Hanuman, the symbol of power, purity and faith in the Ramayana, has appeared in a new avatar - as the sutradhar (narrator) of the epic mythological tale in an adventure activity and comic book for children Where's Hanuman.
Conceived and written by California-based publisher and a devotee of Lord Krishna, Alister Taylor, the animation book which is the first of a series has been illustrated by Christopher Woods and Ben McClintic and published in India by Penguin-Books India.
It was launched on Saturday at the Reliance Timeout Store in Gurgaon in an action-packed activity evening for children and their parents. The activities centred on Hanuman, the most frequently invoked deities in the country and his brave lores.
A live-sized mannequin of the monkey god kept the children glued to the programme.
The slim volume begins with an introduction of Hanuman in first person and a cast of all the characters, both man and animals, who accompanied him on his journey of life. It also has a list of six objects - a bow, mace, conch, discus, ring and lotus - which Hanuman lost along the way.
As part of the adventure exercise, children were supposed to spot the objects and characters, all associated with Hanuman in some way or the other, from the double-spread illustrations of Ramayana in the book.
"It is a new concept. The idea is to make the book participatory and interactive in nature. The children have to identify Hanuman and his associates from the illustrated sequences from Ramayana. They are almost hidden in unlikely corners. It is a good way to keep the children engaged and promote the epic," Taylor said.
The events illustrated in a rather humorous manner include mega crowded affairs like Sita's Wedding, Demons in the Forest (King Rama fighting the demons), The Coronation of Sugriva, Marshalling the Armies (a huge jungle scene), Marching to Lanka, Ravana's Palace, Building the Bridge, Battle Scene, Attacking Lanka and The Pushpaka.
"Our favourite character in Ramayana is Hanuman. He signifies faith and fearlessness. He is almost like god," Bharti Khatwani from Vasant Kunj in the capital told IANS. She helped son Sameer, a Class 7 student, identify Hanuman and his entourage as part of a "Spot The Hanuman" contest at the launch.
Creator-publisher Taylor, head of Torchlight Publishing in the US, says his life is linked to Ramayana and Hanuman because "the epic changed the course of my vocation".
"Twenty-five years ago, on a flight from Cairo to New Zealand, somebody gave me a copy of the English translation of the Ramayana to read. It was not very reader friendly. The language was stilted. I realised that the world needed a contemporary and easy Ramayana. I asked one of my friends to translate both Ramayana and Mahabharata. It took nearly 10 years and then I set up a publishing house to print them. Ramayana was published in 1996 followed by Mahabharata in 1998. Both the books were best-sellers in the US. Since then, I had Hanuman in my mind," Taylor said.
The publisher loves the "great Indian classics" and has a section devoted to them in his catalogue.
His publications on Indian mysticism and religion include a volume on "Vaisnava Saints," "Krsna, Israel, and the Druze", "The Final Journey (Complete Hospice Care for Departing Vaisnavas)", "Krsna Land", "Prince Rama, Son of the Solar Dynasty" and "Bhagwad Gita for Children".
"The 'Bhagwad Gita for Children' is doing well in the US. I keep coming back to India almost every year and I love its culture. I realised over the last few years that Indian kids were losing base with their culture. It spurred the book on Hanuman," he said.
Taylor, an ISKCON member, already has a "Hanuman sequel in mind".