Right from Shakuntala to Aryavarta Chronicles, here are 10 Indian epics that are loved, cherished and read worldwide and deserve a screen space of their own.
With their enjoyable plots, creative direction and larger-than-life stories, these epic sagas revolve around the history of India and have surpassed the boundaries of great literature. They speak of simpler times, of mythological tales, and even have lessons for those who are looking for them. How lovely would it be if they were soon on the silver screen!
As their counterpart, Ponniyin Selvan is set to get a sequel after a much acclaimed first release; fans are ecstatic about this news. The sequel was announced by the official Twitter handle of Lyca Productions, who shared a short clip announcing the release date as 28 April, 2023.
While the epic drama has gotten its big release, here is a list of other heroic novels that deserve to be turned into movies.
1. Shiva Trilogy
Written by Amish Tripathi, the Shiva Trilogy is about the war that takes place between the existing kingdoms of Meluha and Swadeep. It chronicles the journey of a tribal hailing from Mount Kailash and his path to becoming the Mahadev. While the trilogy has sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide, Amish was quoted saying in an interview that he hadn’t written a word of literature before the trilogy.
2. Arjuna: Saga of A Pandava Warrior-Prince
The book revolves around Arjuna, one of the Pandava princes, and his escapades as he goes through life. One can also get a glimpse into the Pandava brothers’ lives along with their many antics. It is said that Arjuna was gifted to Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas, by the grace of the Wind God Vayu and was said to be a man capable of great things right from his birth. Through the chapters that follow, this journey is evident. Written by Anuja Chandramouli, the story is intertwined with love, friendship and human emotion.
3. Aryavarta Chronicles
Comprising three books — Govinda, Kaurava and Kurukshetra — the Aryavarta Chronicles was written by Krishna Udayasankar. The series is a retelling of the Mahabharata and its characters through the lenses of the kingdoms that existed in those times. The hero protagonist Govinda Shauri’s path is detailed as he is determined to change the course of things, destroy everything he loves, and make the ultimate sacrifice in the hope that humanity will rise.
A Sanskrit epic written by Asvogosha, a Buddhist poet, the Buddhacharita is one of the greatest Indian epics and was conceived as early as the 2nd century AD. The epic centres around Buddha’s life and teachings, and the miracles he performed. Through the book, the various acts of Buddha known as ‘Sakyamuni Buddha’ are spoken about. These are written by Asvogosha, who was one of the members of Kanishka’s court, an ardent Buddhist follower, and one of the greatest kings of the Kushan dynasty. The book further tells how Buddha became a religious leader because of the various acts of charity he performed.
5. The Arthashastra
Described by Roger Boesche as “a book of political realism, a book analysing how the political world does work and not very often stating how it ought to work, a book that frequently discloses to a king what calculating and sometimes brutal measures he must carry out to preserve the state and the common good,” the 2,300-year-old book, written by Kautilya, has 15 parts and was written in between the 2nd–3rd century BCE.
6. Chanakya’s Chant
Centred around the time period of 340 BC, Chanakya’s Chant is about a Brahmin youth, Chanakya, who sees to it that his disciple Chandragupta Maurya is put on the throne of the Mauryan empire. Nearly two and a half millennia later, Chanakya is back due to a curse put on him during his childhood and takes birth as a poor Brahmin teacher. It remains to be seen if the Chanakya Chant will work its magic. This is a work of art by Ashwin Sanghi.
Written by acclaimed author Krishna Udayasankar, Immortal is about a man who has walked the earth for thousands of years and is actually Asvatthama — the cursed immortal, the man who cannot die. The book follows the quest of Vajra, which is said to be the secret of unending life, and how Asvatthama feels it is this that will lead him to know the mysteries behind his own existence.
It is regarded as one of the most powerful epic poems in Sanskrit by Bharavi and revolves around the two central characters — Shiva and Arjuna. The time period focused on in the epic is the Pandavas’ exile during the Mahabharata which tells the tale of how Sage Vyasa advises them to please the Gods during this period.
Written by Kalidasa, Shakuntala is an epic about a girl by the same name — the daughter of sage Vishwamitra and the beautiful apsara (celestial nymph), Menaka. While her childhood was spent roaming around the hills along with her friends, Shakuntala grew up to be a beautiful woman — simply dressed, soft-spoken, with a sweet nature. The epic chronicles her life.
Internationally known as Vikram-Betaal and in India as Vetala Panchavimshati, the epic written by Kashmiri poet Somdev Bhatt is about the legendary king Vikramaditya. The king makes a promise to a tantric sorcerer that he will capture a Vetala (semi-divine being) that hangs upside-down from trees and inhabits dead bodies. What is interesting is that every time Vikram captures the Vetala, it tells a story that ends with a riddle; the epic is a collection of these stories.
(Edited by Pranita Bhat)