I am not rewriting history. Neither am I retelling the stories of the Mahabharata. I use historical facts and mysteries from the past as a base, and apply scientific facts and cutting edge research to interpret sections of the Mahabharata, but my books are thrillers – pure fiction.
In the course of my research over the last ten years (I started writing my first book in 2006), I have come across intriguing stories from the past, for which no satisfactory explanations have been forthcoming. And while there has been a fair amount of research on the links between science and western mythology, I failed to find any detailed research on any possible links between science and our own mythology. My books are an attempt to fill this void through fiction.
Myths and mysteries around Alexander the Great
I spent two years researching the great Macedonian king Alexander III or Alexander the Great while writing The Alexander Secret (Book 1 of The Mahabharata Quest series), and discovered some interesting facts. For example, there is no archaeological evidence to prove that Alexander even existed – the only basis we have are texts written by authors like Strabo, Plutarch and Arrian, who all wrote 200 to 400 years after his death. No doubt they based their texts on evidence that existed in their time, but that evidence has not survived the centuries.
Alexander did not disclose to his army that they were going all the way to what is today called India. All he told them was that they were going to conquer Persia. Once Persia was conquered and his army expressed a desire to return to Greece – very few people know about this event – Alexander goaded them to go further east, where lay a vast land waiting to be conquered.
The irony, though, is that when Alexander and his army reached this vast land, after 10,000 miles and right years of marching and fighting, he mysteriously turned back at the banks of the Beas. Why did Alexander turn back? The premise of my book is the possibility that Alexander came to India searching for the secret from the Mahabharata that would make him a god.
Interacting with young adults
When I discovered that more than 75 per cent of my readers are in the age group of 13 to 24 years, I wanted to engage with them. During these interactions, I share with them my experiences from researching historic locations, some dating back 5000 years in the past. I show them images and speak of documents and texts, some written as far back as 200 BC. We invariably discuss how traditional historical explanations fail to answer questions about our past, and, in many cases, have been proven to be nothing more than speculative theories with no basis in fact or reality.
The two examples that I usually give, which evoke a highly enthusiastic response from the youngsters in the audience, are with respect to the theory of the Aryan invasion of India (which has now been proven to be false after decades of being included in our curriculum as a historical fact) and the traditionally accepted theory, not based on science but assumption, of the dating of the Sphinx to around 2500 BC. Geological tests by Professor Robert Scoch of Boston University have now conclusively proved that the Sphinx is much older; as old as 7000 BC by some estimates.
The mention of megalithic sites in the UK, of which Stonehenge is the most famous, is also considerably popular with my young audience. The question that invariably follows is whether I will use the mystery of these stone circles and burial chambers in my books. Which brings us to the point that the next book in the Mahabharata Quest series – The Secret of the Druids – is set against the backdrop of the megalithic sites in England, Wales and Scotland.
Many students I’ve met have been inspired to start reading the Mahabharata. In every session I find that not more than a handful of students have either read a condensed version of the Mahabharata or a comic book version. If the students I have addressed form a representative sample, then a high percentage of our future generations are missing out on this rich heritage.
I have been highly impressed by the level of participation in the sessions; the curiosity of my young audience to know more about our mythology and the mysteries of the past is tremendous. Their thirst for knowledge should be leveraged to encourage them to develop the habit of reading at a young age.
I hope that the contemporary crop of authors who write either mythological fiction or retell the epics, can help revive the interest of our students in these ancient tales. It is now up to us authors to keep writing books that help these young adults nurture their reading habits and stay enthralled by the wonderful world of books.
Christopher C Doyle’s forthcoming book The Secret of the Druids (Book 2 of The Mahabharata Quest series) will be released in June 2016.