Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
Year Published: August 2010
Genre: Hindu mythology
My Rating: 4 on 5
When this book was released last year, it immediately caught my attention. Many readers in my circle were reading this book and the attractive book cover and the subject itself was so interesting, I ordered a copy for myself without much thought. Now that I have finished reading this book, I can safely say it was a wise decision.
Jaya, in simple words, is Mahabharata retold. It narrates all the stories connected to the war between Pandavas and Kauravas – the incidents that led to the war and which influenced it and the incidents which followed the war. The author does not stop at just narrating an incident, but goes on to dissect and contemplate to bring out the actual meaning of the incident. Most of the stories are well known to Indians, thanks to the weekly dose of Ramayana and Mahabharata serials on Doordarshan, but very few of us would have stopped and thought about what the story really meant. Pattanaik helps us fill this gap by neatly listing down ‘points to ponder over’ at the end of every chapter.
I did not know what to expect when I started reading this book. I knew it will refresh my memory but beyond that, I didn’t know what I will take back from the book. Not only did my memory come alive, the book made me ponder over what I knew all along, but never bothered to wonder or question. Bhagavad Gita is explained in such simple words that I have an urge to go back and read the original. I grew up listening to stories from this epic and as someone who was taught to be honest and truthful, the fact that Krishna ‘cheats’ to help the Pandavas win the war was hard to digest. I was hoping to get an answer from this book, but I did not. Did I miss reading it?
Pattanaik’s language is simple and effective. He cares to provide the meaning of Sanskrit words which might be familiar to an Indian audience, which a non-Hindu might not know the meaning of. Concepts like immortal soul, mortal body, karma, dharma are very well explained and differentiated. This book is like a crash course on Hinduism.
The lovely illustrations make the book very enjoyable. These look simple to draw and convey the meaning of the incident with just lines and strokes. Pattanaik himself is the illustrator but he acknowledges his driver for his help with the drawing. Just see the below illustration, for example. (The image has been copied from Pattanaik’s website, without permission. I hope he doesn’t mind. ) Look at the fierce expression on the sadhu and the peaceful expression on Ganesha. The way Ganesha’s head is slightly bent to the side shows obedience and attention. The drawing is so simple, yet so effective.
I thought it would be impossible to retell the story of Mahabharata in such a small book, but Pattanaik succeeds in doing that. He brings alive one of the greatest Hindu epics through his simple language and effective illustration. This book is a enjoyable and thought-provoking read for anyone who is interested in Hindu mythology.