Ganesha’s Temple by Rohit Gaur is a masterful and meaningful adventure.
Escapism is one of the basic reasons why people read, so books that transport readers to completely new worlds, or rarely seen corners of this one, are particularly compelling. Ganesha’s Temple by Rohit Gaur is the first installment of a brilliant new series that perfectly blends mysticism and adventure.
Tarun is a young boy in Kashmir, the son of the country’s chief minister, who is thrown into the wilds of nature following a horrific attack on a local festival celebrating Ganesha. The vivid depiction of the attack sends the heart racing, and the panic of terror is captured in every word. The chaos that follows tears Tarun from his mother’s side, and he is kidnapped by unknown forces, but when the truck he’s being transported in crashes, he flees into the forest.
Gaur does an excellent job painting every scene of the world in which Tarun lives, and for many readers, this book may be their first introduction to Kashmiri culture. As the momentum of the story changes, however, exposition and action fade into fiction and magic, as Tarun meets the elephant god himself, Ganesha. Promising that he can help Tarun save his mother, the unlikely pair – deity and child – form a strange alliance. Balancing backstory and a dynamic plot is a constant struggle for any author, but the poetic nature of Gaur’s writing makes even the necessary explanations of devas and the Veiled Lands sparkle with mystery and appeal.
Suspension of disbelief is natural for fiction readers, but this book is heavily based in religion and belief, and Tarun’s young and willing mind makes the idea of Ganesha’s quest much more real. For a young boy, Tarun is wise beyond his years, and matures through every chapter as he is pushed towards his extraordinary mission into the Veiled Lands: “As absurd as the situation was, as difficult as it was to process, Tarun knew he had no other choice: who else would do it, if he did not?”
The entire story feels based in symbolism, even the objects that Tarun is tasked to recover – Ganesha’s axe, rope and tusk – are loaded with meaning and morality. Tarun’s harrowing odyssey into the spirit world is fraught with peril and life lessons, providing an exciting rush for the reader, but also a number of philosophical arguments and existential elbow nudges, making this book engaging and appropriate for all ages.
Gaur’s writing is impeccable and carefully laid out, and clearly influenced by the traditions of classic Eastern writers and mythology. The flow between Tarun’s mother in her cell and his wild adventures in the Veiled Lands keeps readers cognizant and focused on every side of the story – a constant reminder of the consequences should Tarun fail on his quest. The story boasts dark themes, as well as amusing, lighthearted moments, but the pace never slackens and it’s a mad rush to the finish. Gaur takes just enough time to flesh out every scene, but the artful prose is never boring, and the contextual landscapes the author creates, from Parvati’s sterile prison cell to the mystical city of Candeuil, are inspiring and rich.
The first novel in a series, particularly one as expansive, ambitious and creative as this one, must be strong to ensure that readers will be drawn into the remaining books. Suffice to say, this tour de force of imagery, emotion, philosophy and magic will leave readers eager for more.