Written by Ankit.
While growing up in a small town of Northern India, I was exposed to the bizarre and enrapturing world of Indian comic books and mythical tales very early in my life. I must have been around five when I purchased my first comic book which unraveled a surreal world of sorcerers, serpent cults, wizards, magic, spirits etc., and vaguely introduced me to the occult arts of India. Not even my parents would have assumed that I would retain this interest into adulthood, but to their surprise my enthrallment with the occult transformed into a mature and more spiritual pursuit. However, my interest with Indian comics subsided during the mid 2000’s as the advent of modern technology and internet created a gaping wound in the indigenous comic books fraternity. Creative standards declined significantly and my favorite publishers turned to more lucrative avenues like digitization to attract the modern computer generation. The replacement of pencil, ink and brush with pen tablets and Photoshop matte painting had severely degraded the essence of traditional story-telling in comic books/graphic novels, and ventured the downfall of a great era of independent art which had played a substantial role in my upbringing.
It was not until late 2000’s when a new wave of graphic novel publishers arrived on the horizon with an aim to resurrect the long-lost essence of Indian graphic art. Unfortunately, their sub-standard and unoriginal graphic novels failed to make an impact as only a few publishers had revolutionary ideas to offer. Enter 2011 and a new era of comic art dawned with the inaugural Comic Con India festival. It eventually became a haven for independent artists and publishers, and they availed this novel opportunity to exhibit their talent to the modern Indian crowd. After two decent annual exhibitions, the festival had its third outing during February 2013, and I decided to attend it purposefully.
The third edition of Comic Con India had attracted an unexpectedly large crowd of comic book aficionados, cosplayers, journalists and artists from New Delhi and beyond. However, the sole reason for my presence at the venue was to meet Mr. Ari Jayaprakash, an Indian artist with whom I had gotten acquainted during last year’s edition of the Comic Con. His occult concepts and their avant-garde graphic portrayal were quite unlike any that I have witnessed among modern Indian artists. Furthermore, it was the artist’s do-it-yourself approach, and his astounding conceptual and graphical execution that made me reminisce of my childhood fascination with cult Indian comics.
When I first met him last year, he was still working on his debut graphic novel entitled The Kuru Chronicles which, according to him, was scheduled for a late 2012 release although it hasn’t seen the light of day yet due to reasons which have been stated in the following paragraphs. Notwithstanding that, he spent the entire year promoting his art and created a prelude to his début novel entitled Kuru Genesis which was on display during Comic Con 2013. In his words:
‘’Kuru Genesis is a 302 page prelude to the Kuru Chronicles and it includes photographs, author notes, panels etc. It was created to wet the taste buds of our readers and develop an appetite for the forthcoming mammoth book which Kuru Chronicles has become.’’
‘’People generally ask me about the release of Kuru Chronicles, and the reason why it has been delayed is the addition of 500 odd pages since last year. My writer Anisha and I decided that if we do it, we will do it well without compromises. Now it has become an 800 plus page King James style Bible, but a ‘Bible of Doom’, so to speak’’, he added further.
Conceptually speaking, the Kuru world is set in a dystopian futuristic city of Kolkata and spans over 17 years. It is divided in four books which are: Nasadiya, Soma, Aghora and Yuga. The protagonist of this saga is Dakini and the antagonist is named Kalahari. It is a fictional tale inspired by Indian mythology and the advent of the Kali-Yuga; and is dedicated to Smashan Tara, Mahakala and Devi Kamakhya.
When asked about the source of inspiration for this unique story, Ari replied, ‘’It all began when I had watched a documentary on the disease ‘Kuru’ on National Geographic during December 2010. Soon thereafter I attended the Gangasagar Mela – which is the second largest spiritual congregation in the world after Kumbh Mela – and came in touch with a few Aghori sadhus whose extreme spiritual beliefs and individuality inspired me to weave a unique concept for this book.’’ Though he kept mum about his experiences with the sadhus and declared that ‘’there will never be any comments from me about their practices.’’
Along with its tenacious and unorthodox synopsis, the Kuru series is also adorned with Ari’s intricate artwork which is exclusively created with a combination of black ink and half burnt paper which are his ‘’offerings to Lord Agni, the God of Fire.’’
With the arrival of Kuru Chronicles, I can safely say that independent Indian art can breathe a new life, and past glories can be hopefully recreated. It will serve not only as a fictional graphic novel, but also as a medium to delineate our nation’s ancient Tantric heritage to a newer, secularized readership in India and abroad.
‘’We bow down
Before the sages
Born in the ancient times
The ancient path-makers’’ (Rigveda)
The book, which was earlier planned for a Europe and Japan only release, will now also be available in India and the rest of the world, and is expected to be published during May. Moreover, the artist and his crew have planned a tour of Europe and USA later this year in support of The Kuru Chronicles.
Kuru Genesis is available for pre-orders in India, and international buyers may contact the artist directly to avail information regarding its purchase.