Lanka’s Princess by Kavita Kane – Story of a Misunderstood Girl Labelled a Monstress
23rd February, 2017
Lanka’s princess tells the story of Surpanaka, who was born as Meenakshi, a pretty girl with beautiful eyes.
The book is a mythological retelling from the POV of Surpanaka, who is said to be the reason for the war between Lord Rama and King Ravana of Lanka in Hindu mythology.
Lanka’s Princess follows Surpanaka from her early childhood days, less loved by her parents, into her adulthood. She is a misunderstood character in mythology and Kane asks us whether she is the manipulative monstress we label her to be or a victim in a man’s world. She had to take decisions about her life by herself, protect herself and fight for her rights which justifies her actions in the latter part of the book.
The POV is brilliant. Surpanaka’s story is an often neglected one. She gets a secondary appearance (firstly because she is a monstress and secondly as she is a woman) in the epic. I like how Kane weaved the story from Meenakshi’s thoughts as a child and the grief she encounters because she is always loved lesser than her brothers. I particularly liked the character development in Meenakshi’s father, the rishi (hermit), who realizes that his children have more of the monster blood, from their mother’s side, in them. They do not crave for knowledge and their actions are not righteous, so perhaps he has to choose between his family and ethics.
The pacing of the story was too slow for me. I was bored throughout Meenakshi’s childhood upto her marriageable age that I considered not reading further. Often several examples are given to prove the same point – that the boys were preferred over the girl child, so it felt repetitive. However the period in Lanka was a fast and breezy read. Kane moves swiftly through Ravan’s reign, his scandals with women, the ignored Meenakshi whose brothers do not even think about her marriage, secrets in the family, love and betrayal. That said, the book again looms into a slow read towards the middle of the war between Ravan and Ram. The beginning and end was slow paced compared to the middle section. I think I would have enjoyed it more if the book was crisper.
Final Verdict :
Kane tells us how a demure girl, Meenakshi, is given the name Surpanaka and whether the name is an apt one or not. I would recommend the book if you are really interested in Indian Hindu mythology. But if you are new to Kavita Kane, I suggest you pick one of her earlier works that are so highly praised. Lanka’s Princess would not be a good start for a new reader. I am eager to read Karna’s wife and Sita’s sister, both of which have been highly recommended to me.
Title : Lanka’s Princess
Author : Kavita Kane
Publisher : Rupa Publications
Published : 2016
Language : English
Rating : 3/5
Much thanks to Rupa Publications for a copy of the book. All opinions are my own.
Do you like mythological retellings?