The Mahabharat is one of those timeless stories that resonates in every home, in every epoch and every culture. It is no wonder then that it continues to fascinate authors who re-create the epic time and again. This time Krishna Udayasankar retells the “epic as it was never told before” according to the blurb on the cover page.
The back cover talks of this book establishing Krishna Udayasankar “as a storyteller of formidable power and imagination”. So I set about to find out if this was true.
In the Author’s Note, she tells us that ” Aryavarta cmes to life not as a land of demigods and demons in strife, but as an empire of nobles, commoners and forest-dwellers in socio-economic conflict.” She says that she has simply ” contexualised and rationalised the story “, leaving the reader to “infuse it with meaning and bring it to life”.
The story is set in ancient times in a place north of the Vindhyas and is the third of the series that leads up to the battle. A rather complex family tree links up the various dynasties of Aryavarta and the cast of Characters introduces us to the main people we shall meet in the telling of the tale. Do not skip this part because many of the people she talks about are known to us by different names. An example being – Syoddhan who is the eldest son of the blind king Dhritirashtra who to most of us is known as Duryodhan . It begins in the dungeons where Sanajay, Devala and Suka are presented with Philista, a woman from Dwarka with the idea of finding out about an imminent peace deal being brokered between the warring Kurus. This gory scene actually put me off the book but I plodded on. Panchali or Draupadi has been “violated” Dharma Ydshistir is in in exile. Govinda Shauri wants to right the wrong and asks Syoddhan to give back the kingdom won in a game of dice, to the Pandavas. But Syoddhan believes that he won the kingdom fair and square so the only alternative is to go to war. Thus it is that the clans of Aryavarta take sides and gather together on the famous battlefield of Kuru that is far enough from “civilisation” to wreak havoc upon armies and not disturb the populace. What follows is a wonderful description of the actual battle with the main protagonists discussing and analysing battle strategy with distinctly modern overtones. Every morning the warriors stage a pitched battle which actually ends at sunset. In fact during the middle of the conflict, all the warring grandsons of Bhisma come together around the injured and dying statesmen who fell to Shikhandi’s arrow.
Udayasankar, indeed has an engaging way of unravelling the story and holds the reader spell bound with a freshness brought to an old tale.
I am also linking this to WriteTribe ProBlogger’s Challenge