Kings, Saviours & Scoundrels

Book title – Kings, Saviours and Scoundrels – Timeless tales from the Katha Sarita Sagara

Publisher –  Readomania      Pages – 212 pages   Language – English

Author – Anupama Jain

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If you Google ‘Katha Sarita Sagara’, Wikipedia will say that – //The Kathāsaritsāgara (Ocean of the Streams of Stories) is a famous 11th-century collection of Indian legends, fairy tales and folk tales as retold in Sanskrit by the Shaivite Somadeva. Kathāsaritsāgara contains multiple layers of story within a story and is said to have been adopted from Guṇāḍhya‘s Bṛhatkathā (the Great Narrative), which was written in a poorly-understood language known as Paiśācī. The work is no longer extant but several later adaptations still exist — the KathāsaritsāgaraBṛhatkathamanjari and Bṛhatkathāślokasaṃgraha.//

To the above list of adaptations, I add Anupama Jain’s book – Kings, Saviours & Scoundrels. The book containing 41 stories is a potpourri of the best tales selected from the Katha Sarita Sagara. What Can I say but that I loved the book! Reading it was like taking a trip down to my childhood, halting at the stations of each year and reminiscing about the days of yore. Unknowingly, back then, they contributed so much to my knowledge. It would not be wrong to say that my moral compass perhaps owes a lot to these stories.

India has a rich cultural heritage that is rooted in its folklore, mythology and the legendary tales of our valorous kings and brave queens. We have all read these stories. They were told to us by our parents, our grandparents or we read them. We have loved narrating these timeless classics to our children, imparting to them the little nuggets of sagacious wisdom hidden within or subtly teaching them to be morally upright individuals. These stories are deeply entrenched within the fabric of our personas. To a large extent, they make us who we are as a people. Is that not so?

I grew up reading Amar Chitra Katha, Panchtantra, Jataka and a plethora of other such tales. Anupama’s book is reminiscent of those wondrous, moralistic tales. Each story in the book begins on a whimsical, fairy-tale like note and ends with a moral. If the beginning of the story lulls you into a cocoon of warmth, the end jars you awake and forces you to ponder on the written text. The stories leave one with food for thought. They make you think and reflect on the wisdom that has been passed down through the ages by these timeless classics which are so symbolic of our heritage. These are the stories of our kings and queens, demons and gods, sages and laymen, animals and what not.

The first story of the book, ‘The Genesis’ explains the origin of Somdeva’s classic work. The rest of the 40 stories have been carefully selected and retold to enthral even the youngest of readers. This is a book for all age groups. Two things that I found additionally note worthy in the book are – a) the beautiful cover design. It’s vibrant and eye-catching. The colours on the cover pop and entice a reader and, b) the beautiful teeny illustrations that Anupama has done for the book. They help a reader (particularly the younger lot of readers) to imagine the story by providing visual cues. Very endearing!!

The language of the book is simple. Yes, the names of some of the characters can be a mouthful to pronounce. But, they have been carefully chosen to complement the story. So, difficult or not, try to let them roll off your tongue and you will understand their deep relevance.

So, do I recommend this book? Hell yes, I do…whole heartedly. Pick it up, sink into and relive your childhood. Who knows, through this book, your moral compass may find its true north.

About Sonal Singh

I believe that life is a repertoire of anecdotes. The various situations that we encounter, the many incidents of every day, the people we meet, our conversations with them; all make life a melange of tales. And, that is what I attempt to capture through my writing. My cooking is no different! It reflects my love for travel and my love for innovation. The kitchen is my happy place. So, even though by vocation I am a recruiter (, by passion I am a writer, home chef and a hodophile.

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