The Secret of the Nagas is the second novel in the Shiva Trilogy by Amish Tripathi. In the previous book, Shiva helps the Meluhans launch an attack on Swadeep and defeat the Chandravanshis. Shiva along with Sati visits the Ram Temple in Ayodhya – the capital of Swadeep. The story continues from the last scene which is that of Shiva rushing to save Sati from being attacked by a Naga who is suspected of killing Brahaspati at Mount Mandar.
Shiva saves Sati but the Naga escapes leaving behind a few strange coins which are traced to Chandraketu, King of the Branga Empire. Shiva and Sati visit Kashi to meet with the Branga community settled there and try to gather information. The entourage includes General Paravateshwar – Chief of the Meluhan army, his deputies – Nandi and Veer Bhadra, Ayurvati – the Chief Meluhan doctor, Prince Bhagirath and Princess Anandamayi of Ayodhya. Anandamayi is a lissome, beautiful young lady who spends the long journey trying to lure and entice a wary Parvateshwar, who is sworn to celibacy.
To cut the story short, Shiva decides to visit Branga. As preparations begin in full swing ahead of the arduous journey, Sati gives birth to a son who is named Karthik by Shiva. Shiva then embarks on the voyage to Branga while Sati stays back to help defend a local village attacked by lions. Despite her efforts, Sati and her soldiers are on the verge of being defeated by the ferocious lions when suddenly a group of Nagas led by a man and woman appear and help them overpower the lions. The woman has an extra pair of hands and reveals herself as Kali – the Naga Queen and Sati’s twin sister separated at birth by their father, King Daksha, because of her deformities. The man in none other than Ganesh, Sati’s first born who was supposed to have died at childbirth, but was again separated from his mother by King Daksha because of his deformed face which gave him the appearance of an elephant.
Meanwhile, Shiva reaches the shores of Branga and defeats a fearsome bandit – Parashuram – who is a Vasudev Scholar and the only person knowing the cure for the Branga plague. Realizing that Shiva is indeed the Neelkanth, Parashuram severs his left hand as atonement for his sin of fighting against him and joins Shiva’s entourage back to Kashi.
On reaching Kashi, Shiva is introduced to Kali and Ganesh. Shiva recognizes Ganesh and accuses him of killing Brahaspati and attacking Sati. After a good measure of drama which involves lions, Ganesh and Karthik, Shiva reconciles with Ganesh and King Daksha admits abandoning Kali and Ganesh and also murdering Sati’s first husband. Shiva then travels to Panchavati where after some more action filled drama, he discovers that Brahaspati is very much alive and in good spirits!
While I rather enjoyed the first book, I found this one quite tedious and was mentally exhausted at the end of it.
First of all – too many characters, multiple locations and too many twists and turns in the plot. Second point was the narration and the language which were clumsy and uninspiring. Amish’s attempt at portraying the passionate Anadamayi falls flat. Instead of sounding passionate, she comes across as immature and almost vampish in her attempts to woo Parvateshwar. The most discordant note for me was the depiction of Ganesh and Kali. Granted that Amish has taken inspiration from Hindu religion and mythology, and agreed that as an author he has “artistic license”. While he has not tampered too much with the image of Shiva, I felt his interpretation of Ganesh and Kali and calling them the Nagas – humans with deformities – was not too appealing. Especially since I have grown up reading the stories of these iconic Indian Gods. The fusion of Amish’s creativity and imagination with the Hindu Gods and mythology does not seem to work too harmoniously.
I finished the book feeling a little drained, irritated and confused – it was like listening to a song sung off key! I confess, it was with some hesitation and trepidation that I picked up the third book – The Oath of the Vayuputras.. More to come shortly 🙂