Mohini: The Enchantress by Anuja Chandramouli
Publication Date: August 1st 2020
Publisher: Rupa Publications
Genre: Indian Mythology
*** Note: I received this book from the author, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to author and publisher. ***
Elusive as a fragment of a beloved dream, she slipped in and out of the consciousness of the fortunate ones who had been either arbitrarily chosen or were part of the intricate cosmic design. These willingly allowed themselves to be bedevilled, consumed by a passion that would not be denied, existing only to serve her will, content to be moulded to suit the purposes of the most enchanting creature in all of creation – Mohini.
Distilled from the essence of Vishnu, Mohini, the Enchantress is a part of him and yet she revels in the autonomy and extraordinary powers of beauty, magic and enchantment that are hers to wield. Vivid and ephemeral, she is beloved and desired by all in existence. But she is elusive as the fragment of a forgotten dream, a tantalizing temptress, traipsing her way across the topsy – turvy realms of fable and myth. Her meandering path will see her in the thick of things as the Devas and Asuras churn the ocean of milk to get their hands on the nectar of immortality, blunder into a love triangle that will spark a bloody war, fulfil the last wish of a dead hero, melt into the arms of Mahadeva, the only one capable of enchanting the enchantress and become the mother of Shastha, who will serve as a beacon of hope for all who are considered oddities by a spiteful society that recognizes only two genders amongst the vast multitudes…
Set against the tumult and intrigue of a celestial quest for immortality, Anuja Chandramouli brings the extraordinary saga of Mohini to vivid life. Balancing delicately on the tightrope between mythology and reality, she takes the reader on a dizzying ride through the shifting sands of time, gender, love, and desire, deftly intertwining the threads of the past and the present, blurring the lines between fact and fiction while spinning a deliciously entertaining yarn for the ages.
Books I read by the same author:
Kartikeya: The Destroyer’s Son
Prithviraj Chauhan: The Emperor of Hearts
Rani Padmavati: The Burning Queen
Yama’s Lieutenant and the Stone Witch
Mohini was insightful and informative Indian mythology that revolved around stories Mohini liked and how they were related to her. It was about myths and stories that changed with perspective; non-equality, brutality, injustice; dysfunctional celestial family- their flaws, mistakes and its consequences, and lessons they learn; representation of human nature and third gender; love and friendship.
Writing was lyrical and heavy that made the book slow to read but the purple prose worked well in this. It was kind of collection of stories but connected with each other told from Mohini’s perspective. I didn’t know before I started reading this, Mohini was female avatar of Vishnu, she was enchantress sent to seduce Devas, Asuras, humans alike to achieve their destined fate.
It started with poetic description of Mohini’s beauty and its effects on mortals and immortals, worry of her creator, Shakti that she is too immune to her emotions like her co-creator Vishnu, and Mohini drifting to various stories that were connected to her and from where it all started.
Mohini was a character that wasn’t exactly present throughout the book just in few second half chapters but still was most important character. Mohini was complex and free spirited, who didn’t seek anybody’s approval, didn’t care about anybody, was logical and had her own mind. She stepped in the famous stories, here in stories of secondary characters, to change their course of action towards the destined fate by putting the final stepping stone of enchantment and seduction in their path. Description of how her enchantment worked and how it affected to her subjects in second half was fascinating. I loved how she felt each story is important even though stories changes with perspective, deviate from original with a little truth in it as per the imagination of writer that might picture person, here Mohini, differently, not always in a good way, and yet she didn’t mind it and felt it was all right.
All stories were mesmerising and insightful. There were other stories of Kavya, Sukra, Jayanti, Anasuya, Tara, Aravan and Shastha. Each different from other, made enjoyable and beautiful by wonderful personality of Mohini. Some stories I was familiar with, but different from what I have heard, while other were new to me.
I enjoyed reading the endless war between Devas and Asuras, from where the conflict started and how it turned from dispute between half brothers to blood soaked battle. I thought it was over Amrita(nectar) and that’s what I heard in many versions of their tale but it was actually only time they worked together peacefully. That was my favourite part and I loved reading Mohini’s view on it.
My most favourite stories were of Kavyamata and Tara. Kavya was powerful and knowledgeable wife of sage who was only one to see through Devas’ dirty politics and to support Asuras. Her powers were so strong it could defeat Devas in war. It was sad to see how Vishnu intervened and how it caused the end of great woman in Indian mythology but at the same time explained why Vishnu had to take seven births on earth in human form which was new to me. Tara’s story was bittersweet. I enjoyed reading how she escaped her rapist, wife beating husband and found love and happiness with Chandra even though it didn’t last long. I also admired Anasuya and the way she faced the Trimurti.
What I loved most was strong female characters. It’s rare to see strong females in man dominating mythology who never limited themselves to rules society and men created, never cowered or bowed to iniquitous demands. Representation of third gender in Indian mythology and the story behind it was beautiful.
Overall, I enjoyed this feministic take on Indian Mythology with excellent writing and interesting characters and their refreshing, engaging stories. I highly recommend this book.
I hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know in comments what do you think about this book and my review, have you read this book already or any book by the same author. Which story from Indian Mythology is your favourite?
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