For the armchair traveler as well as the enthusiast for epic tales, ‘In the footsteps of Rama, Travels with the Ramayana’, co-authored by Vikrant Pande and Neelesh Kulkarni (HarperCollins) is a wonderful book with which to revisit the world of the Ramayana.
The writers’ quest to retrace the trail of Rama’s years in exile began with an unsuccessful attempt to locate Chitrakoot on the map. Curious about the places mentioned in the Ramayana, they set off on a journey of their own, following Rama’s route from Ayodhya to the Dandakaranya forest and Panchavati (near Nashik) and on to Kishkindhya (close to Hampi), Rameshwaram and Sri Lanka.
‘In the Footsteps of Rama’ will take you on a wonderful journey of history, myth, culture and architecture. You also learn about the many wonderful human beings who are keeping the faith alive and pass the knowledge onto curious tourists. The book will leave you with a desire to see the places for yourself and experience what the authors and many pilgrims would have.
The authors also discover how closely the narrative of the Ramayana is linked to local folklore, and how the stories of the Ramayana and the moral framework that binds them together still speaks to the people who live in the land across which Rama, Sita and Lakshman made their journey.
The book is full of local tales and fables which are entwined with the Ramayana. Many of the stories are new. Many of us know our Ramayana only from the TV serial made by Ramanand Sagar. Some of us have read parts of Ramcharitmanas. So, when one reads different stories and gets new perspectives and insights, it really adds a new dimension to the story that we have always known.
Did you know, for example, that the concept of Lakshman Rekha is not there in Valmiki or Tulsi Ramayana. Also we had all believed that Shabari ate the berries to taste them before offering them to Rama. This too is a new fable and not part of the original Ramayanas. You believe Rama and Sita left for Vanvaas immediately after their marriage, but the authors say that they left after spending 12 years in Ayodhya.
The authors have used a language which is lucid and free flowing. The descriptions are so vivid that you feel that you are travelling with the authors. Also, streaks of humor in the narrative puts a smile on your face often.