Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata

Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the MahabharataMr Devdutt Pattanaik, meet your latest die hard fan ME Hats off for accomplishing the task of rewriting the Mahabharat in such a lucid easy fashion, fit to be enjoyed by everyone who don t want to weigh themselves down with dreary details, but taste the brilliance of the world s longest epic.Indeed, I had tried several times before this to read the Mahabharat in its entirety, but could never finish it Not that I was not familiar with the stories every Indian child is fed on them with their usual quota of dal chawal But I wantedI hungered to read them in a continuity for chronology, for ease of understanding, and most importantly, for enjoyment I wanted to know the beginning, the Adi, and the infinite end, the Anant Yet, mostly every copy I came across, were either too simplified, children s retellings , or super duper complex, with Sanskrit slokas, which I m ashamed to say, I cannot read Until I found this book It was perfect exactly what I was looking for.Not only is the book wonderfully written, it is addictive It is divided into parts 3 major parts events leading to the great war of Kurukshetra, the war, and the aftermaths of the war Each part has further subdivisions each of which further contain many stories Yet, it does not, not even for once, weigh you down with the many different characters, or their complex relationships with other But what I enjoyed the most, were the little boxes at the end of every story which contained commentaries from the author analyzing the specific event Sometimes they contain tid bits of how those stories are relevant even today, or how they have seeped into our, and other foreign cultures Highly informative and fun to read It is evident that a lot of research went into writing the book, and I always appreciate authors who work hard to gift you that extra something special.As an added bonus, the book had wonderful sketches by the author himself, which were a treat to admire Nothing elaborate, but beautiful in their simplicity, glowing in the confidence of the bold strokes.So, if you have even a MINUTE interest in Indian mythology, grab this book right now Even if you know the Mahabharat in its entirety, don t miss it I promise you it ll be a treat you won t regret HIGHLY RECOMMENDED 6 stars. In my teens in India, I used to be fascinated by the retelling of the Mahabharata by Rajaji in Tamil I read it repeatedly over the years and was well conversant with the myths, the war and its aftermath One thing that always stood out as an anamoly was the repeated conduct of adharmic actions by the Pandavas during the war and Krishna s collusion in most of them However, Rajaji, being a devotee of Krishna himself, always glossed over these acts of adharma and presented mostly a sanitised picture of the Pandavas as the good guys, the Kauravas as the bad guys and the role of Krishna as beyond evaluation because he was God himself on Earth Rajaji also was guilty of presenting an incomplete picture of the epic in some ways For example, he writes that the Pandavas, during their exile in the forest, were implored by the King of Animals to stop decimating the deer population in their search for food Yudhishtra agrees and moves away from the forest and Rajaji heralds this as an indication of the environmental concern of our ancestors But he completely avoids mentioning the cruelty of the Pandavas in burning down the Khandavaprastha forest to build the city of Indraprastha, killing all the animals, reptiles, trees and insects wantonly Hence, for me, this book by Devdutt Pattanaik is a welcome addition to the retelling of the Mahabharata He takes acritical and objective look at the epic and speculates on the motives of the various players in the epic without being constrained by false religious devotion and dogma He also brings in alternative versions of the epic from various folk traditions in Tamilnadu, Orissa, Rajasthan and Indonesia I found this book an educational and refreshing read.The story is too well known to be recounted here Instead, I shall touch upon some of the other interesting aspects of the epic that the author writes about.1 The author quotes Indian psychoanalysts of the Freudian school to suggest that Indian men possibly suffer from the Yayati complex rather than the Oedipus complex In the Greek view, dominated by the Oedipus complex, it is the next generation which inherits society, while in the Indian world view, dominated by the Yayati complex, it is the older generation which always dominates society, explaining the stranglehold of tradition over modernity in Indian society I guess all Indians can relate to this very well from personal experience 2 This retelling of the epic also brings the Pandavas and Bhishma down to earth instead of blindly keeping them on a pedestal of perfection The author suggests that Arjuna was very insecure about his position as the best archer and that the Pandavas were mostly insecure and unsure of their identity till their marriage to Draupadi It was the marriage to the daughter of the King of Panchala which gave them a sense of royal identity and power Most narrations of the epic do not suggest such a prime role for Draupadi Elsewhere, it is also shown that the Pandavas did argue and bicker among themselves over Yudhishtra s penchant for continuing to play the game of dice and losing everything in the process Bhishma is also shown to be not so saintly but prone to pride and arrogance in the way he kidnapped Amba, Ambika and Ambalika and ruining Amba s life in the process The author lists ten major acts of adharma during the war and shows that eight belonged to the Pandavas and Krishna while only two were committed by the Kauravas.3.Dating the Epic Indians often like to date the Mahabharata as far back in time as possible because we seem to think that something must be great just because it is very old Here, the author quotes B.N Narahari Achar of the Dept of Physics, Memphis Univ, USA in dating the epic using the Planetarium software Based on astronimical data exactly as given in the epic that two eclipses separated by 13 days took place around the war, that of a lunar eclipse and then a solar eclipse with Saturn at Rohini and Jupiter at Revathi the Great war must have started on 22 Nov 3067 BCE The author also suggests that the epic was written over many centuries, starting with the Vedic times around 2000 BCE all the way to 300 CE when the Bhagvad Gita was possibly added The proof he gives is as follows The Gods invoked by Kunti and Madri to beget children were Vedic Gods like Yama, Vayu and Indra rather than Shiva or Vishnu or Brahma The notion of an all powerful God is a later development in Hindu thought This indicates that the epic first took shape in Vedic times which were dominated by beliefs in elemental spirits.There are manycommentaries by the author on other aspects of the Epic which make this book a very worthwhile read The illustrations are not bad either Even non Indians can get a good understanding of the epic through this book though the number of characters may simply overwhelm one and all. When I give three stars to a book, it s often grudgingly as I think I may be over emphasising its merits, or guiltily as I think I may be downplaying the book s merits These three stars are given guiltily.Pattnaik s retelling of the Mahabharata is narrated in a simple manner, through the lens of present day wisdom but with an awareness of its absence in the past One of the immediate impacts of listening to the audio is that I eagerly want to read the Bhagavad Gita Pattanaik s take on the wisdom Krishna imparted to Arjuna, was one I enjoyed Perhaps, once I read the translation of the Mahabharatha, I will be able to judge this work on several scales For now, it suffices to say that it is both enjoyable and non trivial I also heard it instead of reading the illustrated version I ve flipped through the book before and think reading it will be better than listening to the audio.Jaya s strength lies in the fact that it interprets the Mahabharata, something that is not done by most who have encountered the tales, and it does so in simple language Additionally, it does not rely on the Sanskrit version alone but incorporates various folk tales from different regions The Mahabharata is considered an Itihasa, meaning history Personally, I don t see it that way The value of the epic is in making one contemplate and Jaya s primary motive may be to provide a boost to those who have not borne the fruits of active reading. While I know a bit about Greek and Roman Mythologies, being the most popular, I knew next to nothing about Hindu Mythology, neither their gods nor their epics So this book was both entertaining to read and an overwhelmingly horizon broadening experience If I were to compare the complexity of Greek and Hindu morality, the Hindu would win every time This book has sorely exposed how ignorant I have been until now, but at least I can try to learn and find outThere will be spoilers next, so if you are intrigued enough, please read Jaya and I don t think you will be disappointed I am not I will not offer a summary of events because that would be so difficult, hence I will just express how I feel now When I started reading I was a bit confused because there were so many names, which were also very difficult to pronounce, so I had to write who was related to whom down on a piece of paper Needless to say, things got convoluted quickly, even on paper But then after a bit the main characters of the epic are established and it gets much easier to follow their progress Each story has a morale that is either evident or explained by the author in something like a footnote which was GREATLY helpful and offered some valuable pieces of information about the condition of society in said time and what the story was trying to establish and why When Krishna God entered the scene, I was very happy because I wanted to understandabout the Hindu God and why he has so many different names Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna. , and I did indeed learn a bit about him But I was also surprised Because among a host of extremely unlikable characters, Krishna was the one I disliked most, and when I read the title Death of Krishna I actually let out a whoop of joy Aside from my dislike for Krishna, there were many things that left me wondering at the true purpose of this epic how both sides fighting in the war were not either wholly good or wholly bad, but a mix of both how some good people well, mostly good met terrible deaths like Karna and Bhishma how the epic was all about kings and fighting to rule land, with no mention of the rest of the population 99% of the characters were of the ruling class and how Karma was a very stupid idea to believe in since it makes every single bad decision an inevitability, so when you do shit, all you say is it was destined , and when a good person suffers you say he must have accidentally killed an ant in a previous life It was not until the very end that I realised that everything well, mostly everything was intentional the moral ambiguity of the Pandavas and Kauravas, how Krishna was not a perfect being despite the fact that he was God on Earth, why the battle had to happen, and so on It turns out that it all centers around a specific message, which is part of Hinduism morality At that moment, Yudhishtira realized he was not the great man who he thought he was He had not really overcome his prejudices Only when there is undiluted compassion for everyone, even our worst enemies, is ego truly conquered Realization humbled Yudhishtira He fell to the ground and began to weep.Led by the Devas, Yudhishtira then took a dip in the Ganga and rose enlightened, purified, refreshed and truly liberated, with the sincere desire to forgive and accept the Kauravas There was nohatred Nothem and us Nobetter and worse There was only love Everyone was one Jaya shouted Indra Jaya shouted the Devas Jaya shouted the Rishis For Yudhishtira had won the ultimate victory, victory over himself Now he would ascend to a heaven higher than Swarga Now he would ascend to Vaikuntha, the abode of God This was a GREAT bit I don t think any other religion challenges God in this waySince God takes birth as a mortal, he needs to live like a mortal, earn demerits that will be the cause of his death Vyasa reminds us that all actions have positive and negative repercussions In establishing dharma, Krishna kills many people They may be villains according to one measuring scale, but according to another measuring scale they are the beloved sons of doting mothers So while Krishna is blessed for restoring faith in justice, he is also cursed for breaking a mother s heart What may seem like a good deed from one point of view may not be seen as one from another point of view Thus does Vyasa reflect on the complexity of life where even the goodness of God is challenged by man I cannot stress how great this book was I am confused, said Janamejaya Who is the hero of this tale Who is the villain Who shall we call villain, my king Duryodhana, who refused to share even a needlepoint of land Yudhishtira, who gambled away wife and kingdom Bhishma, who prevented Dhritarashtra from becoming king just because he was blind Shantanu, who sacrificed his son s future to satisfy his own lust Or is it Gandhari, for blindfolding herself to her son s many faults Or maybe Krishna, who had long ago promised the earth goddess to rid the world of unrighteous kings You decide who is hero and who is villain, said Vaisampayana.Janamejaya had no reply He recollected the many forces that influenced the flow of the tale boons and curses and manmade laws There was no hero or villain in the epic, just people struggling with life, responding to crises, making mistakes, repeating mistakes, in innocence or ignorance, while trying to make their lives meaningful and worthwhile Why then do you call this tale Jaya There is no real victory There are two kinds of victory in this world, said the storyteller sage, Vijaya and Jaya Vijaya is material victory, where there is a loser Jaya is spiritual victory, where there are no losers In Kuru kshetra there was Vijaya but not Jaya But when Yudhishtira overcame his rage and forgave the Kauravas unconditionally, there was Jaya That is the true ending of my tale, hence the title Eventually, after exhausting merits and demerits, the Kauravas will fall and the Pandavas will rise Both will resume their journey through the cycle of rebirths Once again they will be born and once again they will die Once again they will earn merit, or demerit Once again they will attain either Swarga, or Naraka This will happen again and again until they learn Learn what What Yudhishtira learnt the point of existence is not to accumulate merit, but to attain wisdom We have to ask ourselves why do we do what we do When we truly accept the answer, we break free from the cycle of births and deaths, and discover the realm beyond Swarga, Vaikuntha, where there is peace forever. High Above The Sky Stands Swarga, Paradise, Abode Of The Gods Still Above Is Vaikuntha, Heaven, Abode Of GodThe Doorkeepers Of Vaikuntha Are The Twins, Jaya And Vijaya, Both Whose Names Mean Victory One Keeps You In Swarga The Other Raises You Into VaikunthaIn Vaikuntha There Is Bliss Forever, In Swarga There Is Pleasure For Only As Long As You Deserve What Is The Difference Between Jaya And Vijaya Solve This Puzzle And You Will Solve The Mystery Of The MahabharataIn This Enthralling Retelling Of India S Greatest Epic, The Mahabharata Originally Known As Jaya, Devdutt Pattanaik Seamlessly Weaves Into A Single Narrative Plots From The Sanskrit Classic As Well As Its Many Folk And Regional Variants, Including The Pandavani Of Chhattisgarh, Gondhal Of Maharashtra, Terukkuttu Of Tamil Nadu And Yakshagana Of KarnatakaRichly Illustrated With OverLine Drawings By The Author, TheChapters Abound With Little Known Details Such As The Names Of The Hundred Kauravas, The Worship Of Draupadi As A Goddess In Tamil Nadu, The Stories Of Astika, Madhavi, Jaimini, Aravan And Barbareek, The Mahabharata Version Of The Shakuntalam And The Ramayana, And The Dating Of The War Based On Astronomical DataWith Clarity And Simplicity, The Tales In This Elegant Volume Reveal The Eternal Relevance Of The Mahabharata, The Complex And Disturbing Meditation On The Human Condition That Has Shaped Indian Thought For OverYears I don t always judge a book by its cover but in this case, the cover just lured me in.I hardly ever write a review I m too lazy rating the book is as far as I go because all it takes is a click but in this case I felt like making an exception.Where to begin With the beginning.So the author chooses to call his book Jaya An illustrated retelling of the Mahabharata rather than simply Mahabharata retold or some such It is not just to stand apart from the other versions, no maam he justifies his choice of this title quite satisfactorily before the book ends.Also, this book is literally illustrated with his line drawings which are simple yet evocative.This book is divided into 18 parts Ved Vyasa s Mahabharata is also divided into 18 parvas but there is no one to one correspondence between the divisions made by Vyasa and Pattanaik For example, in this book the great war has been compressed into just 1 part whereas in Vyasa s version, 4 of the 18 parvas are devoted to the war Bhishma parva, Drona parva, Karna parva and Shalya parva That is because this book focuses on something much beyond the war It tries to find the message for mankind hidden in the complexities of this epic saga.Each of the 108 chapters ends with some bullet points which present alternate versions of the stories contained in that chapter, its significance in context of the overall story etc This was, for me, the best part of this book and what may possibly make it worth a read even for those who are already quite familiar with the tale as I was even before reading this book It is very easy to miss the forest for the trees when you embark upon this adventure called Mahabharata, so Pattanaik spells it out for you, and I believe there is no harm in benefiting from his vast research.Moreover, each chapter is self contained, in the sense that there is a proper beginning, middle and end No chapter ends with a cliff hanger So even though the chapters are arranged in a chronological manner, really they can be read in any order if one so desires.There was hardly any chapter in which I didn t come across some new tidbit or other, and that is when I have watched all 94 episodes of B.R Chopra s Mahabharat, which itself is quite detailed, as well as have read Kamala Subramaniam s Mahabharata which deals with even such minor characters like the Trigarta brothers Samsaptakas Susarma, Satyaratha, Satyavarma, Satyaasu, and Satyadharma sons of Karna Satyasena, Sushena, Vrishasena etc In fact Part 1 Ancestors was almost entirely new to me.Because this book is an abridged version of the original, Pattanaik has obviously had to compromise on many details Out of the numerous sub plots, he has shed light on only those which probably appealed to him the most Because he tried to keep the chapters short, simple sweet, he missed out on the opportunity to really develop some of the characters There is also a lack of poetry in this retelling which focuseson the plot points All these are reasons why this should not be the only book you ever read about the Mahabharat.Nevertheless it remains a compelling read I finished it within 2 days flat and that was when curiosity or suspense was not my driving force I highly recommend it for both Mahabharat noobs and nerds and also for all those in between. Where do I even begin to review this book I was on my way back to Boston from Hyderabad, India and had a lot of time to kill at the airport after the security check As I was wandering in the airport bookstore, I came across this book, read the back cover and was hooked It goes thus,A son renounces sex so that his old father can remarryA daughter is a prize in an archery contestA teacher demands half a kingdom as his tuition feeA student is turned away because of his casteA mother asks her sons to share a wifeA father curses his son in law to be old and impotentA husband lets another man make his wife pregnantA wife blindfolds herself to share her husband s blindnessA forest is destroyed for a new cityA family is divided over inheritanceA king gambles away his kingdomA queen is forced to serve as a maidA man is stripped of his manhood for a yearA woman is publicly disrobedA war is fought where all rules are brokenA shift in sexuality secures victoryThe vanquished go to paradiseThe victors lose their childrenThe earth is bathed in bloodGod is cursedUntil wisdom prevails I grew up listening to stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, but I was always partial towards the Mahabharata I don t know whether it was because of the Krishna s adorable childhood antics, the myriad of heroic characters each with their own prowess, or because the unfortunate tale of the Pandava brothers struck a cord in my heart Honestly, the Mahabharata is an epic in the true sense of the word The scope is so vast and there are so many characters that typically most interpretations just skim the events and dwell on the famous warring cousins, the Pandavas and the Kauravas.Anyway, coming back to Devdutt Patnaik s retelling, I think he makes itinteresting by presenting muchthan the bare bones of the story He delves into the sub plots, significance of little known events, different folk lores and the numerous stories within stories which make up the real Mahabharata visualized by Ved Vyasa I absolutely loved it, if I haven t said so before already Devdutt Patnaik is a mythologist by passion, according to his Goodreads bio and I think he does this job exceptionally well Any lover of Hindu mythology will not be disappointed by this book. I consider myselfwell versed with the Mahabharata than the average person, because of my interest in Hindu mythology and the amount of reading I ve done on the subject But I m really glad I read this, not just because of the small details I learned about I counted 6 things I hadn t known about Sahadeva s precognition gained by eating Pandu s flesh, Draupadi cursing dogs to copulate in public for stealing Yudhishtira s slippers, Vibhishana being present at Draupadi s swayamwar, a couple of stories on why Krishna stepped in to protect Draupadi when Dusshasana tried to disrobe her, why Shakuni did his best to ensure the destruction of the Kuru clan, Draupadi s regret over Karna and at least a coupleinteresting tidbits but because of the wonderful lessons it provides The author also mentions several variations of the tale, regional renditions and folk variations adding layers to the original story Even as one feels the familiarity thanks to the places which still exist mentioned and can identify with the experiences and tribulations of the mortal characters, there is also an awe created by the elements of divinity.The excellent illustrations and the simple yet elegant and evocative storytelling took me back to a time when I first started hearing these stories childhood So vivid is the prose that one can easily create visualisations of the events The explanation of events are done on many planes rational, metaphysical, spiritual, bringing a lot of clarity to the complex tale The concepts of dharma and justice are explained beautifully and even as the Pandavas grow their perspective during their exile and their pride, anger etc get tempered before and after the war, there is tremendous learning for the reader too It is easy to understand why this is indeed considered the greatest story ever told, and continues to be relevant through ages The original tale is epic, and so is this narration Very highly recommended. This book is full of revelation that surprised me a lot, so many unknown stories, characters Even very tiny details are captured in this book The kudos to the author, for his effort to understand all the version and related stories of Mahabharata in this world Yes this book is a page turner though we knew the ending and plot By reading this book I learnt 55 new words This is not spiritual or philosophical book, its about way of life For the efforts For narration For keeping me engaged For teaching valuable lessons. Am IMPRESSED Confession am not a die hard mythology fan I sometimes get bored by the various stories and sub stories But this was a refreshing read Waslike a precise guide to Mahabharatha It made me think, made me understand many incongruities in the story and now that I see the characters as ordinary people I like them , even the Kauravas This was a mine house of less known facts At least 1 2 illustrations per page, which made reading pleasanter Many thoughts which prodded and poked at my sleepy mind and conscience Spent a wonderful few days with this book A definite future reread.

Dr Devdutt Pattanaik born December 11, 1970 is an Indian physician turned leadership consultant, mythologist and author whose works focus largely on the areas of myth, mythology, and also management He has written a number of books related to Hindu mythology, including Myth Mithya A Handbook of Hindu Mythology, a novel, The Pregnant King, and Jaya An Illustrated Retelling of the

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  • Paperback
  • 372 pages
  • Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata
  • Devdutt Pattanaik
  • English
  • 10 May 2017
  • 9780143104254

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