Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Yajnaseni & Others

Book Cover credits applicable here
Yajnaseni is the story of Draupadi who was born of the sacrificial altar, written by Sahitya Akademi Award winning Pratibha Ray in Oriya. The English translation is a bit hairsplittingly bookish but the content of the novel holds good on its own for you to be captivated by the strong characterisation and flow of Draupadi's life. I wish I could read Oriya as the translations never do justice to the original text.

It deviates from the original storyline in probably only 2 or three minor aspects wherein she is portrayed to have a soft corner for Karna and an infatuation for her sakha Krishna. The way it is woven, it seamlessly appears believable because somewhere deep down we can relate with the human depiction of her spiritual fascination with Lord Krishna, jealousy for Subhadra and Hidimba, sympathy for Karna, restrained respect for Kunti, dealing with five husbands who have difficult natures to please; anguish, helplessness and a quiet submission to fate despite having been a firebrand princess who doesn't hesitate to state the truth.

I bought this book six months back. When I started reading it, I was full of apprehensions. I had just finished a book on Oriya short stories. Most of the stories had a sad ending. So, to pick up another literary gem from Oriya literature needed courage. I found the way Draupadi explaines how the world saw her as a beauty to be a bit unabashedly outrageous. Which royal woman talks like, "people equated my thighs with the trunks of soft plantain trees" in first person? But as I read on, everything made sense. I am halfway through and can totally understand why this book is an award winner.

This is a book one must read if one is interested in the socio-political thread that runs through the whole fabric of Mahabharat. Especially gender dynamics and challanges of womanhood. Other three books which see the great epic from different individual and ethnic viewpoints are -

'The Second Turn' by M.T. Vasudevan Nair. Originally written in Malayalam as 'Randamoozam', it is the retelling of Mahabharat from the viewpoint of Bhima, the second Pandav brother.

'Triumph Over Death' by Shivaji Sawant. Originally written in Marathi as 'Mrityunjay', is based on Karna.

'Parva' by S.L. Bhyrappa in Kannada. Tanslated in over 7 languages it also won Sahitya Akademi Award for translation for K. Raghavendra Rao. The uniqueness of this book lies in the 'monologue style' where few principal characters of the epic narrate it from their points of view.

All these four derivatives are masterpieces in their own right.

(Note : This post doesn't talk about innumerable re-tellings of Mahabharata. Only the books which bring in a fresh new perspective by weaving a storyline on individual characters have been mentioned here. If you know of any such books, please do tell me about them. Would love to read.)


  1. There is one more...a small book...'व्यासपर्व' by Durga Bhagwat. It sees all the great personalities in a completely different perspective. Must read I feel.

  2. Thanks Anagha :) will try and get it when I am in Mumbai next. I assume it is in Marathi.

  3. खरोखरच 'व्यासपर्व' हे दुर्गा भागवतांचे पुस्तक अतिशय वाचनीय आहे.

  4. will get vyasparv whenever i am in Mumbai next


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