Myth, travelogue and holy writ, the "Ramayana" - the Journey of Rama - is India's best-loved book, an inspiration to schoolchildren, monks and movie-makers. It's one of the world's great epic tales, yet is largely unread in the Western world. The story of a man searching savage jungles for his kidnapped wife, the "Ramayana" combines "Heart of Darkness" with the "Odyssey". And bizarrely, this violent and erotic account of a war between light and dark is at the heart of the fiercest controversy in contemporary Indian politics - one that has claimed over 10,000 lives. When Martin Buckley first encountered the "Ramayana" twenty-five years ago, it became a guide to the complexities of Indian life. Here, he fulfills a dream - to retrace the route of Rama from his birthplace in north India to the climax of his confrontation with evil in Sri Lanka.In doing so, Buckley finds that the epic is as much a key to understanding India today as it was 3,000 years ago. Some historians have recast the fight between the hero and a race of dark-skinned demons as a colonial war, waged by Aryan invaders against indigenous Indians.
Incredibly, it is echoed today in the brutal civil war being fought in the jungles of Sri Lanka. At the same time, the God-King Rama inspires spiritual devotions of a kind almost unimaginable in the West."An Indian Odyssey" is the story of an adventurous and sometimes perilous passage through India by motorbike, microlight, bus and train. In the course of his own odyssey - physical and spiritual - Buckley witnesses death on the chaotic Great Trunk Road and passes through a war zone in Sri Lanka where bicycle bombs are the weapon of choice. A cast of mystics and Marxists, idealists and cynics - Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist - lays out the rich fabric of contemporary India and Sri Lanka, illuminated by the remarkable story of their past - and the quest of a man to rescue the woman he loves.
Martin Buckley has lived in France, Italy, Turkey and India and has worked as a journalist and broadcaster in over forty countries. For ten years he was a producer with Radio 4 and is still a regular contributor to From Our Own Correspondent (Radio 4). He has presented TV travel documentaries for Discovery Channel and has been a columnist in the Daily Telegraph and the Observer. He is the author of two highly praised travel books, both published by Hutchinson/Vintage. He is married with one young son and currently divides his time between London and Corsica.