The Mahabharata Retold: 4 different perspectives!

1 Posted by - February 25, 2014 - Non-Fiction

The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Ramayana! The Mahabharata is a narrative of Kurukshetra war between Kauravas and Pandavas under Sage Vyasa’s authorship. The Mahabharata story has been re-written in many versions throughout South and Southeast Asia.

There have been several attempts to untangle the tangled layers of the epic. Of late, we have seen this tale of the great battle of Kurukshetra narrated from different perspectives – from enchanting Draupadi’s, most powerful Bhima, greatest warrior Karna, and many more!

These retellings are definitely half-myth but at the same time wholly magical.

I have always been interested in Hindu Mythology and have read many books on the Mahabharata. These narratives are not only gripping but also informative. I got to know several things that I hadn’t known before. Myth or Fact, I’m not sure, but definitely attention-grabbing. Like, Sahadeva’s precognition gained by eating Pandu’s flesh, why Krishna stepped in to protect Draupadi when Dusshasana tried to disrobe her, why Shakuni tried his best to destroy the Kuru clan, Draupadi’s regret over Karna, and many more.

The titles that provided me with a new outlook to one of the Indian epics the Mahabharata are:

1. The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

I was intrigued as soon as I heard the plot of The Palace of Illusions, and I knew I was going to like it right away. I liked her choice of Draupadi as her narrator. Draupadi, or Panchaali, has been a captivating character in this grand epic. Portrayed as an independent and rebellious woman, Draupadi wanted to take her destiny into her own hands. While her actions at times made me less sympathetic towards her, I still felt she was an empowered and strong-willed woman. Since Draupadi has always been portrayed as the victim in various versions of the Mahabharata, this strong-minded Draupadi was indeed a fresh perspective.

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

What made me pick this version of epic was the synopsis on the cover – “God is cursed.” This made me wonder if it was possible for Gods to be cursed. Because it was always the humans who received the boons and curses from God! In the quest to get an answer to ‘how can God be cursed’, I started reading Jaya and found out that Krishna was cursed. Devdutt in this book shares the research he has done to find the roots of the Mahabharata. He mentions that the Mahabharata was initially titled ‘Jaya’ by Vyasa. He even provides unique insights into the lifestyle and beliefs of the people of 8th-9th century, making it an amazing read.

3. Karna’s Wife: The Outcast’s Queen by Kavita Kane 

Karna’s Wife: The Outcast’s Queen by Kavita Kane narrates the story of the Mahabharata’s much loved hero Karna through his wife Uruvi’s perspective. Many of us perhaps know little or nothing about Karna’s wives, family life and children and the effect war of Kurukshetra had on them. Not many of us know about Vrushali, Karna’s first wife and their 7 children! We all know that in Mahabharata there are no characters that are completely good or evil. Uruvi’s perspective brings a clarity and distinction to the various important personalities and their shades.

4. Ajaya: Epic of the Kaurava Clan-Roll of the Dice by Anand Neelakantan 

Anand Neelakantan’s Ajaya is the story of Jaya, or the Mahabharata as we popularly know the epic. However, Ajaya is a narration of the Mahabharata from the Kaurava’s point of view, the vanquished.

Ajaya tells us the story from Suyodhana’s, or as we all know him commonly as Duryodhana, point of view. It is mostly the victorious side of the story that gets narrated throughout generations. However, the author has retold the story of the Mahabharata from a different point of view over the more common version of Padava’s.


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