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Every house has a grandmother who is the narrator of ancient tales.  My Grandmother also told me many tales of valor, Gods, and other stories. Unfortunately, she passed away by the time I was seven.  My contact with the ancient world was revived when one of my neighbors presented me with Sakuntala, a title from Amar Chitra Katha Stable.

How the reading habit was initiated

This was one of the first books that I read and the reading habit stuck ……  The image of the book with Shankuntla holding a Fawn has remained in my mind to this day.  I knew how Shankuntala grew up and how the Rishi munis lived a frugal life in the forest even during my childhood due to this book.  I also came to know why my country is called Bharat after reading this book.

Of course, I re-read about all this in my 10th class history textbook years later at the age 15. There were various Amar Chitra Katha titles I read like Kannagi, Devayani, and Vasvadatta which were Literary Classics written by great- writers of yore.  I and many kids of my generation would not have known about them if not for these books

The Amar Chitra Katha

Amar Chitra Katha means immortal picture stories.   Amar Chitra Katha is a Children’s magazine with  400+ titles based on History, folklore, mythology and Indian History in comics format.  The interesting comic representation of stories and biographies helped children of all ages to follow easily.  The series was founded in 1967 by India Book House.  It was created by Anant Pai.The idea was given by a Bangalore salesperson named G.K.Ananthram.  So the production started in 1965 with the first ten titles in Kannada.

Talking about mythology, most of us X-generation kids were exposed to mythology only through these books. The reason was the joint family system was slowly giving way to individualist families.

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Tales of Mythology

Has anybody read Krishna, Ganesha, Kartikeya, Tales of Durga, The Symantaka Mani, Ghatotkacha and others?  Did you know how Kaartikeya was born?  Just open the issue with the story; you will find six beautiful babies on six flowers nursed by six heavenly nymphs.  According to the story, the lord was born from six fire particles of Shiva’s third eye.

In Symataka Mani you find Krishna fighting with Jambavan, even though he was a loyal admirer of Krishna in his previous birth as Ram.  The book then details the reason for this.  All the stories are written in an attractive and interesting way that you want to read more.

I came to know of naughty pranks of Krishna, Dasavatar of Lord Vishnu, the magic of Ghatotkacha, the curse of Rishi-munis, the birth of Ganga,  Tales of trinity – Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma, how beings were born on earth etc through the Amar Chitra Katha titles.   The publishers have come up with abridged versions of our Great Epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata as well.  We, as children, could grasp the enormity of these epics through these books, even though we were not old enough to read the original ones.

Amar Chitra Katha photoPhoto by Unlisted Sightings

Moral Tales from all Religions

Hitopadesh, Panchatantra and Jataka Tales(based on stories of Buddhism) are titles of Amar Chitra Katha which teach worldly wisdom and moral to children who read them.

Amar Chitra Katha and Indian History

Amar Chitra Katha also published various Biographies of Indian rulers, men of valor, historical personalities and inspiring modern individuals. Some of the titles which were released by them are: Mangal Pandey, Khudiram Bose, Jawaharlal Nehru, Shivaji the Great Marata, Megasthanes, Fa Hien, Huien Sang, Ashoka, Akbar, Birbal, Razia Sultana, Swami Chinmayananda, Sri Adi Sankara, Kalpana Chawla, Srinivasa Ramanujam, MS Subbalakshmi, Tenzing Norgay and many more.

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You must have seen the movie Bahubali now.  But Amar Chitra Katha has already published a book with this title in 1981.  It is a story concerned with Jainism and you can observe from the rushes of the movie Bahubali that the director Rajamouli seems to be inspired by Amar Chitra Katha tales.

amar chitra katha photoPhoto by romana klee

Team at Amar Chitra Katha

No wonder 90 million copies of the books have been sold, that too in 20 Indian languages.  Writers like C.R.Sharma, Margie Sastry, Subba Rao, Kamala Chandrakant, and Debrani Mitra worked for Amar Chitra Katha.  The eminent illustrators were Ram Waeerkar, Dilip Kadam, Jeffrey Fowler, Yusuf Lien aka.Yusuf Bangalorewala, Souren Roy, Ashok Dongre, Pratap Mullick, C.M. Vitankar, Sanjeev Waeerkar, and CD Rane.

3-in1, 5-in-1, book issues have added to demand rise for these books.  I know many friends who have most of the titles.  They lend them only after a lot of cajoling as they fear that these precious books will be lost. Frequent reprints and in many Indian languages have helped the books reach a wider market.  The books are now available in foreign languages like French, Swahili, Indonesian, Serbo Croat, Fijian and German languages as well.

Of late ACK comics has entered the digital world offering 300 titles for free on the Internet. Some of the comics have been animated for a popular Television Channel. Though some critics have decried that the depiction of women and minorities as stereotypical, the reach and the variety these books are beyond compare.

Featured Photo by romana klee

Amar Chitra Katha – My Guide To Indian Mythology And History

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