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RamaThe GitaIn North America, there is Marvel and DC Comics, but in India there is Amar Chitra Katha (ACK).

These comics, dating back to the late 1960s, have over 400 volumes with stories ranging from the traditional, like Ramayana, to the biographical, with stories about Shah Jahan (builder of the Taj Mahal and one of the great Muslim kings of India) and Gandhi – and sell over 1.5 million copies yearly, making it one of (if not the) most popular children’s series in India (ACK Media, 2009).

A North American religious studies professor, Karline McLain, has recently released a book all about these comics called, India’s Immortal Comic Books — a title that was just profiled in an article, ‘The Legacy of Amar Chitra Katha‘, from Business World (one of India’s most popular business magazines).

McLain notes that these comics, especially the ‘superhero’ like tales of Hanuman and other Hindu gods, have also had great global appeal through the widespread communities of the South Asian diaspora. McLain attributes this appeal both to ACK’s focus on Indian culture and heritage and its highly engaged superhero-like format and style. ACK is even a integral part of many Hindu temple libraries throughout N. America, according to McLain, with parents stocking the libraries with ACK as a way to educate, inform and engage with young adults and teens about their Indian religious heritage (McLain, p. 204).

As a source of international YA, ACK is excellent for its popular format (comics), its enduring history and appeal – and its accessibility. Though ACK was in decline through the 1990s–partially due to the massively popular televised versions of the Ramayana and Mahabharata– the brand has been reinvigorated through the work of ACK Media, which offers ACK titles in a variety of languages (including English, Hindi and Bengali), formats (including bound collected graphic novels) and ships titles worldwide for FREE on orders over $50.

Given that there is an identified lack of widespread YA literature produced in India versus the thriving North American YA market (Rangachari, 2009), these comics provide a great, accessible and easy way to begin a cornerstone collection of Indian YA books in the library. Perhaps surprisingly, I have seen ACK referred to in only a few subject guides for this area — Venture into Cultures (2001) being one of them. But, given ACK Media’s plans for ACK expansion – video games, an animated series and movies are but a few of their plans to bring ACK into the 21st century –  I think we will start to see more of these ‘immortal’ comics.

Amar Chitra Katha – a recommended purchase for any library.

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References:

shah jahan

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