Sunday, January 26, 2014

5. Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata by Devdutt Pattanaik

Mahabharata is an epic, the longest one in the world. It forms the most important part of Indian mythology and is a cornerstone of Hindu religion. Many of its sub-sects, like the Ramayana (an abbreviated version) and Bhagwada Gita, are quite famous in their own right.

Jaya is an ambitious effort by the author in illustrating and interpreting many of the events of Mahabharata, in which he traces the ancestry and origins of the Kauravas and Pandavas, relating stories about their ancestors, illustrating how every event is the result of Karma, even if it is not immediately apparent, and that such Karma is not necessarily restricted to that birth and could be carried forward from a previous birth, or inherited (for better or worse, generally worse) from an ancestor. Funny story about Karma, not all apparent good deeds carried out with the best of intentions are necessarily good and not all apparent bad deeds carried out with the worst of intentions are necessarily bad.

While I was generally aware of many of the main stories of Mahabharata, and some side stories, a lot many more were new to me, neither had I always thought about the interpretation of those stories in such terms. I was pleasantly surprised with the illustrations and interpretations, in which the author doesn't try to moralise or create interpretations to be different or for the shock value.

Among other things, the book lists down the names of all the 100 Kauravas, the origin of patriarchy in India, the breaking of rules in the battle of Kurukshetra (Pandavas, are surprisingly the culprit of most of such breaks in Rules of War; the justification being that Kauravas, in the events leading to the war have followed Matsya Nyaya (equivalent to Law of the Jungle) and hence can no longer deserve a fair battle) and the eight ways in which a man and woman can come together. I have noted for my personal reference all the above and some more of such very interesting tit-bits, which makes this book quite a pleasure to read.
I don't know if and when will I ever be able to read the complete Mahabharata, for now, I can only hope.


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