Book Review : The Winds of Hastinapur

Blurb View:

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

‘My hair is white and thin now. In a few moons, the Goddess will claim me, and I do not have a fresh young virgin by my side to absorb my knowledge and take my place when I am gone. The Mysteries of Ganga and her Sight will vanish with me, and the Great River will become nothing more than a body of lifeless water… It is my intention, therefore, to tell you the story as it happened, as I saw it happen.’

The Winds of Hastinapur begins at the point when Ganga was cursed and sent to Earth. She lives among the mortals and bears Shantanu, the King of Hastinapur, seven children, all of whom she kills. With the eighth, she leaves. That boy, who returns to Earth, will prove to be the key to the future of Hastinapur. The story, as told through the lives of his mother Ganga and stepmother Satyavati, is violent, fraught with conflict and touched by magic. 

A lady of the river who has no virgin daughter to carry on her legacy, Celestials who partake of a mysterious lake they guard with their very lives, sages overcome by lust, a randy fisher-princess – these and other characters lend a startling new dimension to a familiar tale. Sharath Komarraju does not so much retell the epic as to rewrite it. 

Review:

Another Mythological fiction. Another Mahabharat. Although the epic seems to be the flavour of 2013-14 with a range of books on its characters, Mahabharat never gets tiring for some of us. We’ve had Arjun, Draupadi and other characters adorning our bookshelves these days, but Sharath Komarraju presents us with two very interesting and often neglected characters – Ganga and Satyavati.

The book begins with Ganga reminiscing about her life, her mother and the influence of Gods on her. Most of us have known Ganga only as a river and mentioned in Mahabharat, but her history and the course of her life is as interesting as other women in the epic. Ganga’s identity is primarily showcased as the mother of Bhishma who also bore other children to his father Shantanu. Satyavati is Bhsihma’s stepmother whom Shantanu married after he got besotted with her. Ganga and Stayavati make an interesting pair of women to be compared with each other.

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Book Review: Arjuna

arjuna

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Blurb View:

Arjuna is the immortal tale of one of Indias greatest heroes. These pages retell in riveting detail the story of the Pandava Warrior-Prince who has captured the imagination of millions across centuries. This is the intense and human story of his loves, friendship, ambitions, weaknesses and follies, as well as his untimely death and revival, his stint as a eunuch, and the innermost reaches of his thoughts. Told in a refreshingly modern and humourous style and set against the staggering backdrop of the Mahabharata. Arjunas story appeals equally to the average, discerning reader and the scholar. It spans the epic journey from before his birth, when omens foretold his greatness, across the fabled, wondrous landscape that was his life.

Review: 

Disclaimer: I do always refer to the names of Indian characters without the suffix ‘a’. It is and will be Arjun for me, not Arjuna. 

Mythology has always been the Achilles’ Heel for me. I have been trying to comprehend the epics since childhood through bland text books and the legendary television serials, especially Mahabharat. It has been mostly futile, though. As if Valmiki and Ved Vyas had conspired eons ago to confuse me with their magnanimous works. It is because of this confusion that I still pick up mythological books, to test myself.

Anuja Chandramouli, the author of this book had asked me very graciously to read and review it for her. I’d be lying if I said that I started reading without expectations. I had presumed the book would be unusual, perhaps presenting Arjun in a different light, assess him from a different angle, or even let him speak out his life to the mere mortals ages later. Alas, I was disappointed. The book is an abridged Mahabharat in English with interesting trivia and anecdotes, which are often left out in the popular versions of the epic. It is not fiction, in my opinion. Anuja has been true to the original text, the stories, the characters, their circumstances. The figments of her imagination are much less in quantity than what would have made it a great book.

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