A Telugu author, scriptwriter, and translator, Vakkantham Suryanarayana Rao has more than eighty titles to his credit. The book under review Navagraha Purana is a fascinating chronological account of birth, life and glory of nine planets in great detail. The book, originally written in English by VS Rao has been translated into Hindi by Vai Shankar Murti. The book is divided into three sections namely ‘Birth of the Nine Planets’, ‘Life of the Nine Planets’ and the ‘Glory of the Nine Planets’. The book follows the ancient story telling format in which the disciples urge their Guru to tell them about the life and glory of all the nine planets. VS Rao has beautifully structured the work wherein he starts with the Sun God and then talks about all the other planets and their lives in immense detail. VS Rao explicates about the lives of the nine planets in a fictional story telling format. He weaves various stories which are intertwined and amalgamates mythology and fiction together. The text takes you deeper into Indian mythology wherein readers learn about the creation of the universe by Lord Vishnu and about the bearers of these nine planets. Stories of the Sun God subduing his raging heat to please his beloved and the Moon God waning every month after he received a curse from his Guru for lusting after his wife pull the readers into mythology, which would have been tedious if written in a non-fictional genre. Several anecdotes like the Sun God residing in the right eye of Lord Vishnu, Sheelvati wishing against sunrise to save her husband from dying and Sangya (Lord Surya’s wife) creating a replica of herself out of a shadow named Chhaya make the text a definite page turner. The book is one of its kind that systematically takes the reader into the mystical world of planets and how our lives get influenced by the blessings and fury of these planets.
The text however at times gives the sense of being a religious text. A work of fiction, it tries to transcend that boundary and, on several occasions, becomes a staunch religious manifesto, which watches over the various actions and conducts of people and steers them likewise. The story of Shani asking Tridev to ensure that he instills fear in the hearts of all the human beings and the tales of Rahu and Ketu often paint these planets as the repository of all the powers in the universe and human beings not having any control over their lives. Nevertheless it takes the readers on a fascinating journey wherein they learn about Indian mythology in a factual and conceptual manner, which is thought provoking. Navagraha Purana is a beautiful medley of humour, drama and devotion, which at the same time also asserts that no one can get away from the impeccable influence of these nine planets.
Ruchi Nagpal is a research scholar in the Department of English, Jamia Millia Islamia. She is working as a Project Fellow under the aegis of UGC SAP DRS, Phase III, Jamia Millia Islamia,