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The King of the Mountain (Le Roi de la Montagne)

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Original Language: French | 240 pp. | January 2019

2 Seas represents: World excl. French rights

INDIAN PHILOSOPHY | SPIRITUALITY

[T]hanks to Martine’s […] access, research, and insight, I will learn much more about this crucially important Dusadh general, king, and god. He is central to the lives of millions of people in India, and should be much better known and appreciated internationally.  […] It is an important step in expanding the broader understanding of this magisterial north Indian hero. — David Szanton, President of the Ethnic Arts Foundation, California

The first ever transcription of the ‘Saga of the Untouchables’

After the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, here is the story of The King of the Mountain, as told in the oral tradition and transcribed in its entirety for the first time, by Martine Le Coz. She based her work on stories, paintings and drawings she collected in northern India, near the Indo-Nepalese border. Martine Le Coz also received support from the Ethnic Arts Foundation, the Art Institute of Mithila, historians from the Universities of New Delhi and Patna, as well as local historians and artists.

The heart of this tale was transmitted to her directly by a family from the dalit (‘oppressed’) community of Dusadh, with whom she has established a strong relationship based on trust and sharing. So The King of the Mountain, which is both poetic and literary, is not a personal work of fiction, but an actual transcription of the ‘Saga of the Untouchables’.

When he reaches the age to take up the responsibilities of his rank, young Jaybhardan – the King of Himalaya – guided by an inner light, refuses to marry and to inherit the throne. Instead, he chooses to be reborn among the untouchables, with the help of a midwife called Urmila. Leaving the kingdom with his elephants, he manages to reach the lands of King Bhim Sain, who directs him to the marvelous garden of Pakaria, where his daughter Chandravati lives. Surrounded by more and more companions, Salhesh – Jaybhardan’s name after becoming Untouchable – still has to reconnect with his feminine side and with the magical forces of Nature, in order to achieve Original Unity. Having completed his initiatory journey, he reestablishes the ancient union of Duty and Love as a form of government and yields power to the midwife Urmila so that she can bring into the world human beings enlightened by concern for others, dialogue and respect for all living things.

This hitherto unknown tale really strikes a chord in today’s world. The hero bears a message of social justice, empowers women, and invites us all to recognize our shared universal responsibility for protecting all living things, as advocated by the Dalai Lama. Its accuracy has also been saluted by historians: the hero really did establish brotherhood as a form of government some time around the 7th century, in a vast region reaching from the Ganges to the Himalayas.

Martine Le Coz is a novelist (2001 Renaudot Prize for Céleste, Ed. du Rocher) and illustrator. Since 2012, she has been committed to working with artists in northern India, to whom she has devoted several books (Mithila, Women’s Honor, Ed. Michalon/L’Harmattan, 2013; Krishna’s Daughters Speak Up, Ed. Fauves, 2016; Mithila Dream, Looking at the Devanagari Alphabet, Ethnic Art Foundation Press, 2014). She designed the Seven Saris Indian oracle card deck (drawings and texts), co-published by Massot-Trédaniel in 2018.