Mohini – The Enchantress : a beautiful ode to the Goddess of Beauty and Fertility

Namrata talks about Anuja Chandramouli’s latest book, Mohini: The Enchantress ( August, 2020) calling it an attempt to paint a fresh image of Mohini in the reader’s mind.

“Elusive as a fragment of a forgotten dream, fragile as a figment from fantasy, Mohini is perfection made possible.
Distilled from the essence of Vishnu, Mohini the Enchantress is a part of him and yet she revels in the autonomy and extraordinary powers of beauty, magic and enchantment that are hers to wield. She is loved and desired by all in existence and yet, she is elusive tantalizing temptress, traipsing her way across the topsy-turvy terrain of fable and myth.”

Anuja Chandramouli

Anuja Chandramouli’s Mohini is a beautiful ode to the Goddess of Beauty and Fertility. Considered to be the only female avatar of Vishnu, created by Vishnu and Shakti, this book traces her life through sands of time.

As an author Anuja Chandramouli has been known to explore lesser known aspects of different mythological characters and bring their stories to the readers. Starting with Arjuna, she went to write some stellar best-selling epics on Ganga, Shakti, Kartikeya, Kama Deva etc. Her debut novel, Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince, was named as one of the top five books in the Indian Writing category by Amazon India in 2013.

Coming from an author who is known for the strong female characters in her book, it comes as no surprise that Mohini’s character arc is a treat for a reader to witness. The vibrancy and the vivacity of her character has been very well brought out in these pages by Chandramouli.

Mohini was created by Lord Vishnu to defeat the Asuras in a battle. Lord Vishnu wanted to avoid any blood shed and hence thought of this peaceful way to do so. While we have read about her being an enchantress, this book shows us more aspects of her character which were largely unknown till now. One of the many unknown attributes is also her extraordinary magical powers.

The language of the book is sheer poetry with descriptions that can be easily called dreamy and exuberant.

“We floated together through space, snuggled up against each other and cradled within the pillowy softness of the cosy clouds as the wind fanned our cheeks. All around, there was nothing but absolute night. Were we trapped inside of a dream? Or were we awake in a dream within a d

With a cover that is reminiscent of the enchanting beauty associated with Mohini, Chandramouli sets the tone for her reader. Strangely enough, the book has no plot per se and follows an extremely unusual style of narration. It definitely piques the interest of a reader who, after a point, is addicted to the style and keeps turning page after page to know more.

Known to be a seductress, Mohini as a character has many shades. Chandramouli brings out all the shades effectively by using first person narrative making the experience extremely personal and evocative. It needs to be added here, this book goes beyond the stereotypes in many ways and breaks many a myth associated with Mohini.

It is interesting to observe how the author explores free will and destiny through the narrative with a story that is gripping and alluring at the same time. Reading the book makes you realise why female characters have never gotten their due in Indian mythology or have been misheard and misinterpreted. It is simply because the point of view was skewed and patriarchal to an extent that it impacted the characters. Books like these bring out the hidden aspects of the characters who were otherwise ignored or left out till now. With authors like Chitra Divakaruni Banerjee, Kavita Kane and Anuja Chandramouli, Indian readers are not only able to read about such characters but also see the whole story from their perspective. That in itself is a lot of food for thought.

Backed with immense research, Mohini – The Enchantress is an attempt to paint a fresh image of Mohini in the reader’s mind, which is slightly different than what we have grown up knowing about her. Nevertheless, she still remains captivating and beguiling.

Unsurprisingly, Mohini is surrounded by admirers who dote on her and by women, who want to be like her. Free from the boundaries of a society and the limitations that come with it, she is a character that fascinates one and all with her carefree approach to everything in life – from love to marriage and from joy to pain. Through her story, the author explores various themes which are still present in our society like female desires, independence, sexism, misogyny and patriarchy. One of the recurring themes is the pressure on appearance of a woman, so much so that she is never encouraged to explore other aspects of her existence. Fair, flawless, thin, curvaceous, buxom – are some of the many labels women are given which overshadow their other strengths like that of being smart and intelligent.

In this book, we are also introduced to various other secondary characters like Diti and Aditi, Ganga, Bhumi Devi and Kavyamata who are equally fascinating.  There are many portions where Mohini’s self-introspection takes the main stage and highlights her ordeal. While it is interesting to know her ordeal, at some places the introspection gets a bit stretched and breaks the flow of the narrative. It becomes an unwelcome intrusion at places where the story has just picked up pace and one wants to simply bask in the captivating storytelling.

Throughout the book the author has managed to connect the past with the present skilfully making you wonder if anything has changed at all for women!

Reviewer’s Bio: Namrata is the editor of Kitaab.

Namrata is a lost wanderer who loves travelling the length and breadth of the world. She lives amidst sepia toned walls, fuchsia curtains, fairy lights and shelves full of books. When not buried between the pages of a book, she loves blowing soap bubbles. A published author she enjoys capturing the magic of life in her words and is always in pursuit of a new country and a new story. 

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