The brilliant star-reader Varahamihira, one of the famed Nine Gems of the king's court, predicts a rare eclipse that has alarming consequences. Soon after, the scrolls carrying his predictions go missing. While the court considers how to retrieve them, they receive news of yet another disappearance - none other than their celebrated poet Kalidasa! The kingdom erupts in an uproar.
Meanwhile, in our own time, an adventure begins for Atisa, the teenage owner of a time-travelling flying machine! On a peaceful night in the snow-capped Himalayas, Atisa hears mysterious wails of distress through his state-of-the-art sound-catcher. In a whirlwind of events, he is transported to the midst of ancient Pataliputra and its imbroglio over the missing scrolls and poet.
Anu Kumar has written two Atisa books: The Seven Wonders and Adventures with Hieun Tsang. She lives in Maryland, US with her husband and daughter. Anu has written books for children, young adult and adults. Her website is www.anukumar.org
Atisa and his Time Machine: In search of Kalidasa is the third of Atisa's adventures into the past and a different time period. For those of you reading this first, and I hope you will read the other two books too, a little preliminary explanation is always useful.
Atisa lives with his parents in Tawang, far in the northeast of India. His father, who is the inventor and scientist Gesar runs a flying school there, while Gaea named after the ancient Greek Earth goddess, is his archaeologist explorer mother. Atisa's teacher who is affectionately called Elder Lama Lives at the monastery next door when he is not travelling. It is from Elder Lama that Atisa learns the ancient languages, Prakrit, the more difficult Sanskrit, and he even possesses a smattering of Latin and Aramaic - a knowledge that has often helped him in his adventures.
It is Atisa's flying machine that helps him bridge the time divide. This flying machine came his way right at the very beginning of Atisa and the Seven Wonders. It was designed by the ancient Greek inventor, famous in myth, called Daedelus. The latter grateful for Atisa's help in finding his lost son, Icarus, presents the machine to him. Later, Atisa's inventor father, Gesar makes several additions to it. These include the amazing sound catcher that can catch voices and sounds across millions of miles - sounds that belong to another age and those that are missed by even the most advanced machines of the world.
The next book in the series, Adventures with Hieun Tsang has Atisa travelling in the footsteps of the Chinese monk Hieun Tsang in the early seventh century CE. Now Gesar has added a special lantern to his flying machine and its light changes colour with the weather. In this, the third adventure, In Search of Kalidasa, Gesar has finally perfected the language decoder that he has been working on for some time.
In the following adventures, Gesar plans to add more to the flying machine, though he and Gaea worry constantly every time Atisa moves back into the past. Atisa believes that knowing the past helps in better understanding the present and the future!
That year winter had come late to the mountains, but it seemed everyone already had somewhere to be. Many though were travelling just to catch the eclipse, one of the rarest to occur ever. The Moon, the planet Mars and the Earth would be aligned with each other, in one perfect line, facing the majestic sun. And the earth's shadow would blank out the moon, with Mars appearing far away, as a cold unblinking red dot in a dark universe. Atisa, however, was at home, still making his plans. Home was right next to the monastery at Tawang in the eastern Himalayas, where Atisa lived with his parents, who were often away travelling - his scientist father Gesar and his archaeologist mother Gaea. That winter Atisa would soon leave to join his mother on her latest expedition. Gaea was on a new mission to retrace the secret routes of a tribe called the Sakas, who centuries ago, had travelled across India, moving from the mountains of the north-west, all the way to central India.
Atisa was presently engrossed with the strange, exciting emails he had exchanged a while ago with his teacher, Elder Lama. The emails were to do with his father's latest mission. It was as exciting an adventure as the one Gaea had set out on. Gesar was headed with his team towards Mount Everest, and they would attempt the world's first skydiving mission over the world's highest peak. The team carried some very advanced equipment including special effect cameras, some of which Gesar had designed himself, to photograph the eclipse.
It was a mission deemed almost impossible, but his father and his team had been training hard for it. 'It is important we do this,' Gesar had told him. 'There is the most unusual eclipse of the moon expected, a rare event. Mars, the Moon and the Earth will fall in a straight line for a few moments.' Elder Lama's emails on the same subject had been even more interesting. According to him, an eclipse such as this one had last occurred more than 1800 years ago. He had dug this story out from old texts in the library of the Tawang monastery. `There is indeed an old manuscript that tells of this eclipse,' he had written. 'But we only have half of it. Perhaps the rest of it is lying around, forgotten and obscure, in some old library. The ancient astronomer Varahamihira is believed to have composed it. But the thing is, Varahamihira is supposed to have lived at a later time, a little after the time of the eclipse.' Atisa could well imagine the rueful look on Elder Lama's face as he ended his email. Elder Lama travelled often, teaching theology in several universities, and could be very mysterious on email. In the end, it was Atisa's mother who explained the confusion over Varahamihira. 'Stories have it that Varahamihira lived in King Chandragupta Vikramaditya's time, which was almost 1800 years ago.
‘He was one of the Nine Gems in the king's court,' she went on. 'But historical accounts place him a hundred years later. It could also be that he came from a family of astronomers, many of whom had the same name. Indeed, the Varahamihira who wrote this book might have lived several decades after the one who lived in the king's court.' She had ended with a twinkle in her eye, knowing Atisa was all confused and intrigued. All Elder Lama had let on in his last email was this:
Wait till I find out more. Let me have my own adventure. In the meantime, maybe you can do a little research for me. Atisa groaned as he read it. Elder Lama's research usually had him poring over old texts. But as he read on, he was surprised at being proved wrong. When you are on the way to join your mother's expedition, you will come to a small town called Jhansi. Jhansi... Atisa stopped in surprise. It was a place his mother had mentioned too. It is older than you think. The ancient astronomer Varahamihira lived there. He came from a renowned family of astronomers who experimented and wrote a great many books. They lived in Jhansi, and perhaps you may have things to find out there. How did the text on the eclipse get lost, and what happened to the other half? Will you try?
`Yes,' he had mouthed the answer to himself, 'it does sound exciting.'
**Contents and Sample Pages**
Item Code: NAQ951 Author: Anu Kumar Cover: PAPERBACK Edition: 2014 Publisher: Jaico Publishing House ISBN: 9788184956290 Language: English Size: 8.00 X 5.00 inch Pages: 208 (14 B/W Illustrations) Other Details: Weight of the Book: 0.18 Kg