It’s captured the collective imagination of a nation for generations. It’s been part of our textbooks and itineraries. The Konark temple in Orissa remains one of India’s national treasures, yet very little is known about the beginnings and the background of this breathtaking structure that faces the Bay of Bengal.
The editors at Amar Chitra Katha have done a terrific, most exhaustive job in weaving fact, mythology and folklore in this storybook. While most fans of ACK titles will lap this one up like the rest, it’s impossible to miss the fluid structuring with which multi-layered story has been dealt with. Set in the 13th century with constant flashbacks to the early ages where the gods and mankind rubbed shoulders, the storyboards are a delight to look and read through. The great Ganga king, Narasimha Deva I had commissioned 1,200 artisans to recreate the scene of Surya, the Sun God as he rose into the sky in his regal chariot, pulled by seven horses.
Drama, religion, gods, tragedy and history are interspersed with relative ease. Characters in the form of his Chief Minister Sibai Santra and master artisan Bisu Maharana and his son Dharmapada play central roles in this thrill-a-page comic book adaptation about one of India’s most popular, revered landmarks. We loved the racy text, refreshing colours and simplistic approach to this story tale. Full marks for making it an engaging read.
Amar Chitra Katha’s latest release, Salim Ali — The Bird Man of India, is an attempt to put a face and life to the man after whom the road housing the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) is named. Ali was an Indian ornithologist whose love and work for birds earned him the title of ‘The Bird Man of India’. During his lifetime, he authored several books based on his studies of birds in their natural habitat — the most famous being the ten-volume Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan.Ali was the man behind the formation of the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. His efforts in the field of Ornithology (study of birds) earned him the Padma Bhushan n 1958 and the Padma Vibhushan in 1976. He died in 1987 at the age of 91.
The 32-page book opens with the story of Ali and his eight siblings, who were all adopted by their maternal aunt, Hameda Begum, and uncle Amiruddin Tyabji after Ali was orphaned at the age of three. Ali’s love for birds was evidenced from an early age — apparent in the secret aviary he had in his home.
Ali lived an eventful life that took him to Burma (Myanmar) and Pakistan, where he continued to bird-watch in local forests, armed with his keen eye for detail. The book lists several instances, during which Ali risked his life, facing natural and human dangers (he was once attacked by a dacoit) to get closer to the birds he wished to observe.
Konark, Vol 833, Dr Salim Ali, Vol 835, Rs 50 (both titles). Available at leading bookstores.