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An Ancient Epic & The Indian Mythology That Shaped It


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With demons, celestial weapons, and fated heroines, Raji: An Ancient Epic’s story takes cues from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and other Indian myths.

Indian epics and mythology have had a huge influence on fantasy battle games such as Smite and League of Legends. The significance of fantasy action game Raji: An Ancient Epic, though, is that it’s designed by an Indian game studio for an Indian/Southeast Asian audience, paying homage to national epics such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata and trying to take the tropes of these sagas in surprising but authentic directions.

The opening cutscenes of Raji: An Ancient Epic, rendered in the style of traditional shadow puppet plays, takes place in an ancient, mythical era, where demonic armies invade the kingdoms of humanity and separate the siblings Raji and Golu from each other. As Raji wanders across the lands in search of her brother, warrior goddess Durga and other devas of the Hindu pantheons bestow her with celestial weapons – bows, tridents, and swords with overwhelming divine power that can slay the demonic armies of demon lord Mahabalasura and restore harmony to the world.

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Gameplay-wise, the exploration, dodging, weapon-based combat and boon acquisition of Raji: An Ancient Epic bear a close resemblance to the rogue-like action RPG Hades, while the platforming and wall-running sections are similar to the 2D and 3D iterations of Prince of Persia. The meat of this game’s story and visuals, however, owes much to India’s national epics, which feature conflicts between devas and asuras, celestial super-weapons called astras, musings on how to achieve liberation from the cycle of reincarnation, and demigod heroes born to defeat evil.

The Ramayana & Its Influence On Raji: An Ancient Epic

Raji_ An Ancient Epic Shadow Puppets

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Raji: An Ancient Epic takes cues from games like Bastion and God of War, along with various Indian myths, as reported by Indian Express. As far as plot goes, Raji resembles to one epic in particular: the Ramayana. In the story of the Ramayana, the three worlds are terrorized by Ravana, a rakshasa king blessed to never be defeated by gods or demons. To liberate the world from Ravana’s rule, Hindu god Vishnu incarnates himself as the human prince Rama, pure-hearted, disciplined, and a master of archery. When Ravana kidnaps Rama’s true love, Siti, Rama sets out to rescue her and defeat Ravana with his brother Lakshmana, the divine monkey Hanuman, and an army of monkeys and bears.

Raji’s quest to rescue her brother Golu from the demon lord Mahabalasura is a mirror image of Rama’s quest to rescue Siti, with the woman doing the rescuing of the man this time around. Another distinctive aspect of Raji: An Ancient Epic is that Rama and Siti were both members of royalty, while Raji and Golu are performers and acrobats that seemingly hail from a much humbler heritage.

The Mahabharata & Its Influence On Raji: An Ancient Epic

The Mahabharata, an epic about a feud between the five Pandava brothers and the 100 scions of the Kauravas, is primarily a saga about the duties and obligations of noble warriors destined to kill each other – less a fairy tale and more like The Illiad. That said, the India of the Mahabharata is still one filled with gods, demons, demigods, and heroes such as Arjuna, Krishna, and Karna.

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The Mahabharata‘s greatest influence on Raji: An Ancient Epic seems to be in how the game depicts the celestial weapons that Durga, Vishnu, and other gods bestow upon the humble Raji to aid her in her quest. Sharanga, the bow given to Raji by Vishnu, is very similar to Gandiva, the bow of Mahabharata hero Arjuna, while the Chakra throwing weapon is the same discus Krishna uses to slay demons and unrighteous kings in the Mahabharata. Furthermore, developers at Nodding Head took breaks from developing Raji: An Ancient Epic to look after stray dogs on the streets of Pune, India, just as the virtuous king Yudhishthira cares for a stray dog at the climax of the Mahabharata.

Durga The Demon Slayer & Her Influence On Raji: An Ancient Epic

In the early chapters of Raji: An Ancient Epic, Raji discovers a series of murals which recount the story of Durga, a warrior goddess who bears a weapon in each of her countless arms. When the buffalo demon Mahishasura, destined to never be killed by a man, ran amuck throughout heaven and earth, the Devas created Durga to defeat him. In the game’s cutscenes and narrative voiceover, the preserver god Vishnu questions Durga’s reasons for choosing Raji as her champion, strongly implying that Durga sees a lot of herself in the young human girl.

The presence of Durga as a supporting character in Raji: An Ancient Epic carries additional symbolic weight. As a warrior and protective mother goddess, Durga has become a symbol of patriotism in modern India. Her stories were invoked by leaders of Indian independence movements in the 20th century, while women reformers, leaders, and social activists are said to have “the spirit of Durga.”

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Source: India Express

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Updated: November 7, 2020 — 11:20 pm

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