By Sarita Rajiv
As a kid, my first exposure to Indian mythology and folklore came from the stories my grandmother told me. With a knowing look and mischief in her smile, she would tell us stories of gods and demons, magical creatures and ordinary everyday animals, bringing to life their lives and adventures. And through the festivals we celebrated, in India, I would learn a little more about these mystic figures.
My father continues that tradition of storytelling with my daughter when we visit India. And after every visit home, I come back to Denmark with some Indian picture books for my six year old. To me these stories are less about religion and more about giving children a peek into Indian culture, folklore and firing up the imagination.
So here’s my pick of six children’s picture books based on Indian mythology and folklore. Whether you’re an Indian or just interested in Indian culture, you will like these. They’re perfect gifts for 4-7 year olds.
1. Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth: Ganesha, the elephant god, is probably one of the most popular mythological characters among children in India. This story is a fun retelling of how Ganesha writes the epic Mahabharata. The illustrations are quirky and the conversation between Ganesha and his best friend, Mr. Mouse, are funny.
The story starts with how Ganesha, who has a sweet tooth, insists on biting into a super jumbo jawbreaker laddoo (an Indian dessert) and ends up breaking his tusk.
2. Junior Kumbhakarna: This book is a fun peek into the life of Kumbhakarna, the giant asura or demon from the epic Ramayana. In this story, everyone is trying to wake up the giant demon who would sleep for six months and then eat everything he saw when he woke up. The lungi clad appa (dad) in this story is a fun touch!
3. Amma, Tell Me About Holi: The Amma, Tell Me About series by Bhakti Mathur and Malushree Somani is fun way to talk about popular Indian festivals, gods and goddesses with your children. The illustrations are vibrant and eye-catching. This one in particular is about the festival of colour, Holi. Some of the other books in this series include Amma, Tell Me About Diwali; Amma, Tell Me About Ganesha and Amma, Tell Me About Krishna.
4. Razia and the Pesky Presents: Oh Razia, you spunky woman. Razia Sultan ruled the Sultanate of Delhi a long, long time ago and she was a feminist well ahead of her time! In this funny tale, someone is sending Razia pesky presents --girly dresses and soppy poems while challenging her right to rule, as a woman. She's out to solve the mystery of who the culprit is.
5. How Hanuman Crossed the Ocean: In this story, the monkey god Hanuman is on a mission for his lord, Rama. He charms a mountain, defeats a dragon and outwits a serpent a he crosses an ocean on his mission. I quite like how this tale inspires children to use their different abilities for the different challenges they face.
6. Gobble You Up: This last book is one I’ve been waiting to get my hands on, purely for its illustrations. It’s handmade; each piece is screen printed on special paper and the illustrations use a traditional Indian art form called Mandana.
Gobble You Up is based on an old folklore from Rajasthan in Northern India. It tells the story of a wily jackal who is so lazy that he gives up hunting and goes on to gobble up every animal he comes across, using trickery.
That was my pick of six Indian picture books that would make a lovely gift for children. Do you have any favourites that you read to your child?
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