border dispute between two once-united countries, state-sponsored terrorism – , but in this sleep-deprived state I couldn’t seem to figure out/explain what he might be trying to advocate, if anything.

  2. Sounds interesting. Though apparently I could only buy the second book here. The first one I’d have to order from the US or the UK… Sometimes I really don’t get sellers.

    • Well, it really isn’t a “must-read”, anyway. It’s basically just good pulp. But most of the pulp I see in indian fiction isn’t very good (Indian literary fiction in English has a pretty long tradition: popular fiction in English, not so much), which is why I write about the ones I like 🙂 ,

      • Hey, I’m all for pulp! And it’s nice to get pulp from a different perspective every once in a while (meaning not the US/European centric stuff). So I’d be really interested to read this – maybe I can yet get my hands on it in a second hand shop.

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