I have always been fascinated by mythology. It has intrigued me in ways that no other field has managed to, and from there very early on stemmed the fondness for Indian Mythology. The rich and varied world that was right there before me, which was waiting to be explored and which I never had, till a friend advised I read, “Ka” by Roberto Colasso, surprisingly written on Indian Mythology by a foreigner. That led me to read “The Pregnant King” by Devdutt Pattanaik which I enjoyed thoroughly. I remember telling him at that time, “You must write something more on the Mahabharata. Something magnanimous” and he said he would and he wasn’t kidding.
So here “Jaya” by Devdutt Pattanaik was out and I was disappointed initially – only because of its size. I wanted more and more of it and only got this much, but whatever I read was brilliant. I believe that The Mahabharata is the greatest epic ever written and it surpasses even The Odyssey and The Iliad. Spread over eighteen volumes, to read the actual Mahabharata or to attempt to read it is no mean feat. I am doing that as of now through Bibek Debroy’s translation and that is another post altogether. Back to Jaya.
The story of the Mahabharata is not new to us – we know about it, we have heard about it, however how much do we really know? I guess not much and “Jaya” as a book makes you more aware about it. The various tales that took place in between till the battle, the nitty gritties you missed out on while watching it on the television (tsk tsk need I say more?), the stories that your grandmother forgot to mention and many such stories can be found in “Jaya”. The geetasar from Krishna to Arjun is beautifully written. It is my most favourite part in the entire book.
How is “Jaya” different from any other book on the Mahabharata? After all plenty have been written. It is an illustrated retelling and it lives up to that in every single way. The line drawings are brilliant – the strokes convey the expressions precisely – from anger to love to envy to sorrow to grief – after all that is what this epic is all about isn’t it – a melting pot of emotions.
Do not miss out on the footnotes at the end of every chapter – at times they are better than the actual chapter going by what they provide the reader – a better insight to the epic and why rituals are conducted the way they are, why is religion the way it is and so on and so forth.
At the end all I can say is that read “Jaya”. I have not said anything about the plot of the Mahabharata assuming that you know something about it and if you don’t then the net will always tell you more. However, to know a little more about the epic I highly recommend this book. Read it for the story it tells – about a family torn apart by greed and a war won by deceit, a blind king and his wife and their hundred sons, sons born from gods and women who turn into men. It will leave you speechless.
Jaya; Pattanaik, Devutt; Penguin India; Rs. 499