Called "archetypal and stirring" by Deepak Chopra, The Immortals of Meluha heralds an exciting new wave of fantasy writing inspired by the ancient civilizations of the East.
Tripathi devoted years to the research of Hindu mythological stories and history, and discussions with his family about the destiny of the human body, mind and soul to create this sweeping and fascinating adaptation of ancient Hindu mythology for modern fantasy readers.
1900 BC in what modern Indians call the Indus Valley Civilization and the inhabitants called the land of Meluha: a near-perfect empire created many centuries earlier by Lord Ramone of the greatest monarchs that ever livedfaces peril as its primary river, the Saraswati, is slowly drying to exctinction. The Suryavanshi rulers are challenged with devastating terrorist attacks from the east, the land of the Chandravanshis. To make matters worse, the Chandravanshis appear to have allied with the Nagas, an ostracized and sinister race of deformed humans with astonishing martial skills.
The only hope for the Suryavanshis is an ancient legend: When evil reaches epic proportions, when all seems lost, a hero will emerge. Is the unexpected, rough-hewn Tibetan immigrant Shiva that hero? Drawn suddenly to his destiny, duty, and by love, Shiva will attempt to move mountains and lead the Suryavanshi to destroy evil.
About the Author
Mumbai-born Amish Tripathi gave up a highly successful career as a banker following the enormous success in India of his first book, The Immortals of Meluha. Amish is passionate about history, mythology and philosophy, as well as world cultures and religions. He lives in Mumbai.
Read an Excerpt
1900 BC, Mansarovar Lake (at the foot of Mount Kailash, Tibet)
Shiva gazed at the orange sky. The clouds hovering above Mansarovar had just parted to reveal the setting sun, the brilliant giver of life, drawing another day to a close. Shiva had seen a few sunrises in his twenty-one years, but sunset – he tried never to miss a sunset. On any other day, he would have relished the vista – the sun and the immense lake against the magnificent backdrop of the Himalayas stretching as far as the eye could see.
But not today.
As he squatted on a narrow ledge extending out over the lake, the shimmering light reflected off the waters picked out the numerous battle-scars that marked his muscular body. Shiva recalled his carefree childhood days, when he had perfected the art of skimming pebbles across the surface of the lake – he still held the record in his tribe for the highest number of bounces: seventeen.
On a normal day, Shiva would have smiled at this memory from a cheerful past, but today he turned to look back towards his village without the merest hint of joy.
The slightly hump-backed Bhadra was alert, guarding the main entrance to the village. Shiva looked to Bhadra’s side, and his tribesman turned to find his two back-up soldiers were dozing against the fence. He cursed and kicked them awake.
Shiva turned back towards the lake.
God bless Bhadra! At least he takes some responsibility.
He brought the chillum made of yak-bone to his lips and inhaled deeply. Any other day, the marijuana would have dulled his troubled mind and allowed him some moments of solace.
But not today.
He looked left, towards the edge of the lake where the soldiers accompanying the strange foreign visitor were being kept under guard. With the lake behind them and twenty of his own soldiers watching over them, it was impossible for them to mount any surprise attack.
They let themselves be disarmed so easily. They aren’t like the blood-thirsty idiots in our land, always looking for any excuse to fight.
The foreigner’s words came flooding back to Shiva: ‘Come to our land, which lies beyond the great mountains. Others call it Meluha, but I call it Heaven. It is the richest and most powerful empire in India – perhaps in the whole world – and our government offers immigrants fertile land and resources for farming. Today the Gunas, your tribesmen, fight for survival in this rough, arid land. Meluha offers you a paradise beyond your wildest dreams – and we ask for nothing in return, save that you live in peace, pay your taxes and obey the laws of our land.’
Shiva had been musing on the stranger’s offer, weighing the pros and cons. He would certainly not be a chief in this new land – but would he really miss that so much? His tribe would have to live by the foreigners’ laws rather than their own. They would have to work every day for a living, but surely that would be better than fighting every day just to stay alive?
He took another puff and as the smoke cleared he turned to stare at the hut in the centre of his village, right next to his own, where the foreigner was housed. He had been told he would sleep more comfortably there, but in truth, Shiva wanted him close as a hostage. Just in case.
Almost every month we have to fight the Pakratis, just so we can keep our village on the shore of the Holy Lake – but they are growing stronger every year, forming new alliances with new tribes. We can beat the Pakratis, but not all the mountain tribes together. If we move to Meluha, we can escape this pointless violence, maybe even start to live in some comfort. What could possibly be wrong with that? Why shouldn’t we take this deal? It sounds so good!
Shiva took one last drag, then knocked the ash from the chillum and rose quickly from his perch. Brushing a few specks of ash from his bare chest, he wiped his hands on his tigerskin skirt and strode rapidly to his village. Bhadra and his backup stood to attention as Shiva passed through the gates. Shiva frowned and gestured for Bhadra to ease up.
Why does he always treat me like this? Does he keep forgetting that he’s been my closest friend since childhood? Me becoming chief hasn’t really changed our relationship – he doesn’t need to be so servile.
The huts in Shiva’s village were luxurious compared to those of other tribes. Tall enough that a grown man could actually stand upright inside them, they were also strong enough to withstand the harsh mountain winds; they would last for three years before surrendering to the elements. Shiva flung the empty chillum into his own hut as he strode past it to the one next door where he found the visitor sleeping soundly.
Either he doesn’t realise he’s a hostage, or he genuinely believes that good behaviour begets good behaviour.
Shiva remembered what his uncle – and his guru – used to say: "People do what their society rewards them for doing. If the society rewards trust, people will be trusting."
Meluha must be a trusting society indeed if it teaches even its soldiers to expect the best of strangers.
Shiva scratched his shaggy beard as he stared hard at the visitor, who had given his name as Nandi. The Meluhan was huge, and he looked even bigger sprawled on the floor in a stupor, his immense belly jiggling with every breath. In spite of his obese appearance, his skin was taut and toned. His childlike face was even more innocent in sleep as he lay there with his mouth half-open.
My uncle used to talk of my great future – is this the man who will lead me to my destiny?
"Your destiny is much larger than these massive mountains," his uncle had told him, "but to make it come true, you will have to cross these very same massive mountains."
Do I deserve a good destiny? My people must always come first – will they be happy in Meluha?
As Shiva contemplated the sleeping Nandi he heard the warning sound of a conch shell.
"Positions," screamed Shiva as he unsheathed his sword and headed for the door.
Nandi was up in an instant, drawing a hidden sword from beneath his fur coat, and together they sprinted to the village gates. Following standing instructions, the women were already rushing to the centre of the village carrying their children, while the men were running the other way, swords drawn.
"Bhadra – call our soldiers at the lake," shouted Shiva as he reached the gates.
Bhadra relayed his chief’s orders and the Guna soldiers were up and running towards the village before he’d finished shouting. They were as surprised as Shiva had been when the Meluhans drew hidden weapons from their coats and joined the Gunas as they took up defensive positions.
The Pakratis were upon them within moments, and their ambush was well planned. At dusk, the Guna soldiers customarily thanked their gods in prayer for a day without battle while the women finished their chores by the lakeside. If there was a time of weakness for the formidable Gunas, a time when they were not a fearsome martial clan but just another mountain tribe trying to survive in a tough, hostile land, this was it.
But fate was against the Pakratis this time: the foreigners in their midst had prompted Shiva to order his tribesmen to remain more alert than usual, so the Pakratis lost much of the element of surprise. The Meluhan presence was also decisive in the skirmish itself, quickly turning the tide of the short, brutal battle in the Gunas’ favour. The Pakratis had no choice but to retreat.
Cut and bloodied, Shiva surveyed the damage at the end of the battle. Only two Guna soldiers had succumbed to their injuries, and they would be honoured as clan heroes. But the warning had come too late for at least ten Guna women and children, whose mutilated bodies were found next to the lake.
Bastards! They kill women and children when they can’t beat us. Livid, Shiva called the entire tribe to the centre of the village. His mind was made up. "This land is fit only for barbarians,’ he announced. ‘We’ve fought countless pointless battles with no end in sight. You know my uncle tried to make peace, even offering the mountain tribes access to the lake shore, but they mistook our desire for peace as weakness. We all know what followed—"
Despite being accustomed to the brutality of regular battle, the Gunas had been utterly appalled by the viciousness of the attack on the helpless women and children.
"I keep no secrets from you," Shiva went on. "You are all aware of the invitation the foreigners have extended to us." He pointed to Nandi and the Meluhans. "They fought shoulder-to-shoulder with us today, and they’ve earned my trust. I want to go with them to Meluha. But this cannot be my decision alone."
"You’re our chief, Shiva," said Bhadra firmly. "Your decision is our decision. That’s our tradition."
"Not this time," said Shiva. "This will change our lives completely. I believe the change will be for the better – anything will be better than this endless, pointless violence. I’ve told you what I want to do, but the choice to stay or go is yours. Let the Gunas speak. This time, I follow you."
The Gunas were clear on their tradition, but their respect for Shiva was based on his character as well as tribal convention. His genius and sheer personal bravery had led the tribe to their greatest military victories.
They spoke with one voice. "Your decision is our decision."
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