Monday, March 28, 2011

South Asian Challenge 2011

I have gone ahead and signed up for another Book reading Challenge called South Asian Challenge, hosted by Swapna Krishna at her blog.

I am a little late to join, since the challenge officially stared from January 2011 but it is fine. I still have time till December 2011. This one covers a little more geography. Of course, books on India or by Indians qualify, but I can also include books on and from other South Asian countries.

I am looking forward to the book-filled days and months :-)

Book Reading Challenge 2011

I have been toying with the idea of signing up for one of the Book Reading Challenges for sometime now. The reason being it brings in a lot of discipline and I anyways want to read more books.

I just signed up for Book Reading Challenge 2011. The best part is that this book reading challenge is based on books on India or by Indians. The expectations are not quite high and I think I can do it. 

I just have following objectives with this challenge:
  • I will read all the existing books on India or by Indians, which I have been hoarding since ages now
  • I will hunt more interesting books related to India, and since I read non-fiction, fiction, everything, it is not going to be too tough
  • The contest runs from 1st April to 31st May 2011, which I think I will be comfortable with
  • I wanted to bring in more discipline in reading and writing, so hopefully, I would review all the books which I read
Wish me Luck!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata by Devdutt Pattanaik

Title: Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata
Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
Publisher: Penguin Books India
Pages: 372
Genre: Mythology

Given my penchant for hoarding books inspired by Mahabharata, I had this one too lying on my book-shelf for months now. After finishing Badrinath Chaturvedi’s ‘The Women of the Mahabharata’ (which by the way is another good book on the subject), I picked this up for reading.

I have read about 10 books on Mahabharata, and if I were to suggest one book that you should read on the subject, I would highly recommend this book. It amazingly captures everything I have read in those 10 books (in just 372 pages with illustrated drawings also for better understanding). The flow is smooth, the language is lucid and it goes much beyond than merely telling a unidimensional story. After every chapter, the author tries to explain the practical aspects behind the stories that we have heard, so that there is better clarity, for e.g., birth of 100 kauravas, birth of 5 pandavas, and several other things. It is perhaps the best thing that the author has done. Otherwise whenever we read such stories we are left wondering how this or that could actually happen, because there is way too much exaggeration.

It is for the first time, I came to know about the story of Shakuni, which I also found on Wikipedia later. The only things I found missing in this book, as also in any other book on Mahabharata that I have read, are a little more perspective on Duryodhan, and a little more about the ‘danveer’ aspect of Karna. Duryodhan has been known to be a good king, while Karna’s danveer nature has been known to all. Otherwise, I found this book perfect.

A few questions which I found myself pondering about, after reading this book were:
  • Mahabharata is said to be a war for ‘dharma’ but actually if you see, Pandavas (with help from Krishna) flouted more rules to kill their enemies than Kauravas. The only time Kauravas overlooked the rules was when Abhimanyu was killed in Chakravyuha, and when Ashmathhama lights a fire in Pandava’s camp and also kills Dhrishtadyumna and all five sons of Draupadi. On the other side, Pandavas killed Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Duryodhana and even Jayadratha by folly.
  • If you look at it, Pandavas might not have won, had it not been for Krishna
  • The irony of Mahabharata was that while the Kauravas were killed and went to heaven, Pandavas were left to rule a kingdom of corpses, widows and orphans.
  • Kauravas and Pandavas were fighting for the right to the throne, but the truth was that neither of them were from the true lineage of the Kuru dynasty
  • Yudhishthir, in all the books that I have read, comes across as a weak character. He loses everything in the game of dice, even his wife; and when Draupadi gets their freedom back from Dhritarashtra, he again loses his right on the kingdom and gets for Pandavas and their wife thirteen years of exile. What a man!
  • How can Yudhishthir be forgiven of the adharma of manipulating his mother’s words to marry his younger brother’s wife!
  • There are 2 things which I have never been able to comprehend. First, just because Kunti asked the brothers to share the alms, how can they share a wife! Secondly, why nobody objected to Draupadi’s humiliation in the court. Which dharma allows it?
  • Frankly, this so-called dharma elaborated in such detail in the epics have all been written by men and they have some really weird perspectives on what a woman should do.

Well, anyways, this book in undoubtedly fabulous. Go for it. 

Check out my compilation of Books on Mahabharata here.    

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