Amar Chitra Katha, a major comic series in India, retells the great Indian epics and mythology in a simple and engaging format. The story of Karttikeya, from Sons of Shiva, brings to surface the idea that good always conquers evil and the immense power in the act of forgiveness. Anant Pai achieves this through the visual appearances of characters, text that guides children through the complex ideas and plot lines, and through representations of space.
The story of Karttikeya revolves around the dire need of the evil ‘Asuras’ to overthrow the ‘Devas’ in order to prove their superiority and establish themselves as the almighty. Maya, the daughter of the Asura King disguises herself as a beautiful maiden in order to marry a saint and have children powerful enough to defeat the ‘Devas’. Her three children were granted a boon by Lord Shiva that granted them the ability to defeat all men but Lord Shiva himself. They misused their power and imprisoned all the ‘Devas’. Therefore, Lord Shiva created Karttikeya to save the ‘Devas’ and restore peace and harmony.
In order to establish the previously mentioned themes of the text, it is important for Anant Pai to highlight the wickedness of the ‘Asuras’ and the righteousness of the ‘Devas.’ Keeping in mind that children are his primary audience, he enforces this divide through the visual representations of the characters, which includes the visual expressions of emotion and skin color of the characters. While the ‘Devas’ are often portrayed with expressions of agony and despair through expressions of their eyebrows and mouths, ‘Asuras’ are shown as diabolical, arrogant, and amused by the pain of their enemies through depictions of their furrowed and dark eyebrows, mouths, and sharp teeth. Anant Pai builds on this distinction by the different skin tones of the Devas and Asuras. The Devas are illustrated with pink-skin, a shade that is more commonly associated with virtue, while the Asuras illustrated with dark-skin, a shade that is more commonly associated with vice. These representations resonate with the children to make a clear distinction between the good and the evil, which is an important concept to grasp in order to understand the greater themes of the comic, such as that good always conquers evil.
The text, which includes dialogue, thought bubbles, and narration, enforces this distinction and helps readers to connect the complicated mythology to the plot of the comic. In this story, the narration accompanies the illustrations to guide the children through the change in setting, be it the battleground or the kingdom of the ‘Asuras’. Remaining oriented throughout the story is another important factor in understanding the greater themes of the text, such as the essence of Hindu mythology.
Throughout the story, Anant Pai resurfaces the element of nature as being powerful and holy. Every aspect of nature has been personified and shown as a ‘Deva’ to prove the importance of natural elements in the Hindu mythology. Furthermore, the power of the gods, such as Karttikeya and Shiva, has been made evident through their positions in space in comparison Asuras. It is seen that in every interaction, the god is always elevated in comparison to the Asuras. By showing the gods as superior to the Asuras in space, Anant Pai reinforces the idea that the gods are superior to the Asuras and are omnipotent. The extraordinary power of the gods is illustrated through the graphics. For example, Lord Shiva sends out sparks to create his son, Karttikeya. Sparks are often associated with magic, a quality that the gods are then inferred to possess, which allows them to have abilities much different than the ordinary person.
Mahatma Gandhi had once said “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong”. In this story, Karttikeya has effectively proved this attribute by forgiving two of the evil ‘Asura’ brothers thereby making them his and Kaali’s vehicle. In contrast, the Asuras relied on seeking revenge, which ultimately led to their destruction. This certainly proves the power in forgiving and that forgiveness is a better alternative to revenge.