The second book of the Shiva trilogy, The Secret of the Nagas, begins in Ayodhya with a clash between Shiva, Sati, and a sinister Naga who is suspected to be responsible for the death of Shiva’s friend, Brihaspati. Subsequently there is a death threat on Shiva’s beloved wife Sati too. So, Shiva is obsessed to hunt down the dangerous Naga.
Team Shiva, consisting of Sati and their associates’ travel to Varanasi, which has a large settlement of Brangas, the only people who know the whereabouts of the Nagas. While in Varanasi, Sati has a baby named Karthik. So, Shiva leaves her behind in the city and travels with the rest of his legion to the land of the Brangas. But the Brangas are reluctant to disclose the whereabouts of the Nagas since they provide a certain medicine to the Brangas.
Meanwhile, in Varanasi, Sati is on a discovery spree. She finds out that she is related to two of the Nagas. The first one is Kali, the queen of the Nagas, who turns out to be Sati’s twin sister born with an extra pair of hands. The second is Ganesh, who turns out to be Sati’s son from a previous marriage. Ganesh was born with facial deformities, which made him look like an elephant. Sati never knew about the twin sister and her father King Daksha had told her that her first child was stillborn. As the story unfolded, I realized that the big Naga secret is nothing serpentine or mystical, but Nagas are just ordinary mortals with a horde of physical deformities.
Shiva returns to Varanasi with the legendary Parashuram; and then rather unhappily, reconciles with Ganesh and Kali. After some twists and turns, the entire entourage travels to the land of the Nagas. The discovery of the Naga kingdom-Panchvati seems to be the whole motive of the book.
The author uses the term ‘India’ throughout his books, which I found a bit out of place. ‘Bharat’ would still have made sense but am sure the modern term ‘India’ was not coined during the era of the novel. Again there are modern jargons scattered throughout the book. Concepts like examinations to segregate Chandravanshis and Suryavanshis, reminded me of IIT competitive exams. Or the temples built at great heights that act, as transmitters for radio waves didn’t ring any bells. I can’t quite digest the fact that people knew of “radio waves” and “accumulator machines” four thousand years ago.
One more thing I found ridiculous was the description of the Prime Minister of Branga. He wears a lot of gold jewellery. Of course, there is nothing wrong with wearing gold jewellery, but the author must have run out of creativity or perhaps he thought no one would notice the similarity when he described the Prime minister and named him Bappiraj after Bappi Lahiri.
Am not sure what Shiva really wants. Everyone follows Shiva on his search for evil; there are a few love stories sprinkled in-between, and a lot of travelling. The mother and son relationship between Ganesh and Sati is quite Bollywood style.
To sum up the novel, Team Shiva travels to one city, meets some king and fights some villains and discovers some secret, then moves on to another city, meets another king, fights more villains, more secrets, and so on. The story moves on from place to place and suddenly introduces new characters at each city, without much information on what each one wants, its just a trip to Panchavati, and as it enters Naga territory, the book is over. The Secret of the Nagas is deprived of any secrets.