May 10, 2018

Sacred River: A Himalayan Journey

Cover picture of a novel of a spiritual journey to India disguised as a gold heist mystery

Cover photo of Sacred River: A Himalayan Journey

Mystery, love and beautiful scenery wrapped into a terrific journey.”

                                                                                                     –Jim Porell, Pine Plains, NY.

Temple Gold Heist:

Sacred River: A Himalayan Journey describes a temple gold heist in India in the background of a hike to the source of the Ganges River. A group of Americans head off into the Himalayas – some looking for a change from the rat-race of their daily lives, some to escape problems at home, and some looking for spiritual renewal.  Along the way, they experience the colorful sights, sounds, and tastes of India.  But nefarious plans are afoot.  The reader becomes aware of an intricate plot to steal gold from a temple high in the Himalayas.

India, pilgrimage, hike in Himalayas: 

The novel has three stories that flow independently at first but converge at the Gangotri temple—10,000 ft. high in the Himalayas.

The first narrative stream centers on an Indian-American, Sovik, who is disillusioned with the American rat-race and travels to his home country accompanied by his wife and American friends. He journeys to the glacial source of the Ganges River in the Himalayas, searching for peace and renewal. While he travels, Gangotri temple, near the glacier, becomes the target of a gold heist.

The second story line describes a plot by a charitable organization to steal gold from the same temple at the source of the Ganges. Their goal is to use the gold to uplift the poor in India. However, the treasure is hidden and their plans to find it are stymied at first. With spy cameras and crafty observation, they develop an intriguing plan and the gold heist mystery emerges. Will they find gold? Can they steal the gold secretly? With flattery, misdirection, and false promises, they recruit a senior temple monk to participate in their plot.

The third story describes the life struggles of Jagdish, an illiterate farmer. He was born during a severe earthquake in a religious but very poor family. He embodies pure, sincere devotion – a counterpoint to the gold heist gang and the worldly travelers. His only wish in life is to go on a pilgrimage to holy places. When he becomes old, he is able to go on his pilgrimage. His travels from his village to the Gangotri temple show us India as it really is.

Gold heist mystery:

Sovik does not know about the planned gold heist. He observes some odd happenings near Gangotri Temple but is unaware of their true meaning. He continues his journey to the source of the Ganges. One of his American companions falls in love with their beautiful Indian guide. He is also intrigued by strange things he observes at the temple. He wonders if he is seeing the normal machinations of a diverse nation. Or is something suspicious going on? He decides to investigate and dares to go after unknown thieves.

Uplifting Stories:

As Sovik and his group travel, they encounter monks and sages who explain their philosophy through uplifting stories and legends from ancient India. They also hear the mythological stories of Ganga, the goddess who descended from heaven to create the river and who is its spiritual embodiment. The stories give the journey its spiritual underpinnings and help bring about longed-for renewal.

The Chanticleer Review:

Mystery, Literary, Multicultural, Spiritual Journey

All elements of this foundational novel are experienced through a well-developed cast of characters, wealthy and poor, educated and illiterate, as they make pilgrimages to the source of Ganges River.

The River itself is a character in that it exerts the greatest influence on those who travel to its origin in the Himalayan mountains. In its waters, truths are revealed, and those who ponder its depths must acknowledge how they have lived their lives. The Ganges is the great equalizer; she washes the indigent and the affluent alike. Characters learn that money cannot buy enlightenment, and those who have lived the simplest lives may be much further down the spiritual path than those who’ve had every material advantage.

Majumdar does a splendid job of giving each character a complete history before individual plots merge into a full and rich narrative. It’s as if he has taken tributaries of a river and studied their routes before entwining them with the flow, force, and beauty of a majestic river. From bonded servant to landed gentry, foreigner to outcast, all will be deeply affected by their journeys.

Scheme to plunder treasure for a noble cause:

This is the set up to a fascinating mystery. It unfolds as the reader learns about the SMS, the Sarva Mangal Society, a philanthropic organization that advocates education for all Indians and the removal of social barriers. The SMS followers believe that implementing the ancient ideals of India will lay the foundation for a new society, one in which the constant injustices done to the poor will finally halt. Its chief financial officer, Sevanathan Chetti, despairs, however, as to whether enough funds can be raised to continue their important work. He and his associate wonder where the wealth of India has gone. As speculation of a golden hoard hidden in the sacred temples arises, Chetti and his associate scheme to locate and plunder treasure for a noble cause.

An engrossing and tense subplot unfurls, one that will ensnare a temple swami along with some of the pilgrims to the Ganges. This adventure, which culminates in an enormously suspenseful climax, is an effective counterpoint to the serene and meditative aspects of the novel.

Deep longing to journey to the Himalayas:

Majumdar’s prose is rich and spectacularly vivid. Locations are very important in this novel, and his descriptive writing is superb. Readers will feel they are in a marketplace, on the side of the mountain, in a temple, and bathed in light and water. Especially lovely are the passages noting religious rituals and the spiritual significance of the Ganges. The author weaves in Indian legends and morality stories, artfully juxtaposing parallels between ancient tales and his characters’ modern lives. There’s such a breadth of consideration for every aspect of Indian culture that it’s easy to imagine this novel being included on college syllabi for classes related to Hinduism. This book is a must-read for anyone with interest in Indian life and culture. Indeed, the author joyfully admits that one could read the book as a travelogue, and we agree! When readers finish this novel, we predict they will experience a deep longing to journey to the Himalayas to see “the maiden in the mountains,” that most sacred river, the Ganges.

 

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