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article imageIndian comics revamping India's gods and goddesses

By Sravanth Verma     Aug 10, 2014 in Entertainment
Indian comics are undergoing a revolution, and are beginning to depict Hindu deities such as Shiva, Rama and Vishnu as muscular super-heroes with six packs and bulging biceps.
This is a complete flip from earlier depictions and standard iconography, which generally portray gods in softer, more "delicate" bodies.
Hindu gods "were also warriors. They were supposed to be strong so they could fight anybody," says Satyaki Pal, a 24-year-old business school student who reads graphic novels. The tougher, new look "is appealing to younger people," he says.
Prakash Sharma, a spokesman for Vishva Hindu Parishad — an organisation known for its radical opposition to many activities it perceives as anti-Hindu — says the organization isn't opposed to a presentation of muscular and strong Hindu gods. "But there should not be an effort to change the original character" of the deities, he clarifies.
Young Indians "want to connect to the tradition in a very different manner," says Joseph M.T., assistant professor of sociology at University of Mumbai. The gods' new look has "resonance to an aspiring India at some level."
Traditional depictions are still the norm in India, with calendars, wall portraits, and comic publishers such as Amar Chitra Katha sticking to older styles of depiction. But contemporary artists are taking bold new steps. Twenty-three-year-old Anirudh Sainath Krishnamani says he was disappointed by the fair-skinned and clean-shaven depiction of Lord Rama he saw in the TV serial Ramayana. Rama "was this really macho, warrior kind of person," he says, reflecting on the many rakshasas or demons Rama is said to have killed in the Ramayana epic. He shouldn't be "looking like this really soft and nice-nice person." A recent piece of work by Krishnamani shows a dread-locked, dark-skinned Rama aiming an arrow while riding on Hanuman, the monkey-god, who is flying through the air.
Indian publishers Holy Cow Entertainment, Vimanika Comics and Campfire Graphic Novels have launched a series of such comic books. "We're trying to give cutting-edge art to the same old mythological stories," says Vivek Goel, founder of Holy Cow Entertainment. They are however careful to show respect to the gods, and maintain a sense of appropriateness in depictions. Supporters of these trends says that such adaptations make these deities and their stories more relevant to young Indians living in a world very different from that of their parents.
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