“It was India which invented the bow & arrow” my Dad blustered over the phone from Bombay, “remember Arjuna’s skill at archery? How he could concentrate till he saw nothing else but the target and shoot it with unerring precision time after time….” He had just returned from seeing the Hunger Games at his local multiplex, when my weekly Sunday phone call had sparked off this conversation; with him insisting that the cross-bow was an Indian invention.
“Uh! Dad” I protested, “not everything in science fiction comes from Indian mythology….” I was, as usual, embarrassed by his well known theme of India shining and claiming ownership of emerging trends. Yet his comment gave me pause for thought. I began to wonder if he had a point?
Cut to a few years back, when, on one of my annual trips to Bombay, the extended family had trooped off en masse to see Avatar in 3D at the brand new IMAX theatre in Bombay. I sat next to my father enjoying his excitement as he leaned forward to perch precariously close to the edge of the seat, fascinated by the incredible images flashing across the cinema screen.
And as the scene with the Tree of Souls which has a neural link to the Na’vi uniting them all as one, unfolded, he gasped in surprise shaking his head; explaining to me later that Ayurveda the Indian system of traditional medicine had a very similar concept of unity. That, all living creatures are linked to this planet and are one with Earth. The concept of blue people itself was familiar as many Indian Gods are depicted in similar fashion.
Ritesh: Lord Krishna is famously depicted in blue in all idols and paintings.
Flying chariots, Gods teleporting at will across dimensions, powerful weapons of war that could destroy entire armies, revolving discs & guided swords spewing fiery sparks which would return to their owners after hitting its target, illusions which could frighten without hurting, and the massive bow which only Rama could string to win the heart of the beautiful Sita… Hmmm! I had seen these scenes countless times over the years.
Amar Chitra Katha (Indian comic books) took over where my grandmother left off, yet what chance did a teenager’s raging hormones stand against tight bodysuits, plunging necklines, fanatical crime fighting and passionate love stories. With the first Superman movie I was in love with caped crusaders – Spiderman, Batman, Legion of Superheroes (my personal favourite) Green Lantern, Wonder Woman not to mention Tarzan & Phantom and much later Conan the Barbarian – I lived happily with them for a very long time.
And then I stumbled across the gaming world which is proud to borrow from Indian mythology. Take for example Asura’s Wrath an action video game released February 2012. According to the game’s producer Kazuhiro Tsuchiya, “Asura’s Wrath takes elements from Hindu mythology and blends them with science fiction. In the game, Asura is a demigod fighting to reclaim his daughter from the deities who kidnapped her and banished him from earth.”
Or for that matter Xena the Warrior Princess’ trademark chakram which looks and acts very similar to the famed sudarshan chakra (Lord Vishnu’s deadly weapon of choice – a golden discus which cuts through the target and returns to owner.)
Over the years I realised that Hollywood and the West have looked to Indian mythology for inspiration. But time has come full circle, with a brave new breed of Indian fantasy writers seeking to carry on the tradition of the ancient epics. Check out the brilliant Ramayana 3392 AD from New York based Liquid comics and the seductive Devi.
Ritesh: For me, the most vivid example is of me seeing the Matrix trilogy and wondering how much of the story relates to the religion of Jainism. The basic premise of the movies, of our life being an illusion, is something which Jainism talks about as well.
Do you agree? Have you come across more examples of Western science fiction drawing from Indian mythology? I’d love to hear from you.
author Bio – Laxmi Hariharan
For a long time I did not know what I was writing. The words flowed in a strange complex rhythm and I wondered if it was just wishful thinking. Imagine my surprise when I realised I was writing in the fantasy genre. My earliest memories are of my grandmother narrating stories from Indian mythology. Crushed by the chaotic metropolis of Bombay, Indian comics (Amar Chitra Katha), DC Comics & the Hardy Boys offered the only escape. Later a dissonant Hong Kong forced me to write down the many strange happenings in that city while London’s green spaces nurtured my writing. I am a writer & technophile inspired by Indian mythology.
You can find Laxmi here:
About The Destiny of Shaitan
When Yudi, Tiina & Rai embark on a mission to save the universe, they come up against the ruthless Shaitan who is determined to stop them at any cost. But they soon realise they have a bigger enemy – themselves. So they must learn to trust each other and overcome their fears as they fight their way towards the ultimate showdown. Partially set in a dystopian Bombay of the future, The Destiny of Shaitan is a coming of age story, painted against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic world.
Yudi, Tiina and Rai are destined to come together, for they are the Chosen Ones. It falls to them to save the universe from the powerful Shaitan, who is terrifying, and utterly merciless. Driven by greed, and fear for his own survival, Shaitan bulldozes his way through the galaxy, destroying anything that gets in his path, including his lovers and his own children. The battle between the Chosen Ones and Shaitan is a classic, epic encounter. Hated and feared by all, Shaitan must win this fight to keep his power.
The stakes are high, the combatants are determined, and no matter what the outcome their lives will be changed for all time.