Ashwin Sanghi Roll in Myth, Thrills and History
By SUKANT DEEPAK
In 2014, when author Dan Brown was in Mumbai, writer Ashwin Sanghi took him to the ‘Tower of Silence’ at Malabar Hill. While they could not go near the ‘dakhma’, some priests were happy to show them the scale model of the area and
explain everything. That visit was when the idea of a Zoroastrian mystery developed in Sanghi’s mind.
Some years later a visit to Diu, he met a Parsi tourist who explained to him first-hand the workings of a Tower of Silence as Diu’s dakhma had been deconsecrated.
“I soon made up my mind to locate a copy of the Qissa-i-Sanjan that talks about early Parsi history. It was clear that this subject deserved a book in the Bharat Series,” the author, whose latest novel is ‘The Magicians of Mazda.’
For someone who believes that his job as a thriller writer is to entertain while making the story sound believable he says that while the research process for the book started with ‘Qissa-i-Sanjan’, it quickly went into allied tomes. “I was particularly interested in the ‘magi’ — the Zoroastrian priests and delved into ‘The Rituals & Initiations of the Persian Magi by Stephen Flowers’ and ‘The Religious Ceremonies & Customs of the Parsees’. Although I visited Surat, Udvada and Navsari over the years, not Sanjan. Another gap was a visit to Iran that was held up owing to the Pandemic.”
Talk to him over the tremendous rise in the popularity of books based on Indian mythology over the past several years and Sanghi quotes novelist CS Lewis who said that a myth is a lie that reveals a truth. “The delicious question is ‘what if?’ Now, what if Rama, Krishna, Shiva, or Ganesha were real people — historical characters — who began to be worshipped because of their great deeds? I remember visiting a temple in Kolkata where Amitabh Bachchan is worshipped. Is it not possible that our deities started out like that?”
He also says, “I am not a great writer, but I am a decent rewriter, so I rewrite the manuscript several times before it goes in for editing. Each Bharat Series book takes me around two years to research, plot, write and rewrite. But the knowledge that I garner through each book is my greatest satisfaction. The journey of each book in the series has been exhilarating.”