Chaturanga – Anand Neelakantan
The second book in the highly popular Bahubali – Before the Beginnning series.
Author: Anand Neelakantan
Publisher: Westland Books
Book-length: 297 pages
Recommended for: Teenagers, Adults, Historical fiction lovers
Insights on the Plot
The book starts off in sync with where the first one ended. After the surprise attack of the Vaithalikas, the kingdom of Mahishmathi is stirred up, taking care of new problems that have arisen. Meanwhile, Sivagami is forced to duel with her foster father Thimma in order to prove her loyalty and become a bhoomipathi. She wants the new position desperately to worm her way through the powerful and find the truth about her father.
Meanwhile, Kattappa struggles with his sense of duty both towards the kingdom and towards his father as Shivappa continues to be bothersome with his idea of revenge on Bijjaladeva. Mahadeva yearns to gain Sivagami’s love and trust while harbouring a grudge against his elder brother for coveting the crown. Whilst all this, King Somadeva has his own political agenda at play that uses his unsuspecting citizens and son as pawns. . .
Understanding the Characters
Sivagami is the central character in this trilogy. She holds the whole narrative together with her efforts to find out the truth about what happened to her father and her secret wish to eliminate the cruel Somadeva, ruler of Mahishmathi.
Bijjaladeva, the eldest and ruthless son of Maharaja Somadeva, doesn’t care about means to the end that will make him the future king of Mahishmathi. His evil knows no limits as he uses situations and people to his advantage without bothering about their fates once they have served his purpose.
Kattappa, the loyal slave to the throne of Mahishmathi struggles with his inner turmoil that includes taking revenge on his younger brother Shivappa in order to fulfill an oath he made to his father, his duty-bound silence that must let Bijjaladeva get away with his evil and his feelings for Ally.
Brihannala and Keki, eunuchs with an agenda of their own. While Brihannala heads the royal harem, Keki is the assistant of a famous devadasi. While they seem to be holding the strings of the puppet, are they really in control?
A Reader’s Take
The second book in the Bahubali – Before the Beginning series starts off from where it left its readers wondering about the closure that a few characters got or would get. It picks up with speed and continues to be fuelled by intrigue, mystery and dark secrets that the author has woven splendidly throughout the plot.
The book is written in the classic narrative that the author specializes in and offers versions of the various key characters that play an active role in bringing the book to its climax. At the same time, the supporting characters too play their role to perfection, a symbiotic co-relation that is very difficult to achieve unless every minor detail is taken into account while writing.
The book’s title feels justified once you start turning its pages as the intricate details and betrayals will leave you guessing about who is playing what game against whom. It also brings to light the author’s attention to detail while creating a complex web of narrative and yet simplifying the storytelling for the readers’ benefit.
As an awestruck fan of the Bahubali movies, I was thrilled at the idea of a book series that would explore the past of its chief characters and bring fans up to date with how they became what they became. Sivagami was a personal favourite with her strong personality and unbiased judgment. The story of her rise to fame and power is turning out to be interesting at the moment. Currently being scorned as a ‘chit of a girl’ by almost everyone holding a powerful position in Mahishmathi, it will be a delight to read about her ascend, about how she came to be respected immensely by folks as was seen in the movies. More importantly, how did she end up marrying the cruel Bijjaladeva instead of Mahadeva!
Waiting for the third installment in the series for many questions that have remained unanswered after the second book. . .
Will Sivagami find the ultimate truth that the secret book holds?
Who is Guru Dharampala in reality and what is his motive?
For readers who were not aware of this book series, I would nudge them to take up this trilogy the next time they want to read something in historical fiction. Just as fans wondered why Kattappa killed Bahubali, this book will make them ask. . .
What happened to Kattappa?!