I received this book from the publishers- a day before Shiva Ratri ( an auspicious day marking the marriage of Shiva with Paravati) and I started reading this on Shivaratri (Do I term it a coincidence?). Although hailing from Madurai and with mother tongue as Tamizh, I never had an opportunity to know about ‘Thiruvilayadal’ though I have heard about a Tamizh movie by the same name (I do not know to read or write ‘Tamizh’ as I went to schools other than in Tamil Nadu). So I was actually very thrilled for an opportunity to read this book which is a translation of ‘Thiruvilayadal’ in English! Here is an unbiased review of the book ‘Shiva In The City Of Nectar’ by Preetha Rajah Kannan.
Starting with the book cover- It rightfully has the sketch of ‘Vishnu giving his sister Meenakshi’s hand in marriage to Sundarar’ which is so very synonymous with the City of Nectar-Madurai , against the impressive shades of green.
The blurb gives an insight into what to expect from the book and the tales stick to the excitement generated by the blurb.
“Throbbing with non-stop excitement, Shiva in the City of Nectar sweeps across Heaven,Earth and the Underworld, narrating the exploits of the mysterious and powerful blue-throated god.
One after another, the tales unfold the follies of ancient devas, asuras, sages, men and mythical beasts. And through them all, Shiva blithely takes on the guise of beggar, saint, monarch, merchant, fisherman, hunter, warrior and woodcutter; walking through the three worlds to slay rampaging demons, perform his Dance of Bliss and embrace good and bad alike.
Shiva is portrayed in all his multi-faceted mystique – the tender lover who woos and weds Goddess Meenakshi; the eternal Guru who dispenses wisdom; the fierce avenger whose third eye flashes fire; the generous benefactor who showers blessings on his devotees; and, above all, the gentle prankster who embodies the essence of Vedic faith”
The language used in the book is simple English interspersed with Tamizh words adding the right feel to the stories. Else,how can the world know about one of the foremost Classical and Dravidian language of Tamizh! I feel the usage of Tamizh words in this book adds authenticity to the 54-tales depicted here. The writer has very rightfully added a ‘glossary’ of terms at the end of the book, which is very crisp, handy and helpfully caters to the non-Tamizh readers.
The 54-tales gives an insight into the ancient scriptures dealing with Shiva, his ‘Thiruvilayadal’(Sports of God) in and around the City of Nectar-Madurai, the way this glorious city came into being and about the magnanimity and the anger of Shiva which compliments him and makes him so loved by all his devotees. I personally feel , the 54 tales bring out the ‘Navaras’ (nine emotions) of Shiva in all his glory. I am sure the readers will be delighted to know about ‘how the city of nectar came into being’, its divinity and how the city has drawn devotees and people from far flung places even in the ancient times!
While reading through the tales, I relished the rich cultural heritage of Madurai while also grousing about the lack of actual pictures of the present Madurai in the book. For example, while reading about ‘Pottramarai’ or ‘Yanamalai’ I wished that there were reference shots of the ‘spots’ mentioned thus assisting the splendid reading (I had to ‘Google’ to check out the references) Also, while reading one will surely be saddened by the present state of such rich heritage sites, owing to repeated stripping of India’s riches by the Mughals, the Britishers and now by the politicians!
This book is a great read for story telling sessions, tourists, pilgrims and general readers interested in religion and spirituality. Go for it…to relive the glorious by-gone era of Madurai , which I feel talks a lot about the writer whose aim of making this book fascinating and attracting the tourists to the city after reading it, will surely be successful.This book is a compilation of 54-tales of divinity-unadulterated!
On my next trip to Madurai, I am surely going to take along this book and check out the various aspects mentioned in the tales, which have been judiciously and keenly bookmarked by me.
I give this book a rating of 4 / 5 !
Title : Shiva in The City of Nectar
Author : Preetha Rajah Kannan
Genre : Religion & Spirituality/Mythology
Total Pages : 240
Publishers : Jaico Publishing House