Book Reviews

Living Indian Psyche

A Critical Study of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s the Forest of Enchantments
by P.V. Laxmiprasad
Nitya Publications, Bhopal, 2020, ISBN: 978-93-91267-56-9 Pp 155

The book under the review is critically evaluated by P.V. Laxmiprasad. It is entitled “Living Indian Psyche: A Critical Study of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Forest of Enchantments" by P.V. Laxmiprasad is a well-researched and insightful analysis of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's novel, The Forest of Enchantments. The book offers a critical perspective on the novel and its themes, as well as on Indian mythology and eco-criticism.

The author starts with a preface, in the preface, P.V. Laxmiprasad explains his reasons for writing the book. His interest in Indian mythology, particularly the Ramayan, and his appreciation for Divakaruni's novel inspired him to create a critical analysis of the work. Laxmiprasad considers Sita, the protagonist of the novel, to be the "Living Indian Psyche" and has used various secondary sources to support his arguments. He acknowledges that there may be differences of opinion, but believes that his critical volume will be a valuable contribution to Indian Writing in English.

The preface is followed by an introduction to Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, providing a brief overview of her life and work. She is an Indian-American novelist who has written more than 17 books and has received over 15 prestigious awards. She was born in Kolkata, India, and received her Master's degree in English from Wright State University and her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. Divakaruni is a celebrated poet, short story writer, activist, and teacher of writing, and she teaches in the nationally ranked Creative Writing program at the University of Houston.

Her works mostly focus on the cultural and social aspects of diasporic generations, through the experience of South Asian immigrants. She writes across genres ranging from realistic fiction and historical fiction to magical realism, myth, and fantasy.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is a prolific author who has written novels, poetry, and anthologies. Her creative works include:

Novels: "Arranged Marriage: Stories" (1995), "The Mistress of Spices" (1997), "Sister of My Heart" (1999), "The Unknown Errors of our Lives" (2001), "The Vine of Desire" (2002), "Queen of Dreams" (2004), "The Lives of Strangers" (2007), "The Palace of Illusions: A Novel" (2008), "One Amazing Thing" (2010), "Oleander Girl" (2013), "Before We Visit the Goddess" (2016), "The Forest of Enchantments" (2019), and "The Last Queen" (2021).

Young adult and children's books: "Neela: Victory Song" (2002) and "Grandma and the Great Gourd" (2013) (children's picture book).

Brotherhood of the Conch series: "The Conch Bearer" (2003), "The Mirror of Fire and Dreaming" (2005), and "Shadow Land" (2009).

Poetry: "Mr. Aryanyadav, 1987," "The Reason for Nasturtiums, Berkeley" (Berkeley Poets Workshop) 1990, "Black Candle. Poems About Women from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh," and "Leaving Yuba City, St. Louis" (Turtleback Books) 1999.

Anthologies: "Multitude: Cross Cultural Readings for Writers" (1993), "We Too Sing America" (1997), and "California Uncovered: Stories for the 21st Century" (2004).

P.V. Laxmiprasad has researched and provided information about the Hindu concept of Yuga Cycle, which describes four world ages or yugas - Krita (Satya) Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dvapara Yuga, and Kali Yuga. The duration of each yuga decreases by one-fourth (25%) in the order of occurrence, with the Kali Yuga being the shortest and current age. Each yuga is also said to have a dawn and dusk period, known as yuga-sandhya and yuga-sandhyaṃsa, respectively, with each lasting for one-tenth (10%) of its main period. The lengths of each yuga and its parts are given in divine years, where each divine year equals 360 solar (human) years. The complete Yuga Cycle lasts for 4,320,000 years (12,000 divine years).

P.V. Laxmiprasad has also provided the beginning and ending dates and lengths of each yuga based on the Kali Yuga, which began in 3102 BCE, and the current cycle's four yugas, which are Krita (Satya) Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dvapara Yuga, and Kali Yuga. The Krita Yuga started in 3,891,102 BCE and lasted for 1,728,000 (4,800 divine) years, the Treta Yuga started in 2,163,102 BCE and lasted for 1,296,000 (3,600 divine) years, the Dvapara Yuga started in 867,102 BCE and lasted for 864,000 (2,400 divine) years, and the current and shortest Kali Yuga started in 3102 BCE and will last for 432,000 (1,200 divine) years, ending in 428,899 CE

The author then delves into Indian mythology, providing readers with a comprehensive understanding of the various myths and legends that influence the novel's narrative. Laxmiprasad has likely read and studied the Ramayana extensively, given its significant cultural and literary importance in Indian history and Hinduism. As a work of literature, the Ramayana is known for its intricate character development, complex plot, and profound philosophical themes. One of the most prominent characters in the epic is Goddess Sita, who symbolizes the ideal woman with her unwavering loyalty to her husband, Lord Rama. Sita's character is a source of inspiration for many, as she displays extraordinary strength and devotion in the face of extreme hardship.

In this chapter, Laxmiprasad discusses the Ramayana, an ancient Indian epic written by Valmiki, which is considered to be one of the greatest works of literature in Indian history. The Ramayana has survived the test of time and continues to be critically acclaimed, striking a chord with everyone's lives and touching their inner soul with subtle delicacy. It has been translated into over 300 languages and is one of the largest ancient epics in world literature, comprising seven books and around 24,000 verses.

The characters in the Ramayana are inspirational figures, and the story follows the life of Rama, a legendary prince of Ayodhya, and his fourteen-year exile to the forest with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana. The epic also narrates the kidnapping of Sita by Ravana, the king of Lanka, and the resulting war before Rama's eventual return to Ayodhya to be crowned king.

Sita, Rama's wife, symbolizes the meaning of an ideal woman, filled with loyalty for her husband. Her name means "furrow," symbolizing the place where she was found by her father. Sita embodies the character of an ideal woman to an ideal man, containing the right thoughts and actions. The characters Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Bharata, Hanuman, and Ravana are all fundamental to the cultural consciousness of South Asian nations such as India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asian countries like Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.

The Ramayana is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and an important text of Hinduism, the other being the Mahabharata. The epic belongs to the genre of Itihasa, narratives of past events interspersed with teachings on the goals of human life. Scholars' estimates for the earliest stages of the text range from the 5th century BCE up to the 3rd century CE.

There are many versions of the Ramayana in Indian languages, besides Buddhist, Sikh, and Jain adaptations. The Ramayana was an important influence on later Sanskrit poetry and Hindu life and culture, emphasizing the importance of virtue in the life of a citizen and in the ideals of the formation of a state or of a functioning society. The excerpt from Laxmiprasad's work provides an insightful look into the etymology and textual characteristics of the Ramayana. The author delves into the meaning behind the name of the epic, explaining how it is derived from the two words "Rama" and "ayana", and the different contextual meanings of the name "Rama".

The author also sheds light on the genre of the Ramayana, which belongs to the category of Itihasa, or narratives of past events. The epic is not just a story but also presents teachings on the goals of human life, portraying ideal characters such as the ideal father, servant, brother, husband, and king. The Ramayana is an epic poem that belongs to the genre of Itihasa, which includes narratives of past events and teachings on the goals of human life.

This literary masterpiece portrays ideal characters such as the ideal father, servant, brother, husband, and king, depicting the duties of relationships. Like the Mahabharata, the Ramayana presents the teachings of ancient Hindu sages in narrative allegory, interspersing philosophical and ethical elements. The extant form of the Ramayana, written by Valmiki, is a remarkable work of art, comprising some 24,000 verses divided into seven kandas. It is a must-read for anyone interested in exploring the rich cultural heritage of India and gaining insights into ancient Indian philosophy and ethics.

What is particularly interesting is the author's explanation of how the Ramayana presents the teachings of ancient Hindu sages through narrative allegory, with philosophical and ethical elements interspersed throughout. This aspect of the epic is what sets it apart from a mere retelling of a story. This excerpt is a well-written and informative piece that provides readers with a deeper understanding of the origins and significance of the Ramayana. It would be a valuable read for anyone interested in Hindu mythology or ancient Indian literature.

Laxmi Prasad's comprehensive analysis of the main characters in The Ramayana provides valuable insights into the epic tale. His detailed descriptions of the personalities, motives, and actions of the characters help readers to better understand and appreciate the story.

As a scholar of Indian literature and mythology, Laxmiprasad finds the diverse regional versions of the Ramayana to be a fascinating aspect of this epic tale. It is truly remarkable how this story has been adapted and retold in various ways across India. From the north to the south, different authors have created their own unique versions, each with their own distinct perspectives and cultural influences.

While some of these versions may differ significantly from each other, they all share a common thread of moral and spiritual values that are central to the story. Whether it is the Valmiki Ramayana, the Kamban Ramayana, or the Tulsidas Ramayana, each version offers a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of India.

What is equally fascinating is the widespread popularity of the Ramayana outside of India, particularly in Southeast Asia. The fact that the story has been adopted by so many cultures and adapted in so many different ways is a testament to its universal appeal and enduring relevance.


The book also explores eco-critical perspectives in the novel, analyzing how the novel addresses environmental issues and portrays the relationship between humans and nature. The author uses various literary theories to provide a nuanced interpretation of the novel, making the book a valuable resource for scholars and students of literature.

The highlight of the book is undoubtedly the critical appreciation of The Forest of Enchantments. The author provides a detailed analysis of the novel's plot, characters, and themes, examining how Divakaruni uses various literary techniques to create a vivid and engaging narrative. The author's analysis is comprehensive and thought-provoking, making readers appreciate the novel's depth and complexity.

In the concluding chapter, the author summarizes the key points of the book, offering his final thoughts on the novel and its themes. The book also includes an author's bio-note, providing readers with more information about the author's credentials and research interests.

"Living Indian Psyche: A Critical Study of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Forest of Enchantments" is a well-written and insightful book that offers a valuable perspective on Indian mythology, eco-criticism, and literature. The author's analysis of the novel is particularly noteworthy, making the book a must-read for anyone interested in Divakaruni's work or Indian literature in general.


More by :  Renu Dhotre

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Views: 610      Comments: 1

Comment It is a very good review. Congratulations to the Laxmiprasad and the reviewer.

07-Jun-2023 08:44 AM

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