The Legend of Virinara tells the story of a mighty city-state in south India. In 120 ce, soon after the kingdom starts to expand into the surrounding forests, its glittering capital, Dandavrut, is attacked in a brazen act of terror. Even as Raja Vijay unleashes his forces against the nomadic forest dwellers, his beloved sister Shanti treks secretly into the wilderness—and falls in love with the handsome warrior Narun. Will love triumph over hubris, and Shanti forge a new destiny for her people?
Told from the point of view of Shanti, The Legend of Virinara by Usha Alexander is a thrilling tale of adventure and political intrigue that stirs up timeless questions about war and peace.
Let us meet the three main characters from the book.
After everyone left Dandavrut, rajkumari Shanti took up a life of wandering, traversing the land from forest to mountain to sea, just as she’d dreamed of doing as a girl, though the circumstances weren’t what she’d wished for.
She believed in telling her entire story as she lived it. ‘Yes, I’ve exercised my lust, as a woman might do. I’ve enjoyed the fullness of my heart and even of my body. For a time, I went with a sect who practised carnal meditations to achieve union with divinity. Another time, I stayed celibate for many years. All of these things belong to my life. All of these lives I’ve lived have been my gurus.’
Upon returning home, she built her own ashram. To her students, she was a kindly but curious old lady, a teller of gaudy tales, thinker of esoteric philosophies, a long-toothed sage with wiry hair. When its gloss reflected the sun, her hair glowed like burnished silver above the blackbrown of her forehead, adding to the regal bearing she still projected in such thoughtful moments.
Shanti’s brother, Vijay, was the raja of Virinara. He had only one son, Gyan from his second wife, Mandra.
After the death of Vijay’s eldest brother, his father had kept all his subsequent children at a punishing distance. When Vijay was born, seven years after Shanti, he was his father’s last chance for a true-blood heir, yet Appa still never embraced nor regarded Vijay with any tenderness throughout his early years. This changed quite suddenly only after Vijay reached the age of eight and showed himself to be robust.
But Vijay never resolved the conflicts that raged within him—the differences between the man he wished to be and the man he believed it was his duty to become.
In contrast to the style of Virinara men, Narun’s hair fell in loose, broad curls about his shoulders and chest; it was braided back from his face to the middle of his head and tied there with thin cords of sinew. This man’s vigor belied the poverty of his dress. He had skin that glowed, dark as the richest loam. Neither was his build stringy, like that of a pauper, but full and robust as a warrior’s. Shanti saw in him a kindness and integrity unlike any she’d witnessed before.