JAYA by Devdutt Pattanaik

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Mythology is one of the oldest forms of books which have ever been written. In Indian society Mythology has a huge role to play, especially in the Hindu way of living.  But it doesn’t really matter whether one is a Hindu or not in order to be influenced by these Mythological texts. The two main Mythologies which have a great influence on the Indian way of thinking irrespective of the background of the person are the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. It is extremely hard to come across someone in your life who hasn’t ever heard of either of these two Mythologies, at least in India. Both the Mythologies are no doubt popular, but if one had to choose which one was more popular then a common man would of course choose Ramayana. Ramayana’s story is something almost everyone is familiar with.

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Mahabharata on the other hand is a Mythology only very few are extremely familiar with. It maybe because, it is the longest Mythology in the world. Even longer than the Iliad and Odyssey. Maybe that is one of the reasons why many people do not read it. It could also be because of the fact that it’s main protagonists are not worshipped as Gods. But that does not mean that people aren’t interested in knowing about Mahabharata. Over time many books have been written about Mahabharata and one such book is JAYA: An illustrated re-telling of Mahabharata by Devdutt Pattanaik. He is also the author of the very famous book Sita.

One expects the book to be extremely long. But to one’s surprise the book is not as long as one expects it to be. It has around 300 pages. The question that one might raise is that, whether 300 some pages are enough to tell one the story of the longest mythology in the world? Well, guess what it is. The book is straight on to the point and does not indulge in little little stories which are not so relevant, because if one is really interested in those little not extremely insignificant book, they would have read the epic on their own by now.

The book begins with a small introduction of Mahabharata. The prologue itself puts up such interesting facts in front of the reader, that one person tends to go on and on. One of such facts is that there is only one part of Mahabharata which is known to the humans, and also that it was not written by Vyasa, but dictated by him to Lord Ganesha, who in turn wrote it down. But again, the narration of the book is not by Lord Ganesha, it is by Vyasa’s student.

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The story of Mahabharata which is written in the book is in form of a re-narration of the whole story to the Great Grand Child of the skilled Pandu brother, Arjuna. The Great Grand Child was Janamejaya. The book begins from the Snake sacrifice.

After the Snake Sacrifice, begins the retelling of Mahabharata. The story of Mahabharata is divided into parts or rather books, which are short. Every character has a short story which tells the reader all the relevant information about that character. When one begins to read JAYA, they expect that it would only be about Mahabharata and what happened and would begin with the birth of Shantanu, the father of Bhisma. If you are one of those people then you are highly mistaken. The book takes one really back and makes one look into the past and try to tell that what really happened in Mahabharata was history just repeating itself. The main protagonists of the epic acted in a certain manner and were born in a certain way because of their Karma.

Very few people know that Mahabharata talks about sex, a lot more than one would expect it to. It has talks about how Apsaras, or the water whores seduced men and how sexual favors were exchanged and also the reason why did Draupadi have 5 husbands. And the illegitimate children of people and how many men could a women have sexual relations with before she could be called a whore.

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The book no doubt talks a lot about the past and the Gods as well as the future (the Kuru-Shetra War). It also tells one how everything pointed towards the war and tells one stories which not many would be aware about, apart from those who have read the epic. The book is no doubt very intense, but the way it has been written it is hard for one to stop. Devdutt has managed to keep a flow in his short stories and arrange them in a manner, which makes it interesting. But as one goes on it also becomes hard for one to remember what was the significance of few things, but Devdutt has managed to give a solution to this problem. At the end of every chapter there are little notes which would help one in order to understand the chapter better and have references from the pages you have read before.

The book is of course not that long, but has managed not to leave out anything of extreme significance and tells the story of the great Dharma battle in a detailed form but with a few words. The illustrations which have been used in the book make it far more interesting to read. One will find at least one illustration in every chapter. The illustrations are pure work of art and gives one the exact picture of the story which is being told.

If one has always loved Mahabharata and has always wanted to read it. But has felt lazy to read the long epic, then this book is probably the one for you. It has all the relevant information that you would need in order to know about Mahabharata. The language is purely English, no use of tough Sanskrit words and it makes you look a lot deeper into the story. So if you are looking for a short version of Mahabharata then this book is the right one for you.