When I started reading Dr. Sydney Kishore’s, “Semmanthaka-The Second Quest” I did not know what to expect, frankly. I have read all sorts of treasure hunt related books and movies. National Treasure, starring Nicolas Cage is the best example. Bollywood also had a go at it, with two dastardly samples to its credit- Rudraksh and Naksha.
To my utter delight, Dr.Sydney Kishore has proven me wrong and I think that there is hope for this genre – should Dr. Kishore continue writing in the same vein.
Dr.Sydney Kishore is a man of science – he is a professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry in a reputed college in South India. He has published many scientific articles in this field and has also wrote many short stories and articles. He has passion for Vedic Ghanam chanting and is a professional singer of Kishore Kumar songs. Clearly, a man of many hats.
What happens when science and Hindu philosophy meet? Let us find out.
What is Semmanthaka?
The Semmanthaka gem [Syamantaka for some people] is a gem mentioned in Vishnu Puraana and Bhaagwata. Legend has it that the gem belonged to the Sun-God, who used to wear it around his neck. It was said that the gem would produce around eight bharas[ancient Indian weight measure] or 170 pounds of gold every-day. Thus, whichever land possessed this gem would never face any droughts or famines.
A noble tribesman-Satrajit belonging to Dwaraka[ Satrajit was also a subject of Dwaraka- Lord Krishna’s kingdom] offered penance to the sun-god for a long duration of time.Impressed by his penance and dedication, he gifted the Semmanthaka to Satrajit.
Krishna requested Satrajit to handover the jewel to the public coffers so that the gem could be used for the greater good. Satrajit, however, did not comply. He was quite besotted with the jewel and did not want to part ways with it.
Satrajit gave the jewel to Prasenjit, his younger brother to wear it – so that he may flaunt it too.
In a night of drunken turpitude, Prasen loses his way in a forest, gets attacked by a lion and is killed. The gem is found by Jambav [A great mountain of a bear-man who was blessed by Lord Rama] who takes it and gives the gem to his daughter – Jambavanti.
Krishna is implicated in this scandal and is accused of being behind all this. To clear his name, Krishna abdicates his kingdom and goes in search of the gem. He has a big fight with Jambav, lasting 28 days to retrieve the gem. Jambav realizes that Krishna is a reincarnation of Lord Rama and asks him to marry his daughter. Krishna returns the gem to Satrajit, who is still not ready to part ways with it.[To his credit, Satrajit first offers the gem to Krishna to keep out of a feeling of remorse. But Krishna refuses and ask Satrajit to retain it and promise to do charity with it. Satrajit reneges on his promise] Krishna and Balrama have to go to Hastinapur after they learn that their cousins- the Pandavas were burnt in a fire.
Meanwhile, three more gents – Akrura, Kritavarma and Shatadhanwa had their eyes on the gem. They attack Satrajit in his absence, kill him and make off with the gem.
Krishna and Balarama have to rally again. Krishna kills off Shatadhanwa. Later, Krishna finds that Akrura is in Kashi, who has the gem with him and convinces him to bring the gem back to Dwaraka.
OK- great stuff, but then how does the book tie in to this story?
The book is about Dr.Baalan, a marine archeologist, his assistant Dr.Yogi Yaadav and Mr.Stalin Malhotra, a billionaire who recruits the two to hunt for the Semmanthaka so that he may add it to his personal collection. Incredulous at first, Dr.Baalan accepts to search based on some clues which Stalin provides them.
Based on the recent excavations off Saurashtra [India’s west coast] and proofs that Lord Krishna did exist, the two begin their search in Dwaraka, since the gem was last observed in Dwaraka, as per legend. Their search takes them further to an inland temple, somewhere in the Rann of Kutch and they meet with an elusive, mysterious mystic. The mystic tells them some unbelievable facts and warns them – the earth as we know it, is at the cusp of Adharma and that they are the ones chosen to rid Earth of evil.
Will Dr.Baalan and Yogi be able to achieve this mission? Will they be able to locate the Semmanthaka? To have an answer to these questions, you need to read the book.
What are the highlights of this book?
Obviously, the story and Dr.Kishore’s narration are the main reasons you should read this book. Dr.Baalan and his Yogi’s camaraderie is the second reason. Bu the pièce de résistance is Stalin Malhotra’s character, who uses a rather remarkable catchphrase, “Mother Lode da Puttar!” It is quite zany and definitely helps you paint a mental image of the character.
Why should you read this book?
This book is fast-paced, racy and drives home the point quite effectively. Most importantly, it also serves as a tool in reminding oneself that we as Indians need to pay respect to the great sons of Bhaarath-Varsh, who filled the entire land with great pride. It also compels you to sit up and acknowledge our culture and our legends. [I think this is what DrKishore intended all along, secretly].
Concluding, the book is written in simple English, is quite easy to follow and a valuable source of knowledge. The book sways away from swear words or adult content of any kind. This makes it a read for all ages!
Go and pick up this book immediately!