The Seal of Surya historical fiction with mythical narrative
Written by Amritanshu Pandey, the book “The Seal of Surya” is interspersed with bits of trivia, allusions and hints about ancient history.
The author weaves his novel into a world well aware of its position in time, and sets it alongside contemporaries such as King Enmerkar of Uruk a known figure of ancient history.
The protagonist, a largely unknown figure in Indian mythology is Ikshvaku, the son of Vaivasvat Manu, and founder of the Suryavansha dynasty.
The novel begins with Ikshvaku as a young boy, proposing to his father Vaivasvat that their divided Suryavanshi clans need a leader to yoke them together and fight against the growing strength of Anarya tribes Rakshasas, Gandharvas and Yakshas. The story jumps quickly from here on Ikshvaku becomes King in the fourth chapter itself, and halfway through the book the story has moved past more than a decade.
Much of this journey is devoted to his search for the seal of Surya, a mysterious relic that once belonged to his ancestors and casts undisputed legitimacy on its owner. The novel is essentially Ikshvaku’s biography. Packed with a multitude of characters the book chronicles his endless battles against Yakshas, Rakshasas and even rebels in his own tribe alongside his attempts to be a good son, brother, father and to a much lesser extent, husband.
There is the adventurous and loyal friend Haryashva, the stern and reliable mentors Ardra and Drishta, a well etched
father Vaivasvat Manu and the enigmatic Maharishis Vasishtha, Atri and Kashyapa. The author says his next book would feature a female protagonist. A considerable time is spent on the geography, with the descriptions of cities, rivers and forests taking the reader well into India’s ancient past.
The author sets Ikshvaku’s story as being narrated a thousand years later to Sudasa, a young prince of the Bharata tribe, by King Bhagiratha of the Suryavanshi.
Along this journey he poses some intriguing questions, such as how and when did the Suryavanshi migrate from the Sindhu to the Ganga,How did Aryavarta go from being the land of Suryavansha and Somavansha to a nation ruled almost entirely by the Bharatas?
A website scrollsofaryavarta.com, illustrates the vast and vivid world that Pandey has imagined with maps, genealogies, timelines, articles, short stories and notes on the tribes and cities of ancient India.
“I see this novel as only one story in the vast world that encompasses all of ancient India’s history. This history to me, ends where the Ramayana and Mahabharata begin. Indeed, Sudasa’s time is some 500 years before the reign of Rama of the Suryavansha. But there is only so much I would be able to capture through the novels, and I fear I cannot dedicate my life to this like Ashok Banker has to his Epic India series,” says Pandey.
The Varanasi-born author says similar to the story of Ikshvaku, he has a few more stories of heroes of largely unknown era lined-up.