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Anju Virmani

By Mala Dayal
Year 2016, PP 74, Rs. 395.00

VOLUME XL NUMBER 11 November 2016

The stories of Hanuman, son of Vasu and Anjana, his adven- tures as a child, his role in the Ramayana, and then in the Mahabharata, are a cornerstone of Hindu mythology. Hanuman’s life is like an adventure movie—filled with acts of great strength and courage, in- terspersed with evidence of his learn- ing and wisdom—so that it can be as exciting for the youngest child as it can be profound for an adult. In ear- lier generations, children had the fa- cility of grandmothers and grandfathers to tell them stories from our rich and varied mythology. With ever shrinking families, the child must have access to other sources. In her book The Story of Hanuman, Maya Dayal introduces very young children to some of these tales. Told simply, the book touches upon many events he is famous for: swallowing Surya, then persuading him to be his teacher; becoming Sugriva’s minister as guru-dakshina, and then helping him and Rama get together. It moves on to his time with Rama: finding Sita, after much adventure; demoralizing the enemy by poking fun at Ravana, and then burning Lanka; enabling the army to cross over into Lanka, and saving Lakshmana’s life by getting the Sanjeevani booti. Then after the return to Ayodhya, the devotion to Sita and Rama, and finally, in another yuga, the encounter with Bhima. Oddly, many telling stories have been omitted: knowing where to go to look for the Vaidya Sushena; returning Dronagiri back in the Himalayas af- ter the precious herb had been harvested; guarding Rama and Lakshmana in a tent made from his own tail; saving the brothers from Ahiravana in Patala... Instead, the book digresses into the story of Kumbhakarna. Aimed at the young child, the book removes many nuances, and makes the interaction of the characters fairly simplis- tic. Thus Hanuman discarding precious pearls because they lacked the essence of Sita-Rama comes across as silly rather than a wise rejection of hubris. The illustrations by Taposhi Ghoshal are beautiful: bright, colourful full page pictures interspersed with small doses of text. The expressions on the characters’ faces, the details of the forest or the mountain or the enormous tail, all bring alive the story. Keeping the young audience in mind, it is designed to be interactive, with multiple small games interspersed through the tales: naming activi- ties; spotting the differences between Vali and ...

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